100 Ways to Succeed #83:

Don’t Forget Why You’re Here!

I was talking with a young lawyer, Harvard trained, now putting in her time at a big firm. She allowed as how life was just a whirl of mostly trivial activities. On the one hand that’s very normal, and part of the time-honored apprenticeship process. But it’s also true that in the midst of all the BS, you often lose sight of why you followed this apparently hallowed path to begin with. I’ve heard doctors and other professionals say the same thing. At the top of the pyramid, former Secretary of State George Schultz mused on how you come to public service with the highest of ideals, but “you get so caught up in the Power Game, that you forget your worthy aspirations.” God knows, on many a long plane delay and the (constant) like, I’ve wondered the same thing.

(Alas, many CEOs epitomize this. They get so caught up in the earnings game that they forget the fact that they are meant to be “of service” to some worthy, Olympian objective. Perversely, I’m pleased to report, this loss of attention to the basics is the wellspring of earnings that don’t measure up.)

I have a little ritual I follow to help get back on track. I take a moment or five and skim either In Search of Excellence or my Stanford dissertation—and remember what I aimed to do in the first place. And how far I have strayed; it helps me get centered, or re-centered.

I suggested to my newfound lawyer acquaintance that she invent some like ritual. And I suggest the same to you: “Why did I take this assignment, or choose this profession? Am I doing everything possible in my current project to hold to the principles that got me into all this? Is my time here up?” Or some such. It’s the ritual review rather than its form that’s important.

(My suggestion: Do it every 90 days. Better yet, every evening!)