Archives for Jane McGonigal

Is Work Killing You?

If-you-are-depressed-you

Sound words of advice from Lao Tzu

 

Yoshinori Ono is a producer for Capcom, a Japanese video game development company. After a long and grueling work schedule, Ono suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized for a week. He remembers the morning of his hospitalization very well. Ono woke up to use the bathroom and saw steam everywhere. There was so much steam in the air that it seemed to choke him. He then collapsed on the bathroom floor. Hearing the crash, his wife called for an ambulance and Ono was rushed to the hospital. When Ono regained consciousness, the doctor informed him that his blood acidity level was extremely high. He had the same level of acidity as someone who had just run a marathon. Ono joked he was just using the bathroom, but his wife noted there was never any steam in the room. In reality, the long hours he put in at Capcom had taken a toll on his health. Even though Ono would go on to recover from his illness, he still puts in long hours at work.

Reading Yoshinori Ono’s story may cause you to wince, but have you ever assessed your own employment situation? You may be a workaholic without realizing it. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • When you are with your friends or family, are you thinking about work?
  • Have you been turning down invitations to social events to work more hours?
  • Do you rarely take vacations or find yourself working through your vacation?
  • Do you have trouble delegating work?
  • Do you feel your identity is your work?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be a workaholic. A workaholic is defined as a person who works compulsively. Some people work long hours because they LOVE their career. Other people work long hours because they are motivated by fear, anxiety, or pressure. Whether you work long hours because you love your job, or you’re motivated by pressure, long hours at work can cause an imbalance and negatively impact your health.

Dr. Travis Bradberry noted in his article “Is Your Boss Worse Than Cigarettes?” that a bad boss can have serious health effects on workers. While having a bad boss isn’t the sole cause of workaholism, the effects are similar. Worrying about losing your job can make you 50% more likely to experience poor health, while having an overly demanding job makes you 35% more likely to have a physician-diagnosed illness. These illnesses can include depression, heart disease, heart attack, sleep deprivation, strained relationships with family and even death. In the long run, the quality of your work may suffer because of mental exhaustion and burnout.

 

A visual of the statistics from Dr. Travis Bradberry's LinkedIn article.

A visual of the statistics from Dr. Travis Bradberry’s LinkedIn article.

Other studies have concluded that working too many hours can even impair your cognitive functions. In a five-year study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, participants who worked 55 hours per week performed worse than the participants who worked 40 hours per week. Compared to many other cultures, Americans tend to work longer hours and take shorter vacations. People who worked long hours did worse in terms of intelligence, reasoning and verbal recall. In short, working longer hours has a negative impact on productivity, and the overall returns are diminished. Working long hours can also lead to major regrets later in life. Game Designer Jane McGonigal mentions in TED Talk about regrets of the dying that remorse over working long hours and not enjoying life is the first regret of many people.

Admitting you may be a workaholic is the first step in tackling the problem. You may be deep in denial, as many people are. However, the idea of not spending your waking hours being productive, or seeing leisure time as wasteful are big warning signs. If you find yourself working too many hours, stepping back from work is a good way to help combat workaholism.

 

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your complete attention to the present moment. It is being fully aware of yourself and your surroundings. You live in and meditate in the moment, instead of thinking about the past, or the future. Mindfulness is also a great way to relax, and can help relieve stress and anxiety. Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, is famous for his timeless nuggets of wisdom. On anxiety Tzu stated, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

 

Find ways to lighten your workload

If you have a heavy work schedule, you may need to let go of some of your work.

  • Don’t accept more work than you can handle.
  • By juggling more tasks, you may feel more productive, but in reality you may not be accomplishing much more. Marcus Buckingham revealed some great research about multi-tasking and the detriments of doing so in his book, Find Your Strongest Life.
  • Manage your energy by completing the most urgent tasks first in your day.
  • Learn to delegate some of your tasks to others, as you may not need to complete each and every task yourself.
  • Learn to stop being a perfectionist and a multi-tasker.
  • Taking on too many tasks at once can cause you to lose focus on what’s important and your work may never seem to end.
  • Take your breaks. If you’re fond of not taking lunch breaks, or eating at your desk, it’s time to kill that bad habit.
  • Take your entire lunch hour and try going for a walk during your breaks.
  • Exercise before you work. Brent Phillips, MIT-trained engineer and founder of Awakening Dynamics- The Formula for Miracles, promotes exercise for increasing blood flow to your brain, increasing your productivity, and your IQ.
  • A few small changes to your day can go a long way.

