Growing Your Career Through Acceptance

Steve LudwigLife StuffLeave a Comment

a darkly lit cave that may or may not have a bear in it

This is your daily reminder: you are not good enough.

While you might not suck—might not, but who are we kidding—you are in danger.

You need to improve your skills, grow your network, increase your leadership capacity, gain deeper insight into the market and your competition, learn A.I., master interpersonal dynamics and office politics, figure out how to “add more value,” build your personal brand, and, by golly, just do more.

You know what, while we are at it, let’s get you a personality transplant. What you were born with isn’t cutting it.

If we make you insecure enough, we can sell you the latest business book for $35, a $110 per-year subscription to our business magazine, a $2,500 workshop, a $7,500 “certified” training, maybe a $100,000 master’s program, and some teeth whitening strips to boot.

We are all for self-improvement, growing as individuals, and staying curious, but come on. This constant onslaught of improvement desperately needs honest balance.

Getting Grounded

That’s where self-awareness and self-acceptance come in. We need strong doses of these two to stay sane. Ironically, it’s also what we need to grow our careers sustainably.

Self-awareness is knowing how you are wired, discerning the difference between habit and temperament, being clear on your actual strengths (vs. desired strengths), and finding your blind spots.

Self-acceptance is accepting what is so and going from there.

If this sounds like business heresy, it is. Because I can’t sell you something if you accept certain things.

Thought experiment: if you train hard enough starting today, can you become an Olympic athlete? No.

This doesn’t mean give up or stop trying. Nor does it mean you can’t learn new things, take on new roles, or train in areas you are not familiar with. Far from it.

It means concentrating on those areas where you thrive and can grow and letting go of those things that are not aligned with temperament, values, or ability. This is how you add rocket fuel to your career and life—focus on the right things.

We reject the myth that you can do “anything” if you just put your mind to it.

Are You a Pathfinder, and Does it Matter?

This is challenging because some skills, temperaments, or personalities are seen as more valuable than others. They get all the good press. And, we are also told never to limit our options.

Which brings us to Pathfinders. They are individuals with a set of specific characteristics, which include:

  • A strong ability to deal with ambiguity. When in situations without precedent, Pathfinders need to be agile and not just deal with ambiguity, but actually find a way to thrive within it.
  • Don’t need a lot of guidance. They can operate without a playbook of any kind. They are self-directed, able to fully engage in tasks/roles largely, or even entirely, motivated by meeting a need. Broadly, Pathfinders see a need and jump in and figure things out as they go.
  • They have a curiosity that allows for creative solutions. This is critical when a lot of latitude is provided to find new solutions, products, or markets.
  • Their hunger is intrinsic rather than extrinsically motivated. They are looking for something far deeper, and that has personal meaning for them.

We know people think that they “should” be a Pathfinder, that they “should” want greater autonomy and accountability. What is interesting is how we have made a cultural habit of glorying Pathfinders. I’m guessing it has something to do with our collective memory of sending Fred into the cave to see if it is free of bears.

Of course, the challenge for Pathfinders is that many times they need to run screaming from the cave.

We are glad that job didn’t fall to us but, at the same time, wish it had.

There is nothing wrong with wishing you were a Pathfinder. We even offer excellent guidance on how to improve Pathfinder attributes for individuals and teams – like increasing risk tolerance or dealing with ambiguity. We think this is valuable counsel—if that is what you want and should be doing. But, it’s not meant to be looked at from a place of deficiency, rather one of building of skills or attributes that compliment you.

But we need to be really clear: we need exponentially more people that are great at their jobs that are NOT Pathfinders if we want our world and companies to run well. If we were all running around trying to find new ways to do things, nothing would get done.

We Need You to Be You

The fact is, we need every personality type and the strengths they offer for the world and our businesses to work. We know this intellectually, but often, we can’t help but wish we were something different than what we are.

It is estimated by 2028, the global personality test market will grow to more than US$16 billion, more than double its size in 2021.

A lot of people, and HR departments, are trying to figure out better how people tick and why. And, if we are lucky, the information will help us align ourselves and our teams with jobs that they love and to which they are well suited.

The Pathfinder assessment is not a personality test. But it is an assessment that identifies if an individual has the intangibles and the deep skills characteristic of a Pathfinder.

If you are a Pathfinder, great. If not, that’s great too. We need you to be you.

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