Get Unstuck and Recharge Your Career Mojo
Do you feel like your stuck in your career — like you’re running in place on a giant hamster wheel?
By Stephen Dupont, APR
It’s 11 a.m. and you’re scrolling through your Facebook feeds for the tenth time this morning.
A quick glance to your right is your to-do List, which never seems to shrink. To your left is a pile of paperwork that needs to be completed by week’s end. How exactly that’s going to happen is anyone’s guess as you look at your calendar which shows block after block of meetings and conference calls.
And then you realize: this isn’t just about scheduling your work life better, it’s about how you’ve lost your career mojo.
You don’t feel connected to where you work, what you do or how you do it. You feel like you’re just “going through the motions.”
In the backdrop, your organization is going through another re-org. Because your boss doesn’t really know what is going to happen or whom she’ll report to after the dust settles, she can’t make decisions.
And yet, you have to keep doing what you’re doing. Turn out that next report. Prepare for the annual trade show. Get ready for the next new product launch. Start pulling together the budget. Celebrate the top sales people at the annual sales meeting.
How do you re-fuel your life?
How do you recapture those days when everything felt fresh and exciting?
How do you recharge to take on the world and make a difference in the lives of those around you and the world?
Through my own experiences, and in listening to those who were struggling with career paralysis in the past, I’ve concluded that what many people need to keep their career souls from being sucked dry is a steady diet of curiosity.
Some may need to make drastic changes. There may be bigger issues at play behind the mediocrity they feel in their lives. For them, job, career or even life changes may be necessary.
But for most people, it’s not so much about overhauling your life as it is re-calibrating your mindset.
Over the course of my career, I have interviewed hundreds of people from all walks of life. Truck drivers, construction workers, genetic engineers, top sales professionals, recruiters, entrepreneurs, marketing and public relations executives, CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, CIOs, college professors, artists, fundraisers, police officers, video producers, lawyers, HVAC techs and handymen. Even former prostitutes.
What always catches my attention are the people who treat their careers, as well as their lives, as grand experiments.
Sure, even the best of us can fall into a hopeless rut and feel like we’re just running on a hamster wheel, but the people who inspire me are those who recognize that condition and do something about it.
They may not be ready to write the next chapter in their lives, but they do understand every sentence needs to keep moving the story along.
Their story. Not someone else’s story.
Take for example my friend and neighbor Jennifer McNally, who, after 20 years as a property attorney decided to put her beliefs about faith and community activism into action and became an ordained Episcopal priest. Now she’s taking it a step further: Jennifer is testing a new worship experience — forming a faith community around the idea of worshipping over a meal (yes, an actual dinner in addition to sharing the Eucharist).
Or there’s my other friend, Patrick Hirigoyen, who recently retired as a long-time public relations professional, but not before launching and building a blog focused on corporate communications as he transitioned from the world of corporate communications to that of a communications consultant.
In both of these examples, neither person chose to sit back and ride things out. They took action. They chose new ways to express themselves. And in both cases, it began with the question, “What if I were to…?”
Do you have a “What if…?” staring at you in the mirror?
Follow Your Dreams
Several months ago, I had the honor of interviewing Judy Holcomb, a professional truck driver with one of the nation’s largest trucking companies, Transport America. Judy left her job as a regional manager of 15 Waffle House restaurants in the Memphis-Northern Arkansas region, where she worked for 29 years, to pursue her dream of being a truck driver.
Ever since she was a little girl, Judy dreamed of being a professional truck driver. But all around her, the men in her life discouraged her from pursuing that dream.
When her husband unexpectedly died at the early age of 40, Judy continued to work her job at the Waffle House. But as she healed from her grief, that childhood dream continued to grow within her. That’s when she started to take some calculated risks.
For example, many of her regular customers knew that she loved trucks. One day, this customer asked if she wanted to find out what it would be like to actually ride in a truck for a long distance. Without hesitating, she took the chance and went.
And she loved it.
Finally, at age 50, Judy went to truck driving school to earn her license to drive big rigs and began her second career as a truck driver. An important factor: she had the blessing of all three of her children who had been urging her for many years to pursue her dream.
Judy told me: “I finally feel like I’m doing what I was meant to do with my life. I just love the freedom of the road. I have a total sense of peace. To me, this isn’t a job, it’s a vacation.”
Give Your Curiosity Muscle a Workout
But what if you’re not ready to make a huge change like Judy or Jennifer?
Let’s recognize that making huge leaps overnight may not be economically possible for many people. If you’ve got a family to support, need that health insurance or need to pay down a mountain of student debt, risking a steady income may not be the wisest thing to do at the moment.
For that matter, you may not be physically ready, either.
Many of us know what it’s like to let our bodies go. When we eat too much, don’t eat healthy food, and don’t exercise, our bodies put on weight, we lose strength, and we become sluggish. To make matters worse, many of us don’t get enough sleep because we need to prove to everyone that “we’re so busy working.”
Well, the same thing happens to our minds, as well.
Exercising our curiosity helps our minds stay sharp…and it prepares us for what’s next.
Like our bodies, when we haven’t exercised our curiosity for a long time, the jolt to our systems can be overwhelming.
That’s why I recommend starting out small. Take little risks. As you reawaken your curiosity muscle, and build strength through confidence, you will naturally want to try more difficult exercises.
