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John Scherer: Quit your job and find your work

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This is great. (Polish) [Welcome, everyone]. (Applause) (Polish) [Hello]. (Laughter) (Polish) [I'm sorry, I understand a little], (Polish) [but I don't speak Polish well]. (Polish) [I'm sorry]. (Polish) [Is English good]? (Laughter) (Polish) [I hope so]. (Polish) [We'll see], we shall see. This is kind of hot, I wonder if you could turn the -- Can you turn the master volume down up there a little bit? Someone in the sound booth? Good. This has been a great experience for me, living in Poland for the last three years, I've lived in Cracow, I love your city, I love the people, I love Poland. Thank you, it's a great place. (Applause) I go back to Seattle, where I have my office, in Seattle. People say, "John, what are you doing in Poland?" And I say, "You've never been there, have you?" (Laughter) Now, there's certain things that are different about Poland than in America as you might go. We were at the end of one of our 3.5-day leadership development seminars, and a participant came up at the end, and I said, "How was this for you?" And he said, "Nieźle, nieźle." (Laughter) And I turn to my colleague Darius -- my first week in Poland, and I turn to my colleague Darek -- he walked away, and I said, "Darek, what does that mean?" And he said, "Not bad." (Laughter) And I said, "Not bad?" (Laughter) Geez, 3.5 days! And Darek said, "The guy just told you that you changed his life." (Laughter) (Applause) And I said, "Well, why didn't he tell me?" He said, "He did, he told you it was 'not bad'." (Laughter) He said, "John, this is Poland, this is Poland!" (Laughter) So, anyway, it's been a wonderful time here. I want to talk with you about something dear to my heart, and it goes like this: How to turn your workplace, your job, into an experience of personal development? You know what a midlife crisis is, right? A midlife crisis is when you get to the top rung of your ladder and realize you leaned it against the wrong wall. (Laughter) (Applause) Now -- (Applause) So, I'm going to do anything I can in the next 18, now 16 minutes, to help you lean your ladder against the right wall. (Polish) [All right]? John Scherer: OK. Audience member (Polish): [Not bad]. J.S. (Polish): [Not bad!] (Laughter) (Polish) [Not bad], not bad, OK. (Polish) [We'll see]. OK. (Laughter) Now, some of you that are already past your midlife crisis, I have another saying for you, and that is, "It's never too late to become what you might have been." OK? So here we go. We're going to go fast. Where do you spend most of your awake time? What's the answer? Audience: Work. J.S: Work. Maybe some of you are students, but when I ask the question: "How many of you spend 8 hours a day at work?" Let's say you work, raise your hand, 8 hours a day. OK, 9 hours a day? 10 hours a day? Come on 11? Come on 12? See? OK, I rest my case. (Laughter) You work more than you sleep. You spend more time at work awake than anywhere else in your life, so the workplace is an extremely important part of your life. Now, I ask people, I'm going to ask you. As a human being, are you a finished product, or are you a work in progress? What would your answer be? Work in progress, everybody says that. I go, "OK, where do you do your progressing? Where do you do your developing?" And people talk about seminars, and they talk about their religious institutions. They're reading books and so forth. And I say, "What about the workplace?" And they go, "Workplace? What's that got to do with, you know, progressing?" So this is my mission in life, really. It's to help people turn their workplace into a place where they can grow and develop. In America, this is kind of the way it's seen by many people. It's like I have a life and I have work. How do these two relate to each other? Some people have it -- Let's see, do I have a laser here? Does this work? Yea, oh, cool. So, some people have a life and a work and they're trying to put them together in some equal fashion. Other people say, "You know what? No, my life --" I think some of the people who were up here, performing, are this way: "I've got a life. And my work is a part of my life but it's not my whole life." This is what I experience in Poland: I experience that -- (Laughter) I was giving a talk recently in Wrocław, and a young man came up to me and he said, "You know, my mother --" He's a photographer, and he said, "My mother said, 'Why are you wasting the education that we gave you? Why don't you go get a real job?'" And, because -- He said, "My mother is from the older generation in Poland, where the important thing is to have a job. It doesn't matter what the job is, it doesn't matter if the job fits you or not. Doesn't matter if it has anything to do with what you really want to do. You've got a job? Keep the job. "For Pete's sake, why don't you get a job, so you'll have a job?" I'll tell you in a minute why I'm going to advocate that all of you, if you -- How many of you have a job? Okay, in a minute you're going to see, I'm going to advocate that you quit your job. So standby. (Laughter) Don't get nervous, it's alright. (Laughter) This is what I notice a lot in Poland. People actually build a wall between their life and their workplace. My friends have told me that in the old days your family system, your social and your friends were completely separate from work. They said, "You can work beside someone for years and not know really the name of their spouse or if they have children or any problems going on in their life." It's completely separate. So what I'm saying is you can't separate -- How can you separate your life from your work? You are a human being in both of those places. So I've got a suggestion for you here. Oh, you can't see that. It's a really cool picture, but you can't see it. (Laughter) It's not what you made today, when you go to work, it's not just what