One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Tombstone when Josephine Marcus says, “I’m always happy, unless I’m bored.” I think Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would agree. The video below is a Ted Talk that he gave in 2004. At about the 14-minute mark, he talks about what it feels like to be in a state of “flow,” and around 15:30 he introduces a chart on how this state requires a convergence of skills and challenge. You’ll never get into “flow” if you simply go with the flow of the world around you. The following are some of his comments on that chart:
If we know what that set point is, we can predict fairly accurately when you will be in flow, and it will be when your challenges are higher than average and skills are higher than average. And you may be doing things very differently from other people, but for everyone that flow channel, that area there, will be when you are doing what you really like to do — play the piano, be with your best friend, perhaps work, if work is what provides flow for you. And then the other areas become less and less positive.
Arousal is still good because you are over-challenged there. Your skills are not quite as high as they should be, but you can move into flow fairly easily by just developing a little more skill. So, arousal is the area where most people learn from, because that’s where they’re pushed beyond their comfort zone and to enter that — going back to flow — then they develop higher skills. Control is also a good place to be, because there you feel comfortable, but not very excited. It’s not very challenging any more. And if you want to enter flow from control, you have to increase the challenges. So those two are ideal and complementary areas from which flow is easy to go into.
If you want happiness, you want flow. And, if you want flow, you have to be willing to do what you are good at and what interests you at challenging levels.
I know several young women and men graduating from high school and college this year. In today’s world one of the best and most useful pieces of advice a graduate can receive is to review and clean up her social networking profiles. Although it may appear to the Millennials and Gen Texters that folks from older generations don’t have the tech skills or the interest to check them out online, your need to understand that not only will future employers look you up to see what they find but that what an employer finds online will very likely come into play when making a hiring decision. If you seem like a chronic complainer, a late-night party goer, a foul-mouthed hot head, a sickly slacker, or a whiny troublemaker, you’re hurting your chances of finding a job.
If you don’t think that’s fair… too bad. That is life in the 21st Century. The technology that makes connecting with others and expressing ourselves so easy also makes it easy for employers to determine if you would be an employee they want on their payroll.
Here are a few tips to help create an online image that makes you look professional and hire-worthy:
- Lock down your privacy settings so only friends can see your posts and photos
- Yet, that’s not enough – photos and posts that seem anything other than positive, friendly, professional and/or family-friendly should be deleted
- While your adjusting those privacy settings, consider not allowing others to tag your or check you in – don’t let your hard work at cleaning up your profile be undone by your friends
- Build a simple website that highlights your education, skills, volunteerism, etc. and shows why you’ll make a great employee (register some variation of yourname.com as the URL)
- Create a LinkedIn profile to showcases your education and experience
If all that sounds like too much trouble, take a moment to daydream about working at a minimum wage job… now, daydream about working at professional job in a field that interests you. If you like the looks of of the second daydream better, take the time to prepare yourself online and offline to achieve that goal.
Yesterday, Parade Magazine published a piece called “America’s Bucket List 2011.” They said it was a list of “essential experiences every American should have.” I must be a good American because I’ve done all but four items on the list, but I probably won’t be adding those to my bucket list any time soon. The four I’ll skip are:
- #2 Watch a lawn mower race. I know people who go to lawn mower races. Does that count?
- #10 Volunteer to be a poll worker on election day. I won’t rule this one out forever. However, in my precinct the poll workers are all pushing 80 years old. I’ll wait another 25 or 30 years and then volunteer so I fit the demographic.
- #14 Learn the second verse of our national anthem. Why? My brain is tasked with keeping track of more vital information. I don’t need any trivia to keep track of.
- #26 Write a gratitude letter to a teacher. This one has value. Unfortunately, the only teacher I would have anything worthwhile to say to was my college adviser and speech professor who committed suicide a couple of years after I graduated. He showed me that I really could do what I wanted and that technology wasn’t all bad. I’ll have to sit and chat with him in another life.