Businessman and author Tom Peters has stated, “Leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.”

Lao Tzu also has a few words of wisdom on leadership, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim is fulfilled, they will say: ‘we did it ourselves.’”

A heavy work schedule may also be a matter of the work being allocated to you unfairly. If this is the case, don’t allow this practice to continue. You can do better! Sometimes people take on more because they can’t say “no.” Is this you? There are a ton of articles that teach people how to say “no.” However, we also TRAIN people how to treat us. We think that people “always” treat us unfairly, but really they have learned from us how to treat us, and we condition them, by reinforcing that we will accept and complete the work.

 

Leave work at work

You are more than your job. You are allowed to relax and to enjoy your free time. Think of it this way- anything that runs at 100% all of the time will eventually burnout. The same applies to you. Schedule free time into your day and heed that schedule. During your free time, ignore the temptation to squeeze more work into your day. If you’re with your family, whether it is the weekend or a vacation, dedicate your free time to them. Don’t run to your phone every time it beeps with a new message or e-mail. Save those matters for your working hours, unless it is an emergency. Taking the time to rest and to enjoy that rest will ensure you return to work refreshed and recharged.

 

Think about your future and the legacy you may leave behind. You may enjoy working long hours at work because you love what you do, or you may be fearful of not working hard enough. The short-term bursts of productivity are negated by the long-term detrimental tolls overworking can exact on your mind and body. Learning to let go of long hours can improve your health, your productivity, and your relationships with your family and friends. In the long-term, you will look at your career and smile as you’re able to say you worked hard, but took time to take care of yourself and your family.

 

The Weirdos Will Inherit the Earth

Sometimes-by-Keith-Davenport-of-Flickr

Sometimes… by Keith Davenport of Flickr

 

Mike Lazerow is an entrepreneur with a philosophy that grasps you by the chin and makes it impossible to look away. At least, that is how I felt when he stated his case about being a “weirdo.” In his words, “You do everything that authority says you have to do- get good grades, take the right subjects, make the team, wear the right clothes, comb your hair, go to the right college. You land your first big job interview and the first question they ask is, ‘Why should I hire you? What makes you so different?”’

At an early age we are dissuaded from pursuing our passions in order to settle for a “safe” and “normal” career. While this brings in income, 68.5% of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. There IS an alternative to high employee dissatisfaction. Through what we have been able to achieve with our clients, we know that having a career that fulfills you and pays you what you’re worth is not just possible, but probable when you execute an EPIC job search.

“There’s a lot of mediocrity being celebrated, and a lot of wonderful stuff being ignored or discouraged.” -Sean Penn

 

Surviving, not thriving

The most recent Gallup poll revealed that nearly 70% of employees are actively disengaged from work. This cost companies $300 billion annually. If a lack of employee engagement cost companies hundreds of billions each year, what does it mean for workers? This disengagement can cause frustration and a deep sense of unhappiness. In turn, that frustration leads to stress and anxiety and/or depression. Disengagement can also teach future generations that work isn’t something you enjoy or that can be fun, but is something you HAVE to do to survive. I see people settling for jobs that offer what they think is security in exchange for their passion as a sacrifice for their family. This exchange is what they think they need to do, but how did they come to that conclusion? How and when did they decide that they couldn’t have a job they loved and that enabled them to take care of their bills, family and retirement? It is a fallacy that was learned from the examples of others, and the longer we perpetuate it by staying in jobs that don’t engage us, the more future generations will continue the same cycle.

In other words, work becomes merely a means of drawing a paycheck. Many people settle for jobs they tolerate or outright dislike because they start to believe nothing greater is possible in their careers. This disengagement is a symptom of a greater issue- people have been striving for survival rather than thriving. Great solutions, great leaders, and great innovations are being diminished and squashed by the social pressures to be “normal.” Going back to Mike Lazerow, he states his most unhappy friends are those who became lawyers and accountants because it was expected of them, not because they had a passion for the work.