you made, but what are you being made into. It's not just what you produced for the company, but what is being produced in you while you're producing that for the company. Or like this: It's not just what happened today at work, but what is happening inside of you while all that stuff is happening at work. Two people go to work, side by side: One person goes home at the end of the day and says, "Oh my God! What a disaster... I'm going to... I..." The other person, working right beside them, goes home and says, "Man, I really learned a lot. This is incredible." So, "Everyone gets the experience, some get the lesson." My favorite quote from T.S. Eliot. I'm going to rip through some of this. I think we show up with an assignment of 3 parts: discover who we are, express it into the world in such a way that makes a creative difference. Now, I'm going to suggest that you turn your job, your workplace into a classroom, or a dojo -- I do a little Aikido. It's like a place where you can practice being who you are. Why not? Your faculty is waiting for you every day. And the faculty are those idiots you have to work with. (Laughter) You know. In fact, the worst person there is your most important teacher. But that's the advanced class, OK? The curriculum is all that happens to you all day long. I know the word in Polish, but they told me not to say it. But it's all the stuff that happens to you during the day, that's your curriculum. And, you know what? There are no grades except what happens inside your body when you go home at the end of the day. That's how you measure what happens at work. And there is a final exam, but by then it's too late. A "job" by the way, the word "job," comes from the old-English word, "gobbe," which means, "a lump of something." So, in the old days you took stuff from here, and you moved it over here. You got paid by how many lumps, or "gobbes," you moved from here to here. So, in, out, in, out. Today: in basket, out basket. In basket, out basket. All day every day, no matter where you are, whatever level. You take stuff in, you move it over here. That's a job. Personally, I don't want to have a job. If that's a job, I don't want one, OK? I recommend that you not have a job, but you look for your work. What is your work? What is the work that you're here for? "Work" comes from the Greek word for "erg," which, I think, I'm going to look at my physics man here, I think is, how many calories does it take to move one gram one centimeter if I remember my physics right, 101. Is that close enough? Audience (Polish): [Not bad]. J.S. (Polish): [Not bad]. (Laughter) (Applause) So, work got switched from "erg" to "werk" in old German, which then became our word, "work." So, "work" is energy with a direction. It's purposeful energy. So, personally I think you should quit your job and find your work. Okay? It's very important. Seriously, a very important thing to do. Now, I want to tell a story about this, real quickly. I was doing an executive seminar for a woman who ran a big corporation in Seattle, and her team of vice-presidents. Her name was Charlotte, we'll call her, Charlotte. And behind her back, they called her "the dragon-lady." OK? So, (Polish) [in Polish]? How do you say, "dragon lady" (Polish) [in Polish]? Audience member (Polish): [Dragoness]. J.S.: Yeah, like that, OK. So, at this point in the seminar, she says, "John, this is all sweet and wonderful, but what has this got to do with leadership and running this organization?" And I said, "OK. What would you do with your life, if you didn't have to come to work every day?" She said, "I'd go home and play with my grandchildren." I said, "OK. Let's go with that." And I said to one of the vice-presidents, "Would you come up here to the easel, and take some notes?" So they went up to the easel, flip-chart. And I said, "Tell us, what is this about your grandchildren?" She said, "Well, first of all, I have to get the house ready." "What does that mean?" - "Well, I want to make sure it's safe. I want to make sure that there's some interesting things there for them to do. I want to make sure they have enough food and things to do, and then I have to get myself ready. I've got to have the right attitude." - "What is that?" "Well, I've got to be ready, I've got to show them how much I care about them, and so forth." And all of this is getting written down. "OK, the kids are coming, what do you do?" "Well, I get down on my knees and greet them at the front door." "On your knees? Why?" - "Well, I want them to know -- I want to meet them at their own level and so forth." "What do you do during the day?" "Well, I just follow them around and hope they're OK. And if I get a chance to teach them something, I'll do it." And all of this is getting written down. Then she says goodbye to them at the door. Now, at the end of the story she's kind of quiet, a little bit emotional. I said, "What's going on?" She said, "Well, this is very sweet, but I don't see what it has to do with leadership." (Laughter) So, I got my -- Of course, I'm the consultant, right? So I'm scared half to death that there's not going to be any connection between this and she's not going to find it. But I look at the flipchart, and I said, "Well, let's just look at this, look at that, and tell me what you see." And she read it, and I said, "Maybe this is another description of you as a leader of this organization." And she said, (Polish) [Mój Boże]. No, she said, "Oh my God." (Laughter) She said, "My God. Do you mean that I can bring the grandmother to work?" (Laughter) And all of her vice-presidents were going, "Oh, God, yes! Oh please, oh please!" (Laughter) You know, and so, it's really interesting. I came back three months later to do some follow-up, and the receptionist at the front desk, there was like three levels down from this executive team, four levels. She said, "John, come here. Grandma's in the building." (Laughter) It was great, so -- (Applause) So, the question I