“Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”
Rumi, 13th Century
When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
Pantajali, 2nd Century B.C
I’m intrigued by the idea that each of us has been put on this planet for a specific purpose.
Virtually all religious traditions, of course, tell us that nature has imbued unique gifts in every person, even a special destiny.
Given the extraordinary number of synchronistic events I’ve experienced throughout my own life, I’m unequivocally convinced that I’m doing the work I was “born to do.”
Think about these people: Frank Sinatra, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill.
Now try to imagine each of them doing something other than what originally made them so remarkable.
If you’re finding this task difficult, it’s simply because their profound talents and impact seem entirely unsuitable to any other conceivable career or job duties.
Now think back on the most productive and engaged employees you’ve ever managed. Picture one or two of them in your mind.
Didn’t they have something extra – a truly exceptional combination of passion and aptitude that made their performance consistently more impressive than that of their peers? Would you be tempted to say these people were “meant” to do the very work you had assigned them?
Whether or not our life’s purpose is assigned to us at the time of our birth will remain a mystery. But the evidence seems clear that people do indeed come into the world with inimitable abilities and dispositions for doing certain kinds of work.
I’ve written several times before about how important it is that leaders act with great vigilance when making hiring decisions. My mantra is this: “the single greatest mistake a manager can make is a bad hire.”
But I also believe the inverse is true as well; when you hire extremely well you set yourself up for incomparable performance. And this brings us back to purpose.
Because intrinsically motivated people inherently are uncommonly productive (purpose provides its own sustained energy to excel), the objective when making any hiring decision is to find people most naturally and instinctively suited for the role.
To do this consistently, I’ve discovered, you have to ask every job candidate to self-identify what matters most to them in their lives and what, above all things, fulfills them. Of course, you need to be prepared for the fact that many seemingly wonderful applicants will reveal dreams and aspirations that don’t match up well to the role you have for them. You’ll want to think long and hard about whether or not their long-term happiness will be at risk should you decide to make them an offer.
But find the person for whom the joy of doing the work is its own reward, and you will catapult your team and organization to higher levels or achievement every time you make a new hire.
Consider asking some or all of these questions every time you interview:
- What do you believe you were born to do?
- What are you most naturally best at doing?
- What do you most want to accomplish in your life?
- What are the activities and experiences that make you feel most alive and fulfilled?
- What would you most regret not doing or accomplishing once you reached the end of your life?
As evidence of the fact that most employers rarely consider how important it is to discover the true and underlying aspirations of people they hire, Parade Magazine recently reported recently that 60% of all American workers fully regret the career path they had pursued. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of all US employees are either not engaged in their jobs or have become fully dis-engaged.
It goes to show that it’s awfully hard to get people excited about their work when their heart’s not in it.
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