 

Strive for engagement

The best cure for disengagement is to avoid taking a job you don’t enjoy. Some people may wonder how to tell if they’ll enjoy a job or not. Others believe they’ll eventually find enjoyment in a job if they try hard enough. There are questions you can ask yourself to ensure you accept a job you know you’ll love. Seek a job that leaves you fulfilled, adds value to your personal and professional life, and gives you a greater sense of purpose. Before you apply to your next job, figure out what you want from an employer by identifying your criteria.

If you’re disengaged you are either A) in the wrong job, or B) not taking full accountability for improving your situation. I believe the majority of people are in the wrong job and have yet to find work that is exciting and fulfilling. When people settle, they settle for way less money than they would be able to make if they were in jobs that enabled them to fully utilize all of their talents. A fulfilling and engaging job would allow people to thrive and perform at higher levels, because they would have an effervescent energy that would be hard not to notice. Putting in extra hours would be a natural inclination, because you love what you’re doing. Job fulfillment is something that gives you energy instead of draining you.

If I knew growing up that I would find work that I love so much, work that I would want to do all the time, that gave me a buzz, and that made me feel triumphant, I would have been looking for engaging work from the start.  I didn’t know such work was possible until I found it, and I’ve had jobs I liked before I discovered my passion. Passion-filled work is on another level! It literally calls to you and draws you closer. Or as Emmy Award-winning Fox 29 Producer Berlinda Garnett stated in our August Epic Career Tales interview, “A calling is that thing that’s been laid on you.” Esther Hicks nicely sums up why passion trumps motivation, “Motivation is the antithesis of inspiration.”  You don’t need to manufacture motivation when you do work that is inspiring.

Being fully engaged at work means finding satisfaction and pride in how you contribute to your company. You want to say you’re proud to work for your employer, you’re proud of what you do for a living, and how you and how your job contributes to society as a whole. An engaging job also presents challenges that aid in your growth. Tim Pash and his role at Microsoft are the epitome of an engaging job. Tim is definitely proud to work for Microsoft and loves the challenge the company provides. Tim admits Microsoft is a tough, but fulfilling place to work because the company really pushes employees’ abilities. The company also encourages employees to constantly create and share new ideas with co-workers and managers. Thanks to the challenges, mastering a job at Microsoft is one of the best feelings in the world. For more on Tim Pash’s role at Microsoft, make sure to sign-up for our newsletter so you can listen to and read about his Epic Career Tale.

Some people believe it doesn’t matter how you feel about a job as long as you’re able to pursue your passion outside of work. I disagree for many of the reasons I’ve already stated, but one really stands out to me: We don’t know how much time we have in life. Why bother to spend the time we do have stuck in an employment situation where survival is just good enough? The death of my nephew two springs ago really drove that point home. Working too hard, not spending more time with friends, and not living a life true to your dreams are some of the many regrets of the dying that Jane McGonigal highlights in her TED Talk. Just imagine how much pleasure and joy we can derive from life if we apply our talents to work and pursue what we love, rather than going after the jobs that we think will provide the most stability, even if it costs us our happiness.

 

Imagine waking up every morning and being excited to work, instead of dreading another 40-hour week. You may have had people who’ve constantly told you it is better play it safe with a career you might not like rather than risk failing by pursuing what you love. This attitude can bring unhappiness and disengagement. Many people also VASTLY underestimate who they could be and what they can do. It’s not too late to reconsider your career choice. The pursuit of work that engages and satisfies you can lead to a life where work is a joy and you spend your time doing what you really love.

We are proponents of letting your freak flag fly. Don’t fear not fitting in- there’s always a place you can feel welcomed and accepted. Fear never finding that place because you wanted to feel normal.

How Hobbies Can Advance Your Career

Meghan Played Guitar by Emily Mills of Flickr

Meghan Played Guitar by Emily Mills of Flickr

Can hobbies hold the key to landing a job faster? Most of us have hobbies we enjoy. In addition to being a great way to unwind, hobbies can also be a valuable asset to your career in numerous ways. Think about it this way- hobbies can impress employers, allow you to make new connections in your network, and hobbies allow you to focus on passions outside of work. For example, mountain climbing can demonstrate your ability to take risks to employers, while playing Sudoku may show your ability to think strategically. Hobbies may be deeply ingrained in the corporate culture of some employers, while other companies may not care. Fortunately, hobbies have benefits that go far beyond impressing potential employers.

