Business culture · Learning

Great questions #2

I like to collect great questions, they motivate me towards deeper thinking and insights. The questions you ask can drive change in your life. So I will be adding a more regular set of question posts to this blog to remind myself of the interesting questions I come across that I want to ask myself. (Great questions #1 was the post on asking Why 5 times)

Episode two is a series of questions that Debbie Millman (designer, creator of the Design Matters podcast and lecturer on design in New York) asks of her design students when they think about their careers:

  • Am I spending enough time on looking for, finding and working towards winning a great job?
  • Am I constantly learning and refining my skills?
  • What can I continue to get better and more competitive at ?
  • Do I believe I am working harder than everyone else? If not what can and should I be doing in order to be able to accomplish that?
  • What are the people who are competing with me doing, that I am not doing?
  • Am I doing everything I can, every day, to stay in career shape? If not what else should I be doing?

What to ignore or not do in her opinion:

  • Don’t try to be a people person. Have a point of view, share it meaningfully, respectfully and with conviction.
  • She does not believe in work life balance. When your work is your calling, it is a labour of love. You don’t count the minutes. Work can be a life affirming engagement. In you are in your 20s and 30s, if you want a life affirming career, you must work hard, if you don’t work harder than others you will not get ahead. If you are doing something you love you don’t want work life balance, you want to do what you love as often as possible.

With regards to the latter, while I don’t completely agree with Debbie I understand the sentiment behind what she is saying. I think the key is her phrase, “when work is your calling”. What is “your calling” today?

I would perhaps rephrase as: decide very clearly where your long term priorities are, what “your calling” is: which relationships are important, what are the things you love to do and want to do, and how do you prioritise those? Write down the list, and make that list a list of only the essentials: as small and focused as possible. And then go all in on these priorities: focus with real intensity on these and cut out the other distractions in your life.

And finally, these priorities will probably change throughout your life. Mine are certainly different in my 40s from my 20s. That’s okay, be sure to reappraise them regularly. Once a year at least, once a quarter even better. I have mine written down and pinned next to my to do list so that I am reminded of them at least once a week.

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