(P) People and Purpose are the Prize


If you're just joining us, I've been on a journey to take each letter in the alphabet and write.  Today's letter is P and it's a little serendipitous that we landed on P, today of all days.   Last night I had the honor of being the keynote for the Society of Women Engineers.  I'm usually filled in a room with male engineers, so seeing a sea of female engineers was awesome. (Yes ladies we are moving the needle!)  And you see,  I'm not an engineer.  I'm the daughter of a talented one, though.  My dad has been one for almost 50 years.  He turned 70 this past weekend and is still working.... because he loves what he does (and Baby Boomers just don't know when to quit)

We spoke about this, topic, actually.  My talk was 'Knowing When to Stick and Knowing When to Quit'.  

My career (and life) has been a marathon with a series of sprints, tough miles, and a wall or two.

I gave the audience a little bit of background on the early days.  I young, naive, and full of energy.   I explained the demise of losing my first job out of college and the series of boxes that followed:  four layoffs and my "Donald Trump" moment.  I spent the first 8 years trying to figure it all out while trying to figure myself out. From .coms to Enron to Waste Management, Shell to BP, I've worked for companies and with leaders in turnaround, crisis and complete global transformation.

I didn't know it then but I was finding my stride...my niche.

And now, the very things I endured are the experiences that have shaped me into the leader (and marathon runner) I am today.

So how do I know when to stick, quit, or move my cheese completely to try something new and unknown?  I broke it down into a model I now use for most of my decision-making.

  • People - Who are you spending your time with?  Who are you learning from?  It's one thing for people to have a different style than yours...which I wholeheartedly embrace in leaders I work with and people I hire, and its a completely different thing when you have different values.  If I'm going to spend 12-16 hour days with anyone outside of my family, I better like you, you better like me, and we need to have an appreciation for what we both bring to the work we do.  So my advice is be terribly picky with who you choose to put in the village.  More here on this topic.
  • Purpose - Is this opportunity putting you on the path to where you want to go?  For me, meaning is important.  I don't need to take a "J-O-B".  While I'm hanging out with the best people, we better be kicking tail, taking names, changing the world and doing fun things.  If I don't see the purpose  I pass and sometimes I punt completely.  This is why I love the word "no".
  • stevejobsPrize - When we are young we are taught "follow the money", "make money" and we put stock in having stuff.  My friends, money and title mean nothing.  One of my mentors says its best, and he's dead.  Steve Jobs said, "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful... that's what matters to me.”  When people chase the prize, it's usually a sign of some deeper unresolved issues that require a Massage Envy membership for the ego.

Let.  It.  Go.  People and purpose are the prize.

I have to hand it to them.  That Dad (and Mom) of mine, sure are smart and taught me right.  I guess I should have gone into engineering or medicine?

Nah.  I'm doing just what I am supposed to be doing.  I love my work and the people I've put in my world.

Thanks for being a part of that world.

This post is a part of the ABC Series. 

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