What do you want to be when you grow up?

I was taking an early morning walk down to the breezy coast of West Seattle and was thinking about how it’s nice to have the down on the out bound so that I’m warmed up to deal with the hill on the way back. Then in my half-awake morning stupor a thought flitted across my cerebral cortex. It was about when we ask children about their future and that we don’t say "What do you want to do when you grow up". Rather we use the word be, not do. And I got to thinking about the importance of that little word. Two simple letters, a consonant and a vowel.

Fatherhood © Matthew Woodget 2011 www.fluidpixel.com

"To be, or not to be. That is the question." – Hamlet.

Unsurprisingly Shakespeare can impart some wisdom to us on this matter. Just as Hamlet was agonizing over the apparent helplessness of life he’s also torn as to giving it up. He’s trapped in a dark, tragic place where his very being is brought into question and he is thinking of ending it all.

In Hamlet’s despondency we come to recognize that when we are asking a child what they want to be we are not asking them about jobs or tasks or comings or goings. We are asking them what they want their life to feel like. And hopefully for it to feel quite the opposite of what Hamlet is going through. Think for a second of some of the classic answers that a child may provide to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?".

An airline pilot, a fire fighter, a horseback rider, an astronaut. They know nothing of the grind of these jobs, of the challenges, the stresses. What they think about is what the people who do these things feel like. Or at least what their childishness imagines visualize… and I’ll give you a hint; in this case ‘childish’ is far from disparaging. Their minds soar with the thrill of flying a plane, the hero who saves those in danger, the wide open spaces and fresh air and camaraderie with animals, or a wonder and marvel of the earth and of the universe that being hurled into space on a rocket affords. It’s the very real, hear and now feelings of the child that they are tapping into and projecting into their future.

How does this relate to anything you may care about?

When it comes to what you do, think more about what you want to be. "What do you want to be… now!" This could be informing a career change where you are seeking something which will be better match with how you want to feel in what you are doing, or it could fuel your approach when tackling a particular project you are working on in a job you already love.

You maybe be an independent photographer or a cog in the corporate machine, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to how you interact with those you work with, the customers you build for or market or sell to, think about how those on the receiving end of your actions feel. What are they pursuing, what do they want? Every decision we make is intentionally designed to benefit us and how we feel. From consumer goods purchase to enterprise investments of grand scale. Good choices or bad we can’t help but put ourselves at the center. We do it because we feel it is the right thing to do based on any number of external stimuli. We just *have* to have *that* pair of shoes. The market data *clearly* states we must address things with a change in corporate strategy and if we win because of it *I* get the promotion. Even in a life of piety and sacrifice where everything you do is for others you are choosing this to satisfy a feeling in yourself, you feel it’s the right thing to do for moral or religious reasons.

Doing might be where the rubber meets the road and stuff gets made, built or shipped. But long before that there is being. Figure out what yours is, those around you, your partners and ultimately your customers and you will be able to tap into that powerful aspirational energy from your childhood when you once dreamed of mounting a screaming rocket to the stars.

How do you feel about this? Love to hear your thoughts, and feelings :-).

Cloudscape at Lotus F1 Team HQ

I took the frames for this photo outside of the Lotus F1 Team HQ in Oxfordshire after a day long meeting I was running there. I was in fact in the middle of a conversation with a colleague when I realized what an epic view was behind him. I really love this view. It’s actually three exposures blended with some gentle touch up in Lightroom. I was on a mission to make something both realistic and painterly like. I think I established that I love it. What do you think?

“In silence, you find time to remember who you really are” via @getstoried

I’d set some time aside to carve through that list of things I “want to get to”. Important things to know, learn, process. Business models, customer information…

One of the things I had put aside was an email newsletter from Michael Margolis called “The Sound of Silence”.

Have you ever felt frazzled? Like there are too many emails, social feeds, too much input, too much to process, too much to learn?

Michael is an excellent storyteller so no surprise he tells a compelling story about this impact of operating at 120% for too long on his health and ability to get anything done.

Read Michael’s thoughts on all of this and the art, and power of saying “no”.

Here is a nice excerpt, and here is the full article.

When any choice comes up, ask yourself: Do I have 5 reasons for saying yes? List them.

Part of the trick about this exercise is asking yourself why again and again.

  • Why do I want to do this (whatever this is)?
  • Am I attracted or repelled? Is this a clear YES, or is there hesitancy?
  • Where is the synergy or leverage in saying YES?
  • How do I belong in this story? Why do I want to be part of this story?
  • Is this something I would be proud to share with others?

What gets you up in the morning?

Are values important to our success in business? I vote a resounding yes! We’ve probably all heard “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I like the additional “…and then what you know.” And how do we truly know people? Get to understand their values… what get’s them up in the morning. Know that, you know them and have a foundation to build and grow a relationship. Sound a bit cold and detached? It does a little when you put it in that formula, however think about when you met your spouse or a best friend. How did you get so well connected to them? Was it in in part due to deep mutual understanding of each other?

So what am I banging on about?

I’m currently working with my mentor on including my values into how I think about my career. As he pointed out we often focus on the ‘big pillars’ that we want to be known for, yet we often allow the value part of our development to atrophy. Unintentionally most of the time.

When he first mentioned values I was skeptical. I’d done Covey exercises (amongst others) in the past. It was good and they made sense but I let focusing on them slide. Not sure why, I think perhaps I didn’t find it as practical as focusing on building my Clifton Strengths.

My mentor reintroduced me to focusing on values in a very potent way. “What get’s you up in the morning Matthew?” We started with this being the obvious (my son, he literally does). We moved through the philosophical and into the more career focused. Then he got me to prioritize.

The icing on the cake was ideas and encouragement to identify others “values”, basically what is important to them. I’ll be working on this. Keep me honest. And if you like, I’d love to chat 1:1 about your values so that I can understand you that much better and our working relationship can go from good to great… You may note from the prioritized list below that people are at the top of my values. Yes, that’s you in there at number two.

  1. Family
  2. Interacting with others*
  3. Creativity
  4. Learning
  5. Technology
  6. Solving Problems
  7. Impact
  8. Achievement
  9. Stability/Rewards
  10. Environment/Aesthetics


*I should note this is in a purely positive sense!

Final thoughts: these will shift over time, however it wouldn’t be surprising to always see a few up at the top. Also these are not all the values in the world or necessarily what you might define as a value. That’s OK! Yours can and should be different and in your own words.