Into the Wild – finding work that aligns with your purpose

Those who know me describe me as an energiser – passionate and full of energy with the ability to influence. I bring phenomenal energy to situations I believe in and this creates momentum and ultimately results.

But last year my fire went out.

I don’t know how it happened, why it happened and when exactly. All I know is that I lost the fire that drives me.

Work has always been a major part of my life. I love what I do. It is so deeply ingrained in me that it plays a major role in defining who I am. It doesn’t feel like work. Making the world a better place is what gets me out of bed each day. But for some reason that purpose simply died.

Maybe I was exhausted. I’d just spent 12 months working my guts out to turn around a troubled business unit. I think I underestimated just how much energy I had put into that.

Maybe it was that I had too many options. After the turn-around job our CEO made me an incredible offer – “go start something awesome. We believe in you and we will back you. Go for it.”

Maybe it was the tidal wave of bad news that landed on me all at once in January and tipped me into a bout of depression. Over the course of one week, we found out the new motorway would have a major impact on our wonderful little rural community, that my father had Alzheimer’s, my daughter was going through long-term relationship problems plus a cluster of other smaller issues at home.

The impact was that I somehow got derailed from my purpose. I started to question everything – what I was doing in my work life, where we were going as a family and ultimately who I was as a person.

It annoyed me as it wasn’t something I could solve with my usual means – energy. Rather than fight what was happening, I leaned on the wisdom of a dear (now departed) Buddhist friend: there are times to fight, and times to go with the wind.

Building on this, and the concept of mindfulness, I established a strategy I now refer to as “windows of observation”. I set myself a 3 month timebox during which I emotionally detached myself from everything that was important (except my family) and simply observed what was happening.

From this process I learned a lot. Deep inside me I doubted Assurity. I doubted how dedicated we were to our values, our mission and our purpose. I doubted our belief in our people. I doubted our leadership. I doubted my peers.  I doubted my value. I doubted my future.

Doubt is the enemy of conviction. How could I throw myself into something when I wasn’t convinced?

The only option forward I could see was to go Into the Wild.

So I packed my bags and set out on a mission to explore new territory. I looked at all the different things I could do. I could start another Clarus. I go out contracting on my own. I could work 2 days a week and help home school our kids. I could work somewhere else.  I could start a completely unrelated company. I could try to forge an income stream from our farm.

During this period, a few interesting and relevant opportunities landed on my lap. As it seems in my life, when I put it out there, things fall into my lap. I followed through on these, one right to the point of receiving an attractive job offer.

This pushed me to a pressure point. When I realised that the process was having a serious impact on the decisions of others, I needed convergence – to draw the process to a close and make a decision.

On reflection, this pressure point was exactly what was required. I nearly had enough observations to make a decision but just needed to compare my observations of what I had discovered In the Wild against the future at Assurity.

What I discovered was quite profound. I learned a lot about myself.

  1. I already had what I wanted all along, I just couldn’t see it. All I ever wanted was to balance my work with time with the family, alongside working work with amazing people to make NZ a better place. I already had that. This raised a very important question: why couldn’t I see this? This is the contemplation I am now working on.
  2. Organisations are looking for who you are, not just what you do. The person you are – your values, your beliefs, your relationships and your behaviour – are more important than what you do.
  3. The world is rapidly changing. Company leaders are rapidly realising we need to think very differently to how we lead. As Drucker said “treat knowledge workers as volunteers”. Ultimately they volunteer their intellectual property. You can’t “manage it” out of them. Agile people are already a long way advanced in this.
  4. Assurity is an awesome company. While we make the odd mistake, it is in execution, not intent. At its heart, the company shines a glowing warm, caring, thoughtful yet pragmatic light. Our values and purpose are awesome. And in terms of alignment with my life purpose, values and objectives, Assurity is a very good match.

But this post isn’t about Assurity. It is a reflection and a call to arms for those who are questioning their work. Never stop seeking situations that align with your Purpose. And if it doesn’t align, question it. Don’t tolerate it.

Although I have put pressure on my work, I can say that I have been Into the Wild and observed Assurity from a distance to check that the energy I invest in its future aligns strongly with my life’s Purpose. Going Into the Wild is a very good personal investment. For me, the result is a roaring fire in my belly and I can’t wait to get cracking with what I have planned next! I am now ready.

Finally, if there is a good agile leader out there who wants to help an awesome Auckland company go great places, please contact me. The company who made me a very nice offer would be awesome choice for someone else and I would like to help them in any way I can.




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