 

Impress employers

When it comes to landing a job, hobbies can be one of the deciding factors. Some hobbies strike a chord with a hiring manager and others can be seen as a cultural fit for the company. In the past, I worked for a firm who stated the fact that I played on the intramural softball team and sing in a band marked me as a good cultural fit. They considered themselves as a “work hard, play hard” company. Employers may find the fact a person loves to golf or hike as a valuable asset. Or an employer may be impressed with a person who competes in triathlons, restores cars for fun, or even plays Dungeons and Dragons. These kinds of activities can show initiative, dedication, and creativity.

In terms of office culture, there are employers who take recreation seriously. A company may consider it worth their time to have pool tables, foosball, ping pong, and air hockey in the office. Google’s offices are legendary for their recreational areas. Some employers have added these extras to be trendy and as a way to enhance creativity via play. According to the National Institute for Play, playing engages the creative side of your brain, allowing creative ideas to flow more freely, which in turn can boost productivity.

 

Networking interests

I often explain to my clients why they would want to include hobbies and interests on their LinkedIn profile. Since LinkedIn’s inception, it has included a section for interests. I recommend that you fill in the interests section because it makes you more open and approachable. A completed interests section also makes it easier for people to start a conversation with you and to build rapport. I have yet to have a client refuse to fill out this section after I explain the benefits.

When it comes to networking, I’ve often talked about how shared interests can make it easier to connect with others- especially at events. It is possible to use your hobbies to strike up conversations while networking. There’s nothing like the burst of joy you feel when you converse with someone who partakes in the same hobbies and passions as you. Shared interests can increase likability, and form or deepen relationships. Imagine being sought out for employment because of your shared interests, or meeting the next person who may be able to help you land a job while at a blogging workshop, or playing basketball.

 

Learning skills and transitioning to new careers

Hobbies can become the catalyst for learning new skills or improving skills that can aide you in the workplace. For example, playing video games can sharpen your ability to solve problems and work with others. In corporate America, gamification has earned credibility as an effective training tool. Cisco uses gamification to provide global social media training certification to their employees. Before implementing a gaming program, employees had a difficult time figuring out where to start in the 46-course program. Gamification allowed Cisco to split the program into levels, as well as fostering competition, which ultimately resulted in higher social media certification for employees.

On a personal level, activities such as baseball can teach you teamwork, and volunteering can teach you leadership. If you’re really passionate about your hobbies, you may consider a career transition to pursue your passion. MilkCrate CEO Morgan Berman wanted to make a large contribution to society. She turned her passion for tech and sustainability into a career by creating her own startup. You can listen to Morgan’s entire story in our May 2015 Epic Career Tales podcast. Another example is Helen Wan, a lawyer who decided to leave law and became a novelist.

 

Relaxation and mental well-being

Pursuing hobbies can give your mind a much needed break and serves as an outlet for your passions during your off hours. In turn, this helps you focus when you return to work. According to a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, hobbies can reduce stress and increase overall mental well-being. Hobbies allow people to feel relaxed and confident because they provide a healthy distraction from stress. Gaming in particular can provide amazing stress relief. Video Game Developer Jane McGonigal explains in her TED Talk how games can increase resilience and even add 10 years to your life. She goes on to assert many of the things people often regret later in life such as not giving themselves time to be happy, not staying connected with friends, and worrying too much about what others expected of them, can be partially solved by playing video games. Games have the power to change how people interact and solve problems. Accelerfate is my own way of using mobile gaming to help change the job search. Even if you don’t use hobbies directly in your job search the stress relief and mental well-being they can provide are reason enough to pursue them.

 

If you haven’t been spending as much time as you like on the activities that bring you joy, hopefully this article will give you some great justification to fit joy into your life. Hobbies can be a means of connecting to and impressing employers. In some ways, your hobbies may make it easier for you to land because potential employers may see you as a great cultural fit. In some cases, sharing your hobbies on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Periscope can make it easier for you to expand your network and may take your career to interesting places. If your hobbies are never mentioned directly at work or in your job search, they still can be a great way to reduce stress, increase creativity and boost productivity, giving you an edge in your career.

