Does your job feel meaningless? Have you ever wondered why you are doing it? I have endured the same challenge, both as a rower and as a management consultant and executive coach. My crises of purpose were fueled by early successes, followed by the realization that bigger success would take exponentially more work and commitment. Anticipating the mountains of effort and uncertain outcomes, my drive evaporated.
What brought back my mojo? I reframed my focus on the perfection of practice.
I learned to fall in love with practice and responsibility. I relearned to love the small gains—the inches. I adored making tweaks and seeing marginal increases in results. I relished the mystery of my mind and how it can react so differently to the same experience depending on the day. This practice-based focus eventually reignited my passion for work.
Picture yourself as an Olympic rower. The act of rowing can seem very pointless. You put your oar blade in the water as gently and quickly as possible, making sure your stroke is long. You lock onto a mound of water at its surface, then you accelerate the blade smoothly, linearly, and powerfully. After ensuring a long finish to your stroke, you cleanly and firmly extract the tip of the oar from the water to glide up the slide, efficiently maintaining the momentum on the hull of the boat without check.
Then you repeat this motion. Over and over and over.
It reminds me of the monk who was seeking enlightenment. He shows up at the monastery and asks the master, “What must I do to obtain enlightenment?”
The master hands him a broom. “Start with sweeping,” he replies.
A year later, the monk comes back to the master. “What must I do to obtain enlightenment?”
Another year passes and the monk again asks the master, “What must I do to gain enlightenment?”
The master replies, “Master sweeping.”
Years and years pass. The monk masters sweeping. “What must I do to gain enlightenment?”
The monk continues to sweep.
One day, the monk reaches enlightenment. He looks up, smiles, takes a deep breath—and he keeps sweeping.
At first glance, monks might not seem to be Pros. They don’t get paid. Some even have to beg on the street for food. But the best monks commit to work like a Pro. They find joy in the pursuit of mastery. They possess principles, determination, and an ethic of responsibility necessary to take a simple practice to the next level—despite the difficulty of the path.
Many think that purpose comes from following your passion. However, most of us have difficulty uncovering what our passion actually is. Many think passion is akin to euphoria; however, its closest relative is patience. It’s not about feeling good—it’s about persistence. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root word: pati. Pati means to suffer. The most sustainable and professional passions grow out of consistent hard work and suffering.
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Adam Kreek is on a mission to positively impact organizational cultures and leaders who make things happen.
Kreek is an Executive Business Coach who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He is an Olympic Gold Medalist, a storied adventurer and a father.
He authored the bestselling business book, The Responsibility Ethic: 12 Strategies Exceptional People Use to Do the Work and Make Success Happen.
Learn more about Kreek’s coaching here.
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