One of the things Steve Jobs said is “We’re here to put a dent in the Universe”. It did seem he was able to encourage the deep aspiration of people at Apple to be part of something truly wonderful where they could bring their best – to make their own particular dent in the Universe.
As I gain traction with my own strengths journey, I seem more able to fantasise about – and then make real – my ideal work portfolio. One which allows my core strengths – being creative, collaborative, courageous, incisive and improvement focussed – to show up, take the lead and express themselves in a variety of ways.
What might the specifics of this ideal portfolio be?
There are three really key parts of the jigsaw which come to mind:
Open Leadership Development Qualifications
Increasingly I enjoy engaging with a variety of business leaders and professionals, from different organisations, all in the same room together. I love to help them to raise the ceiling on what they can achieve. Just one email eight months ago led to my setting up and running an open ILM leadership qualification where I live in Petersfield, Hampshire. I have loved it so much I now plan to run many more (January start dates available here…)
People Skills for Real People in Real Jobs
For me, it’s great when the work my clients do is practical. So helping railway people, NHS staff, education and support services to university students, IT specialists or asbestos removal professionals with the people, interpersonal and leadership skills to do their work really well – ticks a number of boxes for me.
Helping a Team Achieve a Goal
Whether it is a sales team winning work which is meaningful, or an organisation wanting to grow over the next 10 years, helping key members of a team to work together and take their organisation forward, from naming and being at their best, is something I love to do. Each team is different, keeping it fresh every single time too.
Smaller granules within the portfolio – such as speaking engagements, writing my blog, continuous learning, individual coaching, team workshops, action learning sets – also come to mind – as the oil around the larger items, helping give friction and traction to the overall direction.
This is the dent in the universe I want to make – helping people to really stretch and grow, to exceed their own expectations about the results they can achieve. This “dent” of mine, helps them fulfill their own purpose of delivering tangible results which, it often seems, also improves things for people.
So how does this now relate to what I was saying about a dent in my soul? Something none of us really want I imagine.
For me, a dent in the soul is the other side of the coin – the opposite of what I have been talking about. The things that do not cause my heart to leap with joy, where I do not feel “YES” inside me, when I do not come alive at the idea of earning my crust in a particular way. Activities where my energising strengths are not required, or not enough of the time.
What might these activities be, and more importantly, what am I learning about how to handle situations when dent in the soul activities are asked for?
“Thank you – but that’s not me.”
Sounds easy, doesn’t it. It hasn’t been for a large part of my career though.
Sometimes I can be super clear with ease – particularly where the work clearly does not match my skill set. Other times, the invitation might appear to match – but does not excite me. In the past, I would always feel obliged to pitch – although, truthfully, I would probably only be mediocre at the work.
So what’s happened? Since my accident with my elbow two years ago, life feels too short to spend on the wrong things. So although it takes courage, I am fantastically pleased when I can say to someone “Thank you but no thank you”, or, “Thank you but I don’t think that’s me this time.”
More tricky – avoiding the allure of flattery and “jam later”
Two or three times recently I have been offered work with others, if I bring my ILM qualification expertise and knowledge to the party. Qualifications are a prime example of the Parson’s Egg – where there are things I love to do and things I don’t, all in the one project. I love designing and delivering leadership and coaching work, and struggle to adhere to process and administration of qualifications. I am learning not to be flattered into doing work I do not enjoy, asking lots of questions and being truly honest to myself about the work on offer – and saying “yes” or “no” only on this basis.
Scary but amazing – complementary dents in the Universe
I now have an assistant to help me with the activities I struggle with. Sometimes we tackle things together (the aforementioned administration of qualifications, for example!) – at least then I have company – and over time, more and more can be done without me. I had no idea how exposing it would feel to recruit someone with strengths to team up with, and play opposite to, my weaknesses. But having done it now, I can genuinely say it is one of the best things I have ever done – and hopefully won’t feel so difficult another time either.
Valuing my life more, not taking it for granted, knowing more about energising strengths, being more assertive, learning skills in how to say “no thank you” gracefully have all been important. The real thing though, is that the feeling of the dent in my soul now plain hurts too much to want to live my life that way.
And the more I learn about designing my life to use and call on my strengths, the more it becomes evident how much more satisfying it is to spend a high proportion of my time on things I love to do.
Making a dent in the Universe is so much more satisfactory than making a dent in my soul.
Which brings me back to you – remember – I like to help people stretch and grow!
How can you use your strengths to both energise you and feed your soul – so that you can make your dent, your positive impact, in the Universe?
How can it work for you?