Another Unique Career – How one man left a bank and returned to his roots
For the past 28 years, people from all walks of life have come through the Inspired Work Program to define and navigate into their most ideal career. Over 43,000 people have gone through the experience and every single one has a unique outcome. Whenever I share a story about our graduates, I ask for their permission. Some choose to include their names and others approve the story but ask to not share their name.
We worked closely with a bank that had been a powerhouse in the California economy for many years. But, a variety of circumstances turn that organization upside down. They referred hundreds of participants into the Inspired Work Program. Word filtered throughout the organization that we were not an outplacement firm, we provided an experience that was transformational, perfect for those who wanted to elevate this experience to a turning point.
In one group, there was a meticulous young man who had been the bank’s CEO for 8 years. He came from a family of immigrant workers and was the first to graduate from college. In fact, a full scholarship allowed him to attend Harvard and eventually earn an MBA. I was struck by his ability to articulate his truth, feelings, and fears. After one of our question sessions, he raised his hand and I asked what he wanted to tell us.
“My family and friends are so proud of me. But, I never wanted to work for a bank.” He lowered his voice, “I loved working in the fields. All that I ever wanted to do was to grow things.”
Often, when someone starts the navigation towards their life’s work, unique gift, or simply ideal work, it shows up as an unfixable problem. Was he going to return to being a nomadic farm worker? Probably not. And, what of tribal pressure? Families and tribes have rigid rituals and expectations. When we break them, all hell can break loose.
I asked him, “How would you family feel about you’re returning to farming?”
“They would be appalled. I am the one who rose out of that work. I am the one they point to as their success story.”
“So, your success was earned by attaining a variety of degrees in business, working in a bank for years where you did real estate and financing deals. You manage a number of teams and from all that I can ascertain they love working for you. You are a different man than the one who left those fields to go to school.”
“What would happen if you took that knowledge as well as your hard-won credibility and apply those assets to your love of growing things, your passion about being outdoors, and your care for everyone who works for you? It is just a possibility.”
There are times when I know I’ve just thrown a thought bomb into someone’s life. If it is on target, it grows and if it isn’t, another option would come up and take shape. But, that was his turning point.
Today, he owns a farm that provides vegetables to the finest restaurants on the western seaboard. Many of us his family members work there as well. This is where his unique career DNA moved him.
How is this story so relevant to our current circumstances?
Change is accelerating and eliminating task work, redefining businesses and markets. Unrest is roiling through our culture and 48% of America’s workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.” Millions of people are holding onto jobs in shrinking industries with all of the negativity that implies. That might seem like an inappropriate time to define what we were born to do! In fact, this is the best time to define what we love, what we were born to do, the work that is meaningful to us.
The outplacement industry has a backroom comment: “Get me another job, just like the one I hated.” It seems to be human nature to hold onto what we believe survival ought to look like. Far too many of us are stepping back into work that is shrinking or going away altogether.
Far too many of us have long outgrown what we were doing, but have not defined the work that fits the person we have grown into. Too many people have a unique purpose that would make the world a better place but they continue to buy-in to the notion that a “real job” will guarantee their survival and predictability. But, survival and predictability are mediocre standards indeed.
Today, when I have a wonderful meal at a fine restaurant, I often wonder if I am eating vegetables grown at his farm. I think of family, many of them working for someone they love and who loves them. I picture him standing on that field, looking out at the life he created and the life that he grows.
Many would call him courageous and it takes courage to break out of the apparent and define the life we are meant to lead. But, the majority of our participants would tell us they had no other choice. Because once we develop the courage to define what we were born to do, once we find the answer to what is meaningful for us,
There is no other choice.
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