In life and work it can be easy to call the game before everything plays out. You may think that the current state is a predictor of the final outcome, but history has shown that often the result is very different. For example, look at Great Britain after France fell to Hitler. Many back then declared the end was near, except Churchill thought differently. I'm glad he did.
Before you start thinking that Churchill, Hitler and WWII have nothing to do with your life and work, let me illustrate some key realities:
- Great stories don't just play out on grand stages. Quite frankly, grand stages set the context for the ordinary. We often buy into the lie of "my life is not as big or wide or great as so-and-so."
- Every life and story is fluid. It is moving as long as the subjects are "alive."
- Our culture has diminished the pursuit of our stories. We been marketed the ideas of sitting on the sideline, while the privileged few live out dreams. It's a type of voyeurism.
If we're not careful, we'll disengage before every thing has played out. This is hard! But the upside is tremendous when we see things in the form of a story-our lives and work. Without this view, betting on a "sure thing" is all you'll have stomach for. And sure things are nothing more than code for playing it safe. I am convinced that you must let the story play out. No early exits.
I have a friend who works for company that frustrates him almost daily. You could argue that some of it is his fault, but on the whole he has reason to be frustrated. His company is mediocre. If I were coaching him as a client I would advise him to cast a vision for a better future (with or without the company he works for), set goals around that vision, and create an action directive to see it through. But he is not a client, so right now the issue is purely surface oriented.
So what should he do about the frustration? I advised him to think about his company's story. Yes, organizations have a story to live through as well. Organizations set in motion the elements of their story through structure, people and mission. Each of these will have tremendous impact on how their story will play out. If the organization sees their people as nothing more than a means-to-an-end, then disengagement will settle in and take root. You've read stories like this. You've seen this movie before, haven't you?
We're too caught up in daily information to understand that a story always plays out over the course of time. We wake up and our mediocre company is still open for business. We wake up and our jerk boss is still in-charge. These are hard realities to face, but the story hasn't fully played out.
There is tremendous opportunity here…if you're willing to look closely. By seeing the good and the bad, it places you in a very liberating position. You can begin to see clearly because you've embraced the story through the lens of beginning, middle and end. Your options really open up at this point.
Just don't make this only about work. Your life is a story and it will play out as well.