For example, maybe you’ve had this long-running passion to get more involved in politics.
You can think really big and throw your hat into the run for elective office, or you can test the waters, a little bit at a time — participating in a protest rally, walking door to door in support of another candidate, joining a phone bank to call constituents about an important issue or attending a political party meeting.
I took a chance myself a few years ago. It’s one thing to recommend to your clients that they do a webinar to build their business. It’s a whole other thing to do it yourself. After I wrote an article for Public Relations Tactics about how to get more out of LinkedIn, I was invited to share my knowledge through a webinar. I have to say, I was pretty intimidated by the experience. Talking for an entire hour without the ability to see the faces of those to whom you’re talking. But I survived, and after looking at the feedback, decided to do another. And another. And another.
In the process, I’ve stumbled. But I never let my failures discourage me. I just kept on trying.
Here’s what I learned: The key is to bust up old patterns and create new habits that help you move your life’s story forward to the next big thing — whatever that is for you. As we all know, breaking old patterns is not easy. Neither is inventing and incorporating new patterns into our lives.
Where to Begin
Here’s a list of suggestions to start re-fueling your curiosity. Maybe you’re already doing some of these things or maybe you did them when you were younger. Regardless, think of this list as a series of gradual steps. With each experiment, observe what you experienced, and think carefully about what you gained in the end. What did you learn? How did you grow? Do you feel healthier? Do you feel inspired? Do you want to learn more?
Some of these items just might not feel right either. Maybe you try something and you really didn’t get anything out of it. I’m a fisherman, and in angler-talk, we call that “dead water” — those places on a lake where there don’t seem to be any fish. That’s okay, because that means we no longer have to spend any more of our valuable time exploring that area. Onto the next adventure.
1. Read one book each week for an entire year. These could be business books, or classic literature — there are many worthwhile possibilities. Prominent leaders, including Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama, have offered their own recommendations.
2. Listen to music outside of what you regularly listen to. Do it in a new environment: turn off the radio or audio stream and go to a concert hall or nightclub.
3. Interview an influential person in your industry and post an article on LinkedIn.
4. Get involved in a community organization, and consider leading it.
5. Learn a new skill that complements your existing career.
6. Speak to a class about your career, whether it’s a group of MBAs, a college class or even grade school kids. They’ll all benefit, and all can offer youperspective.
7. Join Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, as well as meet people from other fields and industries.
8. Try a new ethnic cuisine.
9. Contact an expert in your field and have a phone conversation or networking meeting.
10. Learn a new technology. Learn how Google Adwords work. Start a Pinterest account. Learn how to write code. Buy a cryptocurrency (bitcoin, litecoin, ether).
11. Serve as a mentor to another person.
12. Build a team of mentors for yourself.
13. Attend an all-day industry seminar to learn about a new skill or topic.
14. Give a webinar on an area that you could offer your expertise.
15. Start a blog about something you know a lot about (such as commuting to work on a bike).
16. Attend a protest rally, community meeting or legislative hearing.
17. Organize an event to raise money for a worthy cause.
18. Travel to a country that you’ve never visited before.
19. Go train and run a 5k race (notice, I didn’t say marathon!)
20. Write a letter to a young person offering lessons you’ve learned about life.
21. Learn a new language.
22. Get off the Internet grid for a week.
23. Make something and try to sell it.
24. Invite a peer out for coffee.
25. Wake up every morning at 4:30 a.m. and write for at least one hour.
26. Take a cold shower to start out your day for 7 days.
27. Write 10 new ideas every day for 30 days (you’ll have 300 ideas in just a month)!
28. Volunteer to tutor at an elementary or high school.
29. Attend a meeting of a group such as Rotary, or find a group in an area new to you, via meetup.com. Interested in starting a business? Learn from the real-life experiences of others through a Start-Up Grind meeting in your nearest city.
So What’s The Point?
By taking small chances, you’ll start to condition yourself to take bigger chances. And in taking bigger chances, you’ll prepare yourself by doing more research and gathering information to make those new experiences as positive as possible. In other words, you’ll become a curiosity machine.
For example, one of my friends, who had been cycling with me, my brother, and a group of friends for several years, decided to try a week-long, guided bicycling trip with his wife to Vermont. The success of that trip led to another trip — a guided biking trip through Ireland. Now, he’s talking about other places in the world where he and his wife could bike. It’s opened up a whole new way of traveling to him.
Last summer, my wife and I decided to take a weekend camping trip to Minnesota’s North Shore (along Lake Superior) As part of our trip, we hiked to one of the highest points along the coastline. We really enjoyed it. But something more profound happened: we realized that we wanted to spend more of our time in the outdoors. So this summer, we took an overnight backpacking hike to a remote camping site (no car camping). Next up: a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in northern Minnesota.
When you add new fuel to the flame, everything about your life starts to come alive again. That’s how you can reawaken your curiosity and reclaim your career mojo.
Enjoyed reading this article? Found it useful? Inspirational? For more articles about careers, personal growth, curiosity and more, subscribe to my blog at www.stephendupont.co.
About Stephen Dupont
Stephen Dupont, APR, is VP of Public Relations and Branded Content for Pocket Hercules (www.pockethercules.com), a brand marketing firm based in Minneapolis. Contact Stephen Dupont at www.linkedin.com/in/stephendupontor visit his blog at stephendupont.co.