Listen to the Whisper
by Doug Sundheim
None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American author, minister, & activist
When I do mission and vision work with clients, the first thing I have them do is present their current mission and vision. Most of what I hear could put you to sleep. It's formulaic. It's lifeless. And the delivery is uninspired. I then ask them them to dig a little deeper. "What's the mission that's whispering to you? - that's begging you to follow it - that might sound silly or unreasonable, but that gets you fired up as you think about pursuing it." The answers to these questions are often much different. They're electric in comparison. They're raw, but they're real. And as a result they have the ability to inspire and move people.
Mediocrity is easy - follow the masses. Excellence, however, is not - that's a path you've got to carve on your own. Your guide is often no more than a faint whisper inside of you. To pursue it takes courage. And to succeed takes imagination and hard work. However, the payoff is big if you stick to it. You will have built something from nothing. And you will have forged your character and legacy in the process.
1. What whisper do you hear?
2. Put it on paper - I recommend doing this even if you think you know it already - it forces you to articulate it more clearly.
3. Recognize that this is your sweet spot - the place where you'll find more creativity and success than anywhere else.
4. When the time is right, follow it. Slowly at first if you have to.
5. Revisit this whisper at least once a year as it can change and grow as you begin to listen to it.
We all know at least one or two kinds of activities in specific situations where we simply shine. Effortlessly. And have won admiration from others though we probably felt it was no big deal. Such talents provide clues to our core strengths. We wish that somehow this should be more repeatable; we get the feeling that if our work was such that we could apply these talents regularly, we could operate with excellence and life would then be more fulfilling. The strengths-based approach is all about channelizing our areas of passion into our roles. This is the ultimate career planning secret.