I have always wrestled with how to answer this question. I had a few stock answers and then I realized that they were just words that didn't mean anything to me. I write what is inside of me; I have no choice in the matter. It’s what I was put on this earth to do. Gloria Steinem once said that writing is the only thing that, when she does it, she doesn't feel like doing anything else. That’s why I write. Yet the reason I wrote this particular book is that I have spent two decades observing what makes CEOs and senior leaders from Fortune 500 companies such as Disney, IBM, and Nokia, as well as thousands of individuals, both successful and happy. I distinguish between success and happiness with this expression: “To live the life you love is success. To love the life you live is happiness.” I have especially observed what enables those few individuals who are able to bring both success and happiness into their lives. Based on what I have observed, I created the strategies inThe Connection.
What makes your book on leadership so different than what’s been written in the past?
To become a leader on the outside, each of us must first become a leader on the inside. The Connection is a book about personal leadership: how to develop a life Vision for what you want to create in your life, how you want to act toward others, and what you want to be remembered for. The third part of the book—guided by the theme “A goal is a dream with a deadline”—is about how to transform that life Vision into concrete actions and live the life you desire.
While the job market continues to become tighter, many people have to work harder just to make ends meet. How do we maintain a work/life balance?
The pressures on us when we feel that our jobs are in jeopardy are enormous. They impel us to focus on all the wrong things; to exist in a state of fear rather than to live in a state of love. We focus on retribution rather than contribution. Work-life balance becomes virtually impossible when we exist in a reactive state of fear, as this fear causes us to shove our family and loved ones aside to avoid losing what we feel we have gained in our career. Fear always emanates from a focus on loss, and, like every other emotion, it attracts what we focus our minds on. When we can shift our minds from scarcity to abundance, from fear to love, then we are ready to develop sustainable strategies to discover balance and happiness in our lives.
Many readers are underemployed, have lost their jobs, or are looking for new jobs without any luck. In this tough economy, what advice do you have for today’s job seeker?
First, be gentle with yourself. Beating yourself up for losing your job while trying to find a new job are two inconsistent actions, and send conflicting messages to any prospective employer. To stop being so hard on yourself, the first step is to unhinge your worth from your work. How your career is going at any certain time is a part of what you do in your life, but not who you are, which goes much deeper. When the economy tightens, it is a particularly tough time when you aren't sure about what motivates you. I’ll get to that in the next question.
What is the most important thing a leader needs to know?
Their Unanswerable Question. “What is that?” you may be thinking. It’s the one question that you will never fully answer in your life, yet will never stop trying to answer. When you discover it, your life quest becomes unstoppable. If you are out of a job, or running a company that’s not doing as well as it was a few years ago, and you are feeling depressed, remind yourself that you are focusing on what you receive—money, a promotion, status—and not on what you give. We each have zero power over what we receive, and 100 percent over what we give and how we give it. Ask yourself what it is about your community and/or the world that makes you uncomfortable, that makes you say, “This is not as it should be, and I want to do something about it!” Then get started. When you do what you love, the money will follow. The opposite isn't true: focus on money, on what you will receive, and love does not follow, but fades away—and with it, the key relationships you need to be both successful and happy. People are drawn to others with a compelling sense of purpose, an Unanswerable Question.
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