What's Your Life's Work?
Do you keep in touch with your friends from high school?
I didn’t until recently when I got back in touch with a few. That's when I discovered that some have gone on to become highly successful.
I visited one of them last week – let's call him Paul – who is an architect. He gave me a tour of his office, and it was amazing.
He and his partner have close to 100 people on the team, spread over an entire floor and a half of the building in the coolest part of town. On his desk was a drawing for a gorgeous 25,000 ft.² house he’s designing for a client. Hard to imagine living in a house that big, much less affording to pay for and heat it, right?
It turns out that Paul is an “architect to the stars”. His client list is filled with A-list movie stars, supermodels and seriously successful business moguls.
He has built a multimillion-dollar business and a reputation as one of the very best in the business at what he does. And for Paul, at the heart of it is the art – he is doing what he loves.
At the end of the visit, Paul walked me to the elevator. As we turned to look at the door to his offices, he said to me, “That's my life's work in there”.
Wow. One’s life’s work.
These are three words I haven’t thought about – perhaps ever.
Paul’s words stopped me “dead in my tracks” and made me think: what's my life's work? What could I point to and say those words about with pride?
- A family photo album of my three kids and husband?
- The lucites and tombstones from a series of investment banking deals, including the telecom “clean sweep” when we won 100% market share?
- My business card from back in the day with the title Managing Director in one of the most competitive businesses in the world?
- My website and blog posts?
- The clients I have coached and people who have heard me speak?
In the end, I’ve concluded that I’m still a work in progress. I’m still creating my life’s work. And it may not be just one thing.
What matters is that I keep asking, keep thinking, and keep going.
So, what is your life’s work? Have you been doing it all along? Are you getting ready to do it? Is it just one thing? Where does it live? And does it bring you joy?
(Photo credit: “Monument to Change as it Changes”, Peter Wegner)
My life’s work…yes, I am doing it. It took me quite a while to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, but when I did everything became clear. I did not earn my degree and certification until I was 48 years old. I am a special education teacher in a private school. My students will never be able to be educated in a public school, they are severely disabled. I look forward to going to work every day. Now, 4 years later there are days when I still stop in my classroom doorway as I am leaving and stop to look back into my room. This is mine, all of the paperwork, lesson plans, the technology I have to continue to learn. This is mine, the boy who at the age of 15 finally started to eat with a fork, the boy who stopped hitting me to get my attention and now uses my name, the boy who now uses a communication device to talk, the girl who wants to give me a hug. This is mine and I will not trade it for the anything.
Many thanks for sharing this, Amy. I love that you have found clarity – some of us never do! – and that you have found your life’s work. What a blessing. I have friends who have children like your students, and feel sure that all parents are grateful for the miracles you produce when you apply your unique abilities in the world. Keep going!
The philosophy that undergirds my life’s work has always been at play in my career path and in my various positions. For me, it has always been about helping others target and achieve their dream (s).
Whether it was in my role as an Executive Director of Financial Aid going out to high schools to help students understand that college was both accessible and affordable, or working as an Academic Advisor to help students take the right classes and choose the right major to accomplish success and thrive academically, or my current role as Director of Career Services where I work with college students from day one to take advantage of resources, events and programs that develop and prepare them for life after college whether that be grad school or a career; student achievement has always been my focus.
Success is defined by the student or customer, but they need to tools to identify and target the goal. My job is to assist with that process in whatever role I am in at the time.
Seeing the joy of students who are accepted into an institution of higher education (maybe the first in their family), watching students succeed academically and attending their graduation, and observing my students professional growth as contributing citizens of the world warms my heart. Reading and re-reading the emails they send expressing gratitude for the small part I played in their life’s journey enriches my life and is constant validation for why I do what I do.
It’s wonderful that you are helping others target and achieve their dream(s), and so gratifying that you have their expressions of appreciation in tangible form. It sounds like you may have done this already, but in case you haven’t, it occurred to me that those emails could be combined into a document that you can enjoy and refer back to regularly. I call this a “happy file”. Maybe it’s a candidate for making into a hardcopy bound book(let) some day as well…
Your students are fortunate to have you on their side! Keep doing your great work.