have for you is, who is that, that lives in you, that you need to bring to work? Now, we're going to do some more. This is what I call the "Deferred Life Plan." This is the default plan that we were all taught in America. I'm convinced you were taught this here. You work really hard right now, do whatever you have to do in order to have what you need to have. Then as soon as you have enough of that, whatever it is, money or status, or the trophy spouse, or, you know, the toys, whatever you need. As soon as you have enough of that, then and only then do you get to be happy, be at peace, be you know, relaxed, whatever it is. Now, there's one very small problem with this formula. It doesn't work. (Laughter) (Polish) [Why?] Why? (Laughter) Because you never have enough. If I asked you, how much money do you need, what's the answer going to be? "A little more than I have now." I mean, everybody says that. So you can never have enough -- If you make your being happy, relaxed, or at peace, contingent on anything, you'll never get there. Salespeople understand this. They make the sale, how do they feel? (Polish) [Not bad], right? (Polish) [Good, very good, fantastic, awesome]. (Laughter) (Applause) I've just used all the Polish vocabulary I have. (Laughter) And then, how long does that feeling last? Till the next phone call. And then it's gone again. This doesn't get you there. I'm proposing something extremely radical, which is to turn this whole thing around, and let what you do be and expression of who you are, and then you get feedback from the world in the form of money, but who cares? Because you're starting from the place that what you're doing is an expression of who you are. (Polish) [All right?] OK? (Polish) [Do you understand]? OK, cool. Now, I want to talk about this word here: tov. I'm going to go back to my roots and the creation story in the book of Genesis, OK? Now, the Native American storytellers in America will always say, "Now, I don't know if the story happened exactly this way, but the story is true." (Laughter) So, I'm almost positive that it didn't happen exactly this way, but the story is true. At one point it says, "The Lord created the oceans and then looked and saw that it was..." What? Audience: "Good." J.S.: "Good." There must be some Lutherans in the room here. (Laughter) So. That's a terrible translation for that word. The word is, tov, in Hebrew. "Mazel tov," it [unclear] "Lots of tov. " A better translation is, "The Lord created the oceans and looked and said, 'Yes! Yes! (Polish) [Yes! Yes!]'" "That's what I'm talking about. " "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" (Applause) "That's a piece of me out there in the world where you can see it. You want to learn something about me? Look at my ocean." (Laughter) (Applause) That's "tov." My daughter -- Let me do it this way. Oh, you can't see my daughter, Emma, that's so sad. My daughter, Emma is 23, she's going to school in Paris, France, studying theater, dance, and voice. And she started dancing when she was, you know, could walk. And if Emma were dancing here, she would not be dancing to impress you, she would not be dancing to get feedback. She'd be dancing because she's Emma. And Emma dances. You get Emma, you get a dancer. That's it. The other day, on Skype she said, "Dad, if I break a leg and can't dance, I don't know what I'm going to do." She said, "This is who I am." You get Emma, you get a dancer. My son, Asa, I wonder if you'll get a picture of Asa. No? Too bad. Oh, there he is. My son, Asa, is now 25, plays piano and trombone, classical, jazz and so forth, and I came in this little house that we had, little teenie house, big grand piano, filled the whole living room, and Asa was playing this Rachmaninoff piece, OK? The whole house was shaking. You know, little teenie house, big grand piano. And I stood at the back door, and I just let the music wash over me. And I stood there, and I had this insight. I could picture Asa at the piano. And then I realized that the house was not shaking with the piano. The house was not shaking with Rachmaninoff. The house was shaking with Asa. Asa was filling the house. That grand piano just sits there until Asa puts his fingers on the keyboard. That Rachmaninoff is just dots on a piece of paper until he reads it and interprets it through who he is and puts his hands on that keyboard. And then the music happens. You are in a job somewhere, workplace somewhere, your name is in a box on an organization chart. That's just your piano. And your job assignment is just the dots, it's Rachmaninoff. It's just dots on a piece of paper until you put your hands on the keyboard, and then you start to play. If you leave and another name goes in that box, the music will be different. The music is your music. It has nothing to do with the job. It's you interpreting that music into the world. So my suggestion is: When you don't know what to do, go for "tov." Go for "tov." Tov is when what you're doing is a full expression of who you are at the core of your being in such a way that it contributes to the other people around you, and it is in alignment with what life, or what creation, needs from you. So, every day that you go to work, just ask yourself, "What's the lesson here? What is this for me?" Instead of saying, "I wonder why this happened to me?" Just turn it slightly, and say, "I wonder why this is happening for me? I wonder how this might be happening for me?" So, thank you so much for the chance to be with you. I highly recommend going for tov, it's an extraordinary way to live. You get Emma, you get a dancer, you get me, you get this, OK? Thank you very much. (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 45 seconds
Country: Poland
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxKraków
Director: TEDxKraków
Views: 4,622
Posted by: tedxkrakow on Dec 15, 2010

Talk delivered at TEDxKraków, on October 15, 2010.

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