As a career success coach, I’m always looking for ways to get my common sense message about life and career success across to my clients, people who read my blog and listen to my podcasts. That’s why I was struck by a passage in Tracy Chevalier’s new book, Remarkable Creatures. If you don’t know Tracy Chevalier, you should. For my money she is one of the best novelists writing today. Her first book, Girl With a Pearl Earring, was made into a movie starring Scarlett Johansson.
In Remarkable Creatures, she tells the story of two women fossil hunters in early 19th-century England. Her protagonists are a middle-aged spinster and a young girl. Both are committed fossil hunters. Here is how Elizabeth Philpot, the spinster, describes committed fossil hunters…
“Hunters spend hour after hour, day after day, out in all weather, our faces sunburnt, our hair tangled by the wind, our eyes in a permanent squint, our nails ragged and our fingertips torn, our hands chapped. Our boots are trimmed with mud and stained with seawater. Our clothes are filthy by the end of the day. Often we find nothing, but we are patient and hardworking and not put off by coming back empty handed… Those serious about fossils know their search is never over. There will always be more specimens to discover and study, for, as with people, each fossil is unique. There can never be too many.”
I love this passage. It describes – in wonderful prose – my thoughts and beliefs on the importance of knowing your purpose in life and committing to taking personal responsibility for living it. “Often we find nothing, but we are patient and hardworking and not put off by coming back empty handed.” That’s exactly what I’m talking about when I tell my career success coaching clients, “Stuff happens. The stuff that happens, good or bad, isn’t what’s important. What is important is how you react to it.”
Follow this career advice. Be patient and hardworking. Don’t be put off by a day in which you come back empty handed. Choose to believe that your hard work will pay off in the end. Commit to taking personal responsibility for living your life’s purpose – whether it be fossil hunting, selling, building things, or helping others.
People who commit to taking personal responsibility for creating the successful lives and careers they want and deserve know that their personal quest is never over – there will always be more to do, more to accomplish.
I mentioned Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs in a post a while back. It’s been almost 40 years since I first heard of it. If you’re not familiar with it, Dr. Maslow suggested that all human beings have a series of needs that they strive to satisfy. He arranged these needs in a pyramid. According to his theory, safety is the first and most basic human need. It is at the bottom of the pyramid. We all strive to remain safe in an uncertain world – we all want to live another day. Security is next. Once we are reasonably sure that we will survive this moment and this day, our needs move to developing a sense of security, one in which we feel that our lives and quality of our lives will remain constant. Affiliation is next. Once we feel safe and secure, we search for meaningful relationships in our lives. Recognition is next. Once we feel safe, secure and valued by others, we crave recognition—in the form of praise, promotions, more money. Self actualization is at the top of the pyramid. Dr. Maslow says that after our safety, security, affiliation and recognition needs are satisfied, we turn our attention to what he calls “self actualization,” a state of being all that we can be.
Dr. Maslow suggests that we human beings can never be completely self actualized because as soon as we reach one goal, we realize that there is always something more that we can achieve. Once Bill Gates became one of the world’s wealthiest men, he realized that he could be doing more to help others. So he created his foundation. Once I created and ran a successful consulting practice, I realized that I could do more to share my knowledge about career success with a wider audience. That’s why I started blogging and writing books.
And speaking through a spinster fossil hunter, Tracy Chevalier says, “There will always be more specimens to discover and study, for, as with people, each fossil is unique. There can never be too many.” Indeed; there will always be more to do, more to accomplish – if only you clarify your life’s purpose and then commit to taking personal responsibility for it.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people are clear on their purpose and direction in life. They commit to taking personal responsibility for living their life purpose. If you want to achieve career success, you need to do the same. Clarify what you want from your life and career. Then commit to doing whatever it takes to get it. Follow the career advice in Tweet 38 in Success Tweets. “Don’t let a slow day get you down. If you come back empty handed in your quest for success, get up the next day and keep working.” Set high goals. React positively to the setbacks, problems and negative people and events in your life. Keep at it. Don’t let a day when you come back empty handed in your quest for career success get you down. Get up the next day with optimism in your heart and keep working toward the mighty purpose you’ve set for yourself.