To replace these four items, I’ll add four of my own:
- Live in the Florida Keys. It’s a beautiful place to vacation, but vacations are too short. Someday I want to send all my winter coats to the thrift shop and never buy another one. I want a wardrobe full of nothing by shorts, tank tops and flip flops. I may have been born in “Almost Heaven” West Virginia, but the Keys sound like heaven to me.
- Live “off the grid.” And I want to do it without moving to the middle of nowhere. Surely there are ways even city folks can transition from reliance on traditional utilities to more self-sufficient means? If I lived in the Keys I’d be able to cross home heating and cooling off the energy consumption list. Water and electricity would be the only needs to conquer.
- Learn Spanish. A useful skill whether living here in Oklahoma or in the Keys. Sorry, but I can’t get on the English-only bandwagon. Isn’t it odd that the U.S. is the only advanced nation whose educated classes don’t know how to speak another language? Yesterday, after the French Open, I listened as Roger Federer, a native German, addressed the crowd in perfect French; Rafael Nadal addressed the crowd in English and then in his native Spanish. American arrogance contributes to American ignorance. We shouldn’t wonder that our schools churn out a bunch of spoiled, half-literate young people.
- Win a ribbon at a county fair. I don’t know what category or what fair. But I think it would be a lot of fun!
- ThemeHermit.com – basic WordPress themes for $6
- Soul Path Personal Development – Christian mentoring and spiritual direction
- The Priority Reset – e-workbook about rethinking and reworking our lives
With the economy continuing to struggle, I find that many people are looking for new ways to make a living. And that’s a good thing. I don’t think we will ever go back to the days of big companies employing thousands of people for a lifetime. There is no “career path” these days. Even in professions such as medicine and law, practitioners are finding ways to expand their reach and their earning potential: websites, public speaking, television, radio, and even internet broadcasting.
No company or industry is going to look after us or our finances. It’s up to each of us to find ways to use our talents to help others and ourselves. Anyone who is unwilling to step outside the norm of working for someone else for a dollar will find himself continually wondering when that job is going to end–it’s a fact that stands for each employee, whether the receptionist or the CEO–if it’s not your company, your job is always in jeopardy.
At AJG Consulting we like to help people find those new ways to make a living (and a life). Our question is, Where do you want to go today?
This is one of my least favorite questions when meeting someone new. What do you do? People are expecting a simple answer: I’m a nurse. I’m a doctor. I’m a secretary. I work for company X.
I’ve discovered that answering with “whatever I want” either elicits laughs or condemnation. Sometimes I say that I work from home and wait to see if the questioner actually wants more information. If I’m feeling conversational I say I’m a writer and editor who teaches classes at a local college. Usually though, the question peeves me and I say that most days I stay in my PJs until noon and then I contemplate a shower and going out for a latte.
Of course, some are going to tell me that I’m supposed to have my 30-second speech that tells people who I am, what I do, and why they should open their wallets and hand their money to me. Gag. I even know a lovely woman who teaches people how to do just that. Her speech must be working well because folks are lining up to hand her their money.
The question annoys me because no person can be reduced to a 30-second soundbite about what they do. I recently spent a morning with several ladies whom I had never met, and I learned much about each of them. I did not ask any of them what they did. I still don’t know what they do. I do know about their children, travels, hopes, desires and worries. We shared life stories, both funny and tragic. We learned to respect and cherish each other’s humanity–our occupations were of no importance.
I can’t tell anyone in 30 seconds what I do. Which part of my day do they want to know about? The reading, researching and journaling part? The writing for clients part? The writing my book part? The gardening part? The answering curious questions from LivePerson part? The teaching part? The editing part? The corresponding with like-minded folks part? The caring for critters part? The social commentary and criticism part? The prayer and reflection part?
I can’t tell you what I do. But I can invite you to share in a conversation that gradually reveals who I am.