Today’s blog post is by my Altris buddy, Kelly Samson, who is one of the nicest people I met in 2015. He offers up some serious food for thought around how we identify WHO we are by WHAT we do.
Tom knew it was coming, they all knew. The slow-moving restructuring juggernaut, chewing up departments and teams as it went. He’d been through numerous restructures and was considered a veteran. He felt suitably blasé and weary of the process.
This time, however, it was different. As he read the letter, the cold, emotionless word ‘disestablished’ jumped out at him and suddenly, he felt vulnerable. That endless list of important meetings and tasks, which only moments ago had been such a huge priority, suddenly seemed trivial. There was no escaping it this time.
As he drove home that night, Tom allowed himself a moment of introspection as he let the consequences of the day sink in. With the sudden loss of his job, which had taken up so much of his life, he pored over questions he had never considered before.
What actually defines me as a person? Is it the job I have? Is it the job title stamped on my business card?
Didn’t I seem more ‘big league’ when I had the letters, Director, GM or VP after my name?
Is it this mask I wear while I play the role I’ve been assigned?
The bigger my job title, the bigger my pay check – does it mean I am a more important person than the next? More important than the person who’s trying to talk to me? Tom sheepishly admitted to himself that he had thought it did.
Maybe it’s the busier I am? If I am always rushing from appointment to appointment and multi-tasking, that must mean I’m succeeding, doesn’t it? He started to recognise that on many occasions, he had been there in body but never truly present for his friends or colleagues.
What happens when this role ends? What happens when the title and pay-check are suddenly no longer there? Tom asked himself, “Who am I then? Is that the person I want to be?
Tom wasn’t sure.
Or, is there more to me, more to me feeling successful as a person that I can’t see? There must be something deeper and more authentic than this role I fill from 9 – 5? Or, in Tom’s case, often from 7 – 6.
I can now see I carry this job title with me like a badge of importance. Is that important to the people who mean the most to me, my family and friends?
How authentic am I actually being?
With these reflections, Tom began to see the role for what it was. He held it but he didn’t own it. However, he had let it own him and he had defined his success as a person by it. Someone had held this role before him and someone would hold it after he was gone. He now could see how he was often filled, even overflowing, with self-importance because of his job title. But that feeling had just been an illusion – the job title didn’t give him real fulfilment and success.
What really defines you as a successful person?
Are you defined by your role, your job title and your paycheck?
Tom realised that when his role finished, and all roles will all end one day one way or another, the legacy he wanted to leave behind was how people felt when he connected with them and how he helped them, in the ways he could.
He could now see that he wanted people to know and remember him for being a truly authentic person, who was present to hear them – and not for the position he held. This is the successful person he aspired to be – someone bigger than any title or paycheck he could temporarily hold.
His ideal successful self would be known by the people he met because of his integrity, authenticity, kindness and leadership. He now defined his success by being true to his values, making a positive difference and giving back whenever he could.
Unlike Tom, you don’t need to lose your job to think about what defines you as a successful person.
What will enable you to look back on your life and feel fulfilled and proud? Take a minute to answer this question:
What does success in life look, feel and sound like to me?
Kelly Samson is a Leadership and Executive Coach with Altris, winner of the AUT Business Excellence Award for Services to Business 2015.
Kelly is passionate about empowering people to be their best, to achieve more than they thought possible. He supports clients to realise their goals and aspirations and then to grow, stretch and develop to achieve these. As a coach, Kelly serves clients to live authentically, create excitement, confidence, motivation and to harness their full self-belief.