Build Your Career By Being Your Own Architect

2012-02-23 07:00:32

He’d never gone for two before, but this time he rounded first as if he’d go for it since he really smacked the ball. But then he hesitated and dove back to first base, worried he wouldn’t make it. What he didn’t realize – this big ol’ ball player who played for the Visalia Oaks (my hometown actually), a minor league feeder team for the Oakland A’s – was that he’d hit a home run.

This was a pivotal moment in the story. Of course I won’t be the last to reference Moneyball, the story of how the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane changed the game of how to succeed in baseball.

I won’t be a spoiler if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie. My point is that sometimes the game gets away from us and we’re lost in “elsewhere,” not really in the moment and maybe we miss the fact that we hit a home run. When it comes to finding a good job and keeping it, especially in a world where specialization is now the standard and generalists are becoming day laborers, it’s more critical than ever to become a Zen Architect.

Here’s what I mean: having the mindful presence and emotional intelligence of learning to own your life decisions, your failures, your successes and your over- and under-reactions, your disruptive passions and your nonchalant, middle-of-the-road actions…your life.

Growing up I wanted to be an architect. And a poet/novelist. And a rock star drummer. Quite a combo, I know. What started as drawing Snoopy and other Peanuts characters, then cars and hot rods led to drafting classes in high school and a love for designing homes and buildings. And what started as writing sweet little rhymes led to dark prose of teenage questioning angst, then hopeful short stories of love and redemption into adulthood, with a few “novel” beginnings to boot. And lastly what started as air drumming and eventually practice pads has never gotten any farther than the love of drumming.

Instead I went into philanthropy, then marketing communications and business development with a college degree in psychology. Note to future grads: Not getting work experience, including internships, prior to graduating is a mistake. Don’t ride it all out a la academic — get real-world experience along the way, as well as finding mentors to guide you. Remember, a college degree doesn’t equal an automatic paying career. Not anymore. In fact, in this job market, working multiple contingent jobs ain’t a bad gig if you can get it. It’s great “stretch” experience, too.

It’s been said that millenials (i.e., Gen Y, those born somewhere between the mid-1970’s and the early 2000’s) will have at least 7-8 careers in their lifetimes. I’m a Gen Xer and I’ve already had 6, including business endeavors (and failures). Many of my peers can relate to the path of “I wanted to be this, but I fell into that, and that, and that.”

There are five generations now in the workplace that are scrambling to stay afloat in this post-apocalyptic economy, with millions still out of work. And while I agree that for the most part it still takes time and experience to build a better mouse trap and mouse trap management, there’s nothing wrong with a little impatient hurry-up-and-fail attitude to build one’s fortitude. Some of the most exciting business startup activity in over a decade is coming from a mixed generational group, young and old alike, all re-imaging the way and why of work within an emotional connectivity context and cultural inclusivity.

I love this passage from famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright:

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.”

Here’s my advice:

Own your career management, fail and learn, and champion yourself and your moments. Then become one with it all. In the world of work, we are the Zen Architects.

There’s lots of beauty in that as far as I’m concerned, so be of mindful presence and own it all, strike outs and home runs alike.

Categories: Career Advice