This was the theme for my client's AGM (Annual General Meeting) and Staff Event: Love Where You Work. Now, that's the kind of organization I'd want to work with -- one that chooses that sort of a theme.
The keynote was Jian Ghomeshi, host of Q on CBC Radio. Jian shared a humorous glimpse into his journey of loving where he works; including some musings about an Iranian father who might at one time have preferred Jian be a doctor, lawyer or some other more worthy profession than the one that was drawing Jian's interest (especially the early career as a singer, songwriter, and musician, with multi-platinum selling folk-rock group, Moxy Früvous).
During his keynote, Jian shared some of his observations about the prominent international figures -- from prime ministers to sports stars and cultural icons -- he has interviewed over his many years in broadcasting, including Woody Allen, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Barbara Walters, Tom Waits, William Shatner, Jay-Z, Al Gore, Margaret Atwood and -- in a television world-exclusive -- Leonard Cohen. A pretty impressive resume, for sure.
Jian's observations about successful people were that they:
1) Love Where They Work/What They Do
2) Work Really, Really, Really Hard (I am paraphrasing the colorful language Jian used here)
3) Are Patient and Persist In Moving Forward Toward What They Want
4) Have Self-Doubt, Like The Rest Of Us
As I listened to Jian, I reflected on the session I had just finished delivering to the staff; mine was on the Power of Optimism. I saw a tremendous amount of congruence between Jian's message and mine.
Optimism is a perspective; it is a choice about what you decide to say to yourself -- particularly following times of adversity. And, the choice changes everything. Martin Seligman calls this your "explanatory style." In his book, Learned Optimism, he maps out what his research has discovered are The Three P's of Pessimism: Permanence, Pervasiveness, and Personal.
Let's say you have just discovered that you were not successful in achieving a job for which you applied. If you are a Pessimist, you might say to yourself: "I am NEVER going to get ahead, NOTHING ever goes my way, it's MY FAULT, I'M NOT GOOD ENOUGH." I think we can all agree, this kind of explanatory style will surely kill your motivation and overall sense of well-being.
When I read Seligman's book, I was left wondering... what about The Three O's of Optimism? Where are they? I could not find them in Seligman's book -- or elsewhere -- so, I decided to make them up myself. The Three O's of Optimism are: Occasion, Opportunity, and Ownership.
If you take the same scenario above, not being selected for a job for which you applied, as an Optimist you might say to yourself: "This was not THE TIME for me to move on, SOMETIMES I am not selected for the job for which I apply, the interviewer thought someone else was a BETTER MATCH and I KNOW I WILL SUCCEED in the future so I'll make sure I demonstrate my skills as clearly as I can." This explanatory style will likely help you to take positive action to get the job that you want, to persist. You might get feedback on your interview skills, revamp your resume, and you will surely keep applying for jobs for which you believe you are suited.
The key is, the explanatory voice is your voice -- you control it, and you can change it.
What's also very important about your explanatory style is that it is directly connected to how you FEEL. How do you want to feel? Hopeless or hopeful? Negative or positive? Engaged or disengaged? Motivated or exhausted? I think the answer is clear. Feeling good -- at work and in life -- is just better for you (and for everyone else around you). Seligman provides lots of evidence on the power of an optimistic perspective: it prevents depression, increases productivity, increases happiness, and increases life expectancy. Hmmm...seems like a no-brainer (actually, a brain-changer) to me!
I ended my presentation talking about a little initiative I have undertaken. As I go through my life, I am taking pictures of really amazing, happy, engaged people at their workplace; in the grocery store, at the gym, in hotels, at my mom's personal care home, etc. It has been a wonderful experience, and I am astonished and thrilled that not one person has answered 'no' when I have asked to take their picture. They have all smiled brightly and broadly, and given me their name -- even though many of them have never met me before. Stay tuned and I will share the collage in future blog posts -- and if you are such a person, or know such a person, I would love it if you send me a picture to add to the growing movement to demonstrate that engagement, joy and motivation are alive and well in the workplace! (Email pictures -- of individuals or whole teams -- to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Now go -- love where you work!