FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | James Cathcart | March, 2009
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , Stephen R. Covey introduces us to a model we call The Maturity Continuum. This model shows us how the 7 Habits work together as a synergistic team, rather than as seven separate and disconnected ideas. Anyone who has attempted to live a few of the habits for an extended period of time has probably learned that you can’t live one habit, without understanding it’s relationship with the other six.
One of the most important concepts taught in this model is the idea that in order to achieve the highest degree of maturity, which is interdependence, or the ability to work effectively with others, one must first achieve independence. In other words, if I’m dependent on a single employer for my livelihood, I’ll never truly feel free to talk straight or give honest constructive feedback when asked for my opinion. I’ll tend to “suck-up” and say what I think everyone wants to hear, rather than be intellectually honest.
As I watch the challenges of this new century unfold, I am becoming acutely aware of many whose dependence on their employers is becoming glaringly evident. Consider this story from The October 1950 Reader’s Digest:
“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved. …
“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.
“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ‘something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a handout.
“A lot of people are like that, too. They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s ‘shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come?
“Let’s not be gullible gulls. We … must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.”
It’s hard to believe that article was written almost 60 years ago. And yet, it’s message is as viable today as ever. In order to truly be able to give our very best to any organization, we must first be independent of that organization. When we have our own needs taken care of first, it’s much easier to reach out and take care of the needs of others.
A common question that we FranklinCovey consultants ask participants in our Focus and 7 Habits classes is whether or not their values and mission align with the values and mission of the organization they work for. In a day and age where we have almost unlimited choices as to what to do for a living, why would we spend 8-10 hours a day doing something we absolutely hate?
Frequently I’m concerned that we’re leaving people with the impression that unless their job is perfect, where every single day seems like play, they need to keep looking for another job.
Here is something I like to remind my participants. All jobs have downsides to them. While someone else’s career might seem perfect to you, I guarantee that to the other person, there are tough, tough days and weeks sometimes where their jobs are anything but fun. For example, I love working for FranklinCovey. I’ve wanted to work for Stephen Covey since I was a freshman in college and heard him lecture on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It took me a very long time to acquire the skills and credibility for the work I do, but I was relentless and eventually achieved my goal. I have not been disappointed. For the past 15 years, I have had my dream job, but do you know what I hate?
Oh sure, at first it was awesome. During the first couple of years I was living the James Bond fantasy, travelling to 10 different cities each month, checking into hotels, and when asked for my name replying with “Cathcart…James Cathcart. I had the perfect job.
Then I got married and had children. That beats the James Bond fantasy big-time, and the travelling lost a little of the luster. Now, in 2009, I absolutely loathe airports, airplanes, airline food (which you now have to pay extra for), hotels and taxi cabs. I find no pleasure in any of that. If Star Trek transporters existed and I could beam to Boston from Seattle in the blink of an eye, I would then have the perfect job.
But such technology doesn’t exist, and so I travel…a lot. But here’s the thing: the upside of my job (teaching this incredible content, meeting such interesting people and tapping into my unique talents and voice) is so fantastic that it swamps the downside of my work. No, I don’t love everything I do, but man do I love the teaching part.
You don’t have to have the perfect job. You just need to find work that taps into something that you are passionate about. Something that fulfills a need that others are willing to pay for, and lends itself to your talents and gifts. When you do, treasure it. Don’t take it for granted. Put your heart and soul into it and watch what happens.
Someday, someone will look at you and say to a friend or colleague, “See that person over there? Now they have the perfect job.”
To find out what some of your talents and values are, consider the FranklinCovey Mission Statement Builder found at the following site: