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are you having fun yet?

September 12, 2007

So I’m reading this book that I think everyone who reads this blog, everyone who is starting their career, everyone who is halfway through, and even everyone who is retired should read. But seriously, for those of us just starting out, I was given this book by the venerable Gary Grates (shout out to Gary for being the BEST professor I had at Newhouse), and it is a MUST READ.

The book is called True Professionalism and it is by David Maister. I am only on chapter 3, and not only am I learning about myself as a professional and as a person, I am getting excited about my job again. It is redirecting my mindset and motivating me to get off my ass and do something about my own career. Take the bull by the horns. Just because there are aspects of my position today that I do not enjoy, and just because I am at the bottom of the ladder, does NOT mean that I do not still have power over my job and my career, especially when it comes to my day to day activities. In one of my favorite parts of the book so far, Maister points out that when polled, professionals working in prestigious firms around the world feel that they really love their jobs only 20-25 percent of the time. 60-70 percent of the time they say they can “tolerate” what they do, and 5-20 percent of the time they hate what they do.

In other words, the typical professional in a top firm is positively enjoying his or her work about one day a week.

So I’m reading this and nodding, saying yeah, that’s about right. You got it Maister. Then he comes back at you and says, so, what are YOU doing to change that? Me!? Whatever, it’s my boss who makes me do things and my firm for not being the best blah blah blah. Bullshit he says.

To me, such sentiments reflect a mentality as shortsighted and perverse as the firm’s. Of course the firm needs to change, but if you wait for that you’ll wait till hell freezes over, and meanwhile you live a less fulfilling life. To me, this reflects an abdication of responsibility for one’s own future.

It’s certainly a change in mindset. We leave school eager and willing to take on the world, but end up in a windowless cubicle, it’s not a stretch to wonder how we lose sight of the ambition, the energy, the drive and the desire to change the status quo. But we have only changed locations, our goals and our talent and our drive remain. It’s about recapturing that mentality in a different environment and harnessing it to achieve the best you can within that environment. That subtle change in perspective has made this week one of the best since I left graduate school. So here we go Maister. I’m about to apply everything you write about to my professional life and test the theory. More to come…!

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