Where’s Your Juice?
People ask me all the time how I ended up doing what I do. After all, leading programs that combine leadership and theatre isn’t something you usually find in a career guide. It’s not a major you can sign up for in college. It’s not an industry category. It’s its own thing. I’ve definitely taken the circuitous path in life. It hasn’t always been easy – in fact most often it’s not – but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I found my “juice”.
One of the things I often ask people, when talking to them about what drives them is, “Where’s the juice in it for you?” Meaning: You do what you do for the sake of what? What’s the delicious sustenance that makes it all worthwhile? And for each of us, the answer differs.
When I did theatre, I loved working on scripts that made people think differently about things, and feel in ways that they hadn’t allowed themselves to feel. That’s what got me excited. The problem was, what got me excited wasn’t always readily available to me as an actor. An actor doesn’t get to choose the projects they go after, or they’d be predominantly unemployed. They go after everything they can. So when it came time to audition for a Tide commercial, or Oklahoma. Meh. I was totally uninspired. I couldn’t get excited. Of course I wanted to be wanted (because “success” meant getting the commercials and being a leading actor in the play-of-the-day), but it was hard to bring my best because that just wasn’t where the juice was for me. Can you see how that would be a huge problem if I wanted to to make a living as an actor?
My husband Tim and I were talking about something similar last night. We were talking about how hard it is for people to give themselves permission to see beyond the traditional path – and it’s a challenging journey that he knows well. Tim is truly the smartest guy I know, and there are a lot of ready-made paths for smart guys like him. Math always came easy to him, his dad was an engineer, so it made sense for him to go into engineering when he started college (because that’s what people who are good at math do). He did the big company thing. Did what he “should”. Was responsible. Did a good job. Worked his way up the ladder. Got a Masters in Engineering. Switched big companies. Was successful but restless. Something wasn’t right. Got a Masters in Business. Now smart-guy has all sorts of degrees behind him, knows lots of people. Opportunities find him (after all, good talent is hard to find!). It’s nice to be wanted. He continues being successful. Continues being restless. Successful doesn’t feel successful.
He wasn’t experiencing “the juice”.
Tim had the skills to do what he was doing. He was good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it people liked him. He could have been doing what he was doing forever. But even so, he could never bring his best.
Fast forward 15 years and Tim is doing what he was put on this planet to do. He’s forged his own path, working for a small company in Manhattan doing innovation work and I’ve never seen him happier than he’s been these last few years. But it hasn’t come without sacrifice and making hard decisions. Decisions about what success really means. To him.
Never before has there been a better time in the history of our workforce to start this exploration. All of the rules of the game are changing. When the average time an American worker stays in their current job is only 4.5 years, there is no straight path to success and no path looks the same. For the first time ever, we not only have permission, but in this increasingly competitive world, it is an imperative for us to find our “juice”.
But the juice isn’t always obvious. It can take years to excavate. Like a mysterious secret hidden in invisible ink, it is only revealed through the courage to start asking ourselves the questions: I do what I do for the sake of what? What’s the delicious sustenance that makes it all worthwhile? What excites me? Where’s the juice in it for me?
Because the juice is the best part. And we cannot afford to leave our best on the sidelines.
©OnStage Leadership, 2013
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