What holds up career growth
We have these notions of careers. Of course, most of them are acquired.
A couple of decades ago, an entire generation wanted to be Jack Welch. Then a decade back, we wanted to be Steve Jobs. And now we slurp Elon Musk.
Media feeds these desires. And we buy those stories. Other people's stories.
Anybody's story but ours. To welcome our own story seems like a big challenge.
A few years ago, I caught up with a senior professional acquaintance during my travels. After listening to my business updates, he said oh, you should've grown sooner this way or that. You are late and so on. I listened respectfully.
Then I took a full evening to shrug away his advice. It was good from his point of view. But pointless for me. It's wasn't going to be the shape of my story.
I've observed many kinds of career seekers. From fresh college graduates. To senior business leaders. To those who've given it all up midway.
And then those who climbed the wrong ladder till the very end.
Some people flow. Like a river.
And then some struggle. They try every trick in the book. They devour career advice from every sage. But yet they struggle. Where they are and where they think they should be - somehow it never aligns.
This isn't about professional ambition. It's simply struggle.
On the contrary, career growth seems effortless when it flows. One thing happens after another. You are learning constantly. Money comes on its own. It's not effortful.
You know what I'm talking about.
Just may be...you're here by circumstance
May be, many, many disparate events - way beyond your control - got together to help you land on the spot you're in today. From where you were born. To whom you were born to. To where you went to school. To the chance conversations you had. And the people who guided you along the way.
So may be you're here - where you are - just by circumstance.
Look around you.
Whether it's your team. Or, your clients or investors. Or other people connected to you or your organization. These connections formed themselves around you. You didn't quite put all these pieces together yourself. Even if you founded your own company.
So just may be it's not about you.
The big reason holding up career growth
You might be thinking. If your career isn't about you then what's it about?
And there in lies the hint of the hold up.
It just may be about them.
Who is them?
Your people - whether it's your team or your boss or your organization.
Your clients - doesn't matter whether they are external or internal.
Your industry - even if you are just one person vs your industry.
Your environment - however you'd like to define the environment.
The wider you can imagine your circle, the wider your influence.
You are here for them.
Let's take an example
Say you lead a team of people. Your task is to maximize their productivity and achieve great results for your clients.
You could choose to keep demanding them to perform. To stick them with a list of deliverables. To reward or reprimand based on rigid KPIs.
You can do all those things. But you'll forever keep running behind them. With no time for growth.
Similarly, you could keep running behind clients for your needs. Your revenues. Your profits. Your processes.
Now, that's effortful. It's a career struggle.
The alternative is to make your career about them. Find out about their needs. Their fears. Their desires. Then connect their dots with those of your organization.
Are you still thinking, what about me? Well, you become simply a channel. That's all you are. Between your organization and your team. It's either about the entity. Or, about your people.
And in that lies the secret of career flow and growth. If you are a channel, all you have to be is a better channel to make things happen. Getting your blocks out of the way. A channel that works - it naturally expands and grows.
Your job is to organize their energies and ideas. To find out and help them find out what they are here for. And to make things happen.
When done right, everything would seem coordinated as if by design.
When done not so right, you'll struggle. Different pieces keep falling off the cliff. Sometimes you'll feel small and hurt. Sometimes, you'll feel big and boss over.
Things will not be in balance.
It's so simple that it's tough
It's tough to constantly not think about yourself. To put your aspirations behind others. And to expand that thinking beyond your team, your company or even your industry. That you do things for the good of others.
But if you make it a habit then a theme emerges. You begin to truly lead. Without struggling to do so. Because things begin to form around you. Quite effortlessly.
The clearest signal is when the world seems to find multiple uses of you. Or whatever you represent. Your job at that point is to simply act. Without questioning and doubting, oh everyone is taking advantage of me. Instead think, great that everyone is taking advantage of me. Let more of this happen.
You realize then that you're just like that tree.
A tree that has its leaves eaten by a goat while still a shrub. That exhales oxygen for us to breathe. That cools our cities. That grows flowers to make our gardens beautiful. That gives us fruit to consume. That provides seeds for a forest. That invites birds and squirrels to make their homes. That grows deep roots holding the soil in place. That finally becomes wood for our desks. And fuel for our campfire.
A tree that doesn't constantly worry about trying to be another tree.
When you realize that you flow.