 

 

So you think you’ll wait until tomorrow…

Frankie with Daisy - FerryFest 8

Frankie with Daisy – FerryFest 8

(Considering my current state of duress, please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors.)

 

I’m finding it hard to accept the news that I received last night. No one should die that young. No one should have to bury their child, whether they are eight or 28.

 

I have this blog prepared to finish on infographics, and if you’re really interested in how infographics can be used to distinguish yourself, stay tuned.

 

I’m not waiting to say this: If you think that someday you’ll make yourself happy and find a job that fulfills you, well, you should know someday doesn’t happen for everyone.

 

If you think that it doesn’t matter what you do with 40 hours of your week as long as you get to pursue your passion outside of work, you need to think about how much 40 hours is really worth.

 

This week had actually been extraordinary. I had so many inspiring conversations with new network contacts, potential partners, fascinating clients, and industry thought leaders. My family and I had been out celebrating a new high volume partner when I received the text that I was to call my brother-in-law immediately. I still find it hard to believe what I heard.

 

Of the three nephews that live in Florida, Frankie was the last one I would’ve thought we would lose. It was his 28th birthday. He just moved in with his girlfriend two months ago, with whom he seemed to be deeply in love. His flooring company was doing well. He had his act together. Everyone loved Frankie. He was kind, funny, and very loving. It makes no sense and it will probably be a while before we have answers, not that any answers will bring us much peace.

 

I had never gotten to meet his current girlfriend, but I stalked her on Facebook. We all fell in love with his last girlfriend and it was tough when they broke up. It was like losing a family member and it broke our heart almost as much as his heart. I wanted to make sure that this new girlfriend was a good thing for him, and so did he, which is why he hadn’t proposed yet. I’m so sad that we will never get to go to that wedding, or meet their kids, who would have been the first members of the next generation of our family.

 

Before the bomb dropped, I had two equally enjoyable conversations. One of which was with someone who has had a lot of success coaching people in their careers, with the focus of landing over landing job that makes you happy. I highly respect him, his success, and his opinion, though I do disagree. His opinion was, as long as people accept it, it’s okay to not be inspired by your job as an accountant, for example, as long as on the weekends and vacations you get to do what you really love – playing golf. He didn’t say this, but it made me believe he never actually met anybody who was passionate about accounting. I’m certainly not, but I’m very glad that I have met many individuals who really love spending their time around numbers and reports. These are the people who should be taking that job.

 

Fast-forward several hours later, and I speak with an individual who shares my vision of people getting as much out of their work as they give.

 

Just that morning I was shaking my head in agreement, thinking to myself, sure – it is okay if someone is willing to accept that they’re not a professional golfer if their passion is golf, and that they spend 40 hours per week at their 9-to-5 job, which enables them to afford and spend the remaining hours on their passion – golf. Makes sense.

 

My later conversation, however, reminded me of what’s possible when everyone is spending their invaluable time using their God-given talents and applying their passion.

 

I’m now feeling sorry for that golfer who chooses to spend 40 hours in an office in an uninspired job. That person probably is under the delusion that they’ll get to retire someday and that’s when they’ll get to spend time on their passion.

 

Losing Frankie so suddenly, so young reinforces to me that we don’t have all this time to wait to enjoy our precious time. This could be your last day.

 

Do you want to know what the regrets of the dying are? Watch this Jane McGonigal Ted talk video. If there is anything that is in your power to do today that will prevent you from sharing these regrets, and I know there is, do not wait until tomorrow.

 

Notice, no one says, “I wish I had worked more.” We all need money to live, and most of the things we enjoy require money, too. When and why did you decide that you could not make money doing something you love? Is that the truth? Or does it just seem too good to be true, so it must not be.

 

What if it was, though? What if you start today to make the life you really want possible, and die two months from now? Would that do anything to ease your regrets?

 

If you don’t know what your passions are, I have plenty of resources that can help you identify them. I know it can be daunting, but it’s worth it.

 

If you know what your passions are, but you think working closely to them would require a lot of work and time, perhaps even money and training, you may be right. Start today and do it anyway.

If you don’t know where to start, ask us! info@epiccareering.com.