If you are like most people, you have probably gone through stages where you felt like the job you have, or the work you do, or the life you’re living just isn’t fulfilling anymore—or that something is off, or wrong, or missing. Or worse yet, you have lost yourself or who you set out to be or thought you were. It’s an empty, lonely feeling and so we try to fill the void by distracting ourselves with all kinds of bad habits that we hope will make us feel better. And when that doesn’t work, and it never does, we begin to blame outside factors like our job, or our company, or our boss, or where we live, or heaven forbid, our marriages and relationships. Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news about this human phenomenon. The bad news is that the answer will most likely not be found by changing jobs, or companies, or locations, or partners. The good news is that you already have the answer and it’s most likely just buried beneath years of denial and neglect. I call it the “pull.”
The first inklings of this pull probably started when you were quite young. Many of you were allowed to experience life with pure delight, without interference associated with what we should or shouldn’t do, or be, or feel, at least for a little bit. But somewhere along the way, we were advised and guided by parents, and teachers, and coaches, and even friends, that it’s time to grow up. It’s time to get serious. And all of these folks really did have your best interest in mind when they guided you to become some “peg that’s pushed into some hole” that allows the world to function in a predictable and manageable fashion. And yes, it’s true—this is how families, and societies, and organizations, and companies maintain order and create an atmosphere of security and safety. But unfortunately, it can also inadvertently diminish the essence of who you are and were meant to be. This is what’s behind the feeling that something is missing—because it is.
In my Leadership Boot Camps, we spend 3 ½ days getting back in touch with whatever that essence is. Whatever that pull is that keeps tugging at you at various stages in your life—especially at times when there’s no distractions that keep you occupied and not noticing the emptiness. That’s why changing companies, or moving to a new city, or leaving a relationship works for a while. But it won’t work for the long run. Unfortunately, many people live their whole lives never figuring out this very human phenomenon. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity, and guidance, to confront this inevitability at a relatively young age—in my mid-thirties. And because I did, I have been able to create and live a life I love, and one of my goals is to help others do the same. It’s truly available to all of us. Indeed, it takes some real work, and frankly some courage, but it’s available—and it’s worth it.
As I stated earlier, I call this phenomenon “the pull.” Smart folks like Simon Sinek call it “your why” and he has written several books to help you discover it. “Start With Why” and “Discover Your Why” are two of them. And Marcus Buckingham has also referenced strengths as being activities that you love which can also help lead you in the right direction. But unlike Sinek and Buckingham, I like to help people discover their “why” or this “pull” more organically – through simple dialogue and inquiry. That’s why we describe the Boot Camp as a 3 ½ day conversation with the primary question throughout being, “What are you up to—really?” And I don’t mean your job. I mean, “what matters to you really? And more importantly WHY?”
The reason I like to call it “the pull” is because I have found that if just a little bit of your true God given spirit that lived in you as a child resurrects and leaks out into your consciousness, no matter how vague it is, it’s going to keep tugging, and tugging, and tugging. And no matter how much you try to subdue it or try to ignore it; it’s not going away. I tell my boot campers that “it’s like toothpaste, and once it’s out of the tube, there’s no putting it back in.” And once that happens, well, what shows up is YOU being a leader in your own life and intentionally creating a life you love. In doing so, you’ll discover that whatever job you have is not what is fulfilling you. It’s simply a vehicle by which you get to make a difference and be fulfilled.
Helping people figure this out has been a big piece of my work for many years—both when I ran a design-build company, and as an educator over the past 23 years. I’ve directed this work toward an industry I love. It’s my point of reference and a place where I know I can do work that matters by empowering the hardworking, often discounted people who contribute so much to creating a built environment that impacts how we all live, work, and play. And what could be more fulfilling than that?