Nina Spencer

Five Professional “Outlaw” Gifts to Give Yourself in 2015

Everyone who has begun the outlaw path knows the temptation to turn back and try to live in unconscious simplicity. ~ Sam Keen

Ever felt as though you were an "outlaw"... out-of-step with your work colleagues? Ever felt as though you should have been doing something else for a living all along, but now it's too late... the golden handcuffs are well in place and your original passion for your profession has long since waned? Maybe you should be looking elsewhere--only you really know for sure. On the other hand, perhaps that out-of-step workplace "outlaw" feeling that percolates to the surface of consciousness for so many--especially at this time of yea--is only a seasonal anomaly. You know, that blah feeling many experience come January and mid-winter... once all the holidays are gone, the bills are arriving, the weather is cold (at least in most of Canada!), a little "muffin top" is billowing over the top of your pants or skirt waistband; and on top of all that, there aren't any more gifts to receive or give?

Instead of feeling out-of-step with others, bemoaning that there's now nothing to look forward to, and lamenting that holidays are passed, consider these gifts that you can still give (to yourself) in 2015:

The gift of:

1. Being Alive From the Neck Up:

I once spoke at conference alongside Dr. Margaret Wheatley, a respected Harvard professor and author on business leadership. Since my presentation on Getting Passion Out of Your Profession immediately followed hers, I was delighted that she shared her experience working with a particular team over a work week. No matter what processes she facilitated and no matter how she tried, one young man was "dead from the neck up." On the Friday, he volunteered to take her to the airport. He was animated and chatty and full of exuberance for the first time. Dr. Wheatley was flabbergasted at his shift in energy. She asked why he was so excited. The answer: because on Saturdays and Sundays he taught aerial acrobatics!

That was his passion! That was the line of work he should have pursued. Did he bother exploring how to make it happen? What do you think? I know what you're thinking: "It's nice to say that we should quit our day jobs and follow our bliss, but I have a house and a family and all kinds of reasons for sticking with my job."

I remember a line in a popular song from the '70s: "If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with." Do you know this song? I'm not going to ask you to stop reading and break into a chorus, but consider the message of this lyric (with a little spin on it). If you can't be in the fantasy job you'd love, honey, love the job you're in! Love the job you're in. Find reasons to be "Alive From the Neck Up" five days a week, instead of merely two, right where you are now--your present position.

2. Thinking Me Inc.

One idea that's been around for a long time (but keeps getting rediscovered) is the self-managed career. You've got to look after your own career prospects; nobody else is going to. Today that idea is being taken a step further. You had better not only be taking care of your own future, but also looking at yourself as if you were self-employed.

Think "Me Inc." think--it sounds like something Dr. Seuss might have suggested! Pretend you're self-employed, even if you never intend to hang out your independent professional shingle. Amazing things will happen to your attitude and behaviour if you think of yourself in this way. Pretend that your client (a.k.a. your actual employer) has provided you such a grand contract that you don't have time to take on additional business.

Thinking "Me. Inc." will elevate your status in your own mind's eye to that of partner with your employer. Your new status as organizational partner can make you that much more interested in your organization's goals, objectives, mission and values. Make yourself think this way. It may make the difference between 99% commitment to your work and 100% commitment. And 99% is often tough--that one percent off of 100% gets a lot of airtime. But 100% is easy.

3. Championing Workplace Laughter

When was the last time you had a good belly laugh with colleagues? Is it hard to remember? The gut-splitting group laugh can help whole teams through difficult times. Days, weeks, months or even years later, the mere mention of the funny trigger word, action or event can transport all those who shared in the original laughter. When it comes to team spirit and team bonding, most anything that brings the team closer together is a good thing.

The old school of thought espoused that if you were laughing and goofing around at work, then productivity was probably suffering, but a magical transformation really does occur when colleagues lighten up and laugh together. That's one of the primary reasons why regular team meetings and branch or divisional professional development days are a terrific idea, especially in the first quarter of a new year. A team that regularly laughs together, bonds together.

Create opportunities for humour with staff who do not regularly work together, but who work for the same organization, too, to increase inter-divisional or inter-regional communications and co-operation.

4. Reframing Perspective

One of my most recent "reframing perspective" lessons occurred in the ladies washroom (of all places) just before delivering a keynote address. With only moments to spare, I hurried into the facilities and pushed on the door of one of the cubicles. It was locked! I tried the next; it too was locked. On I went to the next, and yet the next. They were all locked! I bent over, to look for feet, but I was alone. Anxiously, I pushed on one particular door two or three more times. Nothing.

Exasperated, and surrendering to the fact that all the cubicle doors were locked for some reason--and now, with very little time to spare--I started to leave in search of another washroom. With one foot out the door, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, that all the cubicle doors had spontaneously opened! Was I on some new reality TV show? No. I immediately laughed at myself, and shook my head in wonder at my narrow thinking as the explanation became apparent. These doors opened by pulling rather than pushing. When was the last time washroom doors were designed that way (with the exception of wheelchair access ones, of course)? I thought to myself, "Tisk, tisk, Nina... and you teach this stuff! You were so anxious and in a hurry to get back to the ballroom that you didn't slow down enough to consider the perspective of pulling instead of pushing! You automatically assumed that there was only one way to move forth and you willfully kept pushing for it, literally and metaphorically, to no avail. Now where's the lesson in this for you, Nina? How does this apply to your life?" I answered my own question immediately.

When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us. ~ Alexander Graham Bell

If we insist on moving forth with one strategy to successfully complete a task, and we meet resistance, pushing some more, in exactly the same way, is hardly likely to yield results. Sometimes, rather than using force and willfulness to get more of what we want (in "outlaw" fashion), it just may be more effective to back off and "trust the process." Do you recall a time when you tried too hard, either personally or professionally, and got nowhere, and then later that same day, or sometime soon after, when you relaxed or shifted your perspective, found the results you were seeking came to you without effort? It's that old Henry Ford expression all over again: If I always do what I've always done, I'll always get what I've always got. If you want to get something different, you have to do something different! Constantly reminding yourself to reframe, reframe, reframe your perspective in 2015, can be that lovely passkey to moving forth with your fabulous workplace ideas, desires and dreams for your profession.

5. Redefining Success

Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed. ~ Corita Kent

Redefining success is another strategy to help see you through mid-winter blues and "outlaw" feelings.

Ask yourself:

  • What does success mean to me?
  • What does success mean to the world around me?
  • What does success at my job/in my profession mean? in my organization?
  • How would I define success in my personal life?
  • How does society's prescribed definition of personal and professional success influence my own definition of this concept?
  • How can I broaden or reframe my personal definition of success?

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles that one has overcome while trying to succeed. ~ Booker T. Washington

So there you have it! Five Professional "Outlaw" Gifts to Give Yourself in 2015! Perhaps it is too late to live (and work) in a state of "unconscious simplicity" (to quote by Sam Keen once again, from the start of this article), because too much working "water" and life experience has now passed under your bridge. If this is true for you--if you do feel like a bit of an "outlaw" at work these days--celebrate, instead, the professional value and contribution that being a conscious outlaw can bring to the workplace table in terms of creative leadership, self-awareness, self-confidence and sage wisdom; and apply that insight and knowledge right where you are today... in your current job. After all, you couldn't have gotten to where you are today, personally or professionally, without traveling the path you've travelled. No need to lament the "simpler," "unconscious" good ole days at work or another professional path not ventured. You're on the right path, right now. And, whether or not you feel you've inherited "golden handcuffs," where you are right now is, indeed, "a good place" to practice your enlightened and "outlaw-type" workplace philosophies, attitudes and behavioiurs. So don't be wistful to "turn back"--in a coulda, woulda, shoulda style--look forward, instead, to 2015's offerings. If you're destined to be an "outlaw" in your workplace in 2015, be a productive and inspiring one who dares to: Be Alive from the Neck Up every day, Think Me Inc., Champion and Behaviour-Model Workplace Laughter, Constantly Reframe Perspective and Regularly Redefine Personal Success.

Write on your heart that every day is the best day of the year. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

P.S. February, now fast-approaching, is the month of the heart, and Getting Passion Out of Your Profession goes hand-in-hand! Give your branch, work team, colleagues, friends and family members the gift of passion for all they do, by purchasing this inspiring and practical book online.