I admit it: I listened to what everyone else that I “should” do for a “good” job, at least at the beginning.
Want to know where that got me? Into work I dragged myself through every day for over a year in a job that had no meaning…where I ultimately got fired!
It was my first professional job right out of college. Everybody told me I should take it. After all, most people didn’t even have job offers before they graduated. Plus it paid well and provided benefits…
But my deepest truth is that I took the job because it was “available”. Just right there in front of me. And everybody and their mother congratulated me on how “lucky” I was to have a job.
So, in my infinite 22 year old wisdom, I made what I thought was the smart move and said, “Well, I don’t have any other job offers yet, and finding other jobs sounds hard, so I should probably take this one.”
I was definitely not setting myself up for long-term success and fulfillment in my work.
Looking back, I wish I’d had someone like Dan Cumberland to help me find a path to a meaningful career.
Dan is a former youth pastor whose story is similar to mine: the power of suggestion took him down a career path that never quite fit him (being a pastor), but seemed right at the time.
In his journey to get on a path that matched his personality and values and desired impact, Dan did tons of research and developed his philosophy behind fulfilling career pathing. He founded The Meaning Movement, a business and podcast where he helps folks with this kind of stuff every day.
Through his work, he created a framework that he’s dubbed The 4 Ps of Meaningful Work.
If you’re seeking work with more depth and purpose for you, let me take you deeper into his 4 “Ps”: Product, Profit, Process, and People.
On the podcast, as he was waxing philosophical on meaning in your work, Dan said:
“When we talk about work and meaning we are talking about impact, agency, and identity.” – Dan Cumberland
Impact in particular is tied to the Product you’re creating, or the output you’re responsible for.
When he talks about Product, Dan referred to it both on the micro level — meaning, what are the daily deliverables you’re responsible for — and the macro level.
The macro level of Product could be the good or service that you contribute to, or Product could expand out to the purpose of that good or service in society. For example, working at a plastic bag company might not feel like it has a ton of meaning at the “goods and services” level, but might feel more meaningful if you think about how you’re creating a product that helps people hygienically and safely transport their food home to their families, keeping cross-contamination and spread of bacteria and foodborne illness at a minimum. It suddenly re-frames the Product of your work as a unique contribution to public health and safety.
We’ve had coaching clients come through our doors with certain predispositions about companies like pharmaceuticals or insurance companies and how their Product doesn’t feel like it’s in alignment with their own personal quest for meaning. However, when you look at the good actors in these industries and the companies that are making huge, longitudinal improvements in health and quality of life, it can be easy to see how your Product could be far greater than your own daily contribution.
Sometimes the word Profit gets a bad rap and is positioned as the opposite of meaning, as if in order to have a meaningful career, you can’t make money or turn a profit.
Yet when you think about Profit in a personally meaningful way, it becomes a way more nuanced — and far more interesting — conversation.
Profit can be defined as an advantage or benefit when the amount of revenue gained from a business activity exceeds the expenses, costs and taxes needed to sustain the activity.
In personal terms, this could mean that what you’re getting back from the company is greater (and more valuable to you) than what you’re giving them — you’re turning a profit because you’re not running on empty and feeling like you’re getting something in exchange for your work that’s of greater value to you than the time and energy you’re putting in.
To better understand your own definition of Profit, ask yourself: what are the advantages and benefits of work for me? What do I get out of it? What would make a job feel “profitable” for me, beyond the money? What can I get back from my employer that would feel well worth the time and energy I’m putting in?
Some measures of personal non-monetary Profit could be:
- Learning a new skillset
- Joy from fun relationships with colleagues
- Unique access to industry or company leaders
- Flexibility to allow me to enjoy the rest of my life
- Great benefits (tuition benefits, fully paid insurance, healthy lunches served onsite)
- Constant opportunities to grow and try new projects
- Changing a market/industry/problem that’s important to me
Additionally, a great way to think about how you define Profit in terms of your monetary paycheck is an exercise from Jenny Blake, author of Pivot. Instead of tying your self esteem and worth to one specific number, give yourself a range:
- What’s my “minimum” number, or the number I’d accept as a minimum to do work that filled me up with joy and light? Remember that sometimes the things in our lives that we consume and see as “needs” are often coping mechanisms, retail therapy, or purchases that help us numb out the pain of not living the life we feel called to by our hearts.
- What’s my “ideal” number, or the secret digits in the back of your head that you’re always passively scanning job ads looking for?
- What’s my “jump for joy” number, or the one where I’d be so thrilled and overwhelmed that someone valued my contributions that much, I’d be jumping out of bed every morning ready to dive into my work?
Defining what your bottom line is can be incredibly helpful in finding and achieving it.
Dan explains Process as the “doing” of the work.
To start exploring what kind of Processes are most meaningful for you, ask yourself: what kind of tasks or activities do you love and get lost in doing?
You can tell when you’re enjoying a Process when you find yourself in a “flow” state: you’ve been working with such focus and intensity that you look up at the clock, and two hours have gone by in the blink of an eye.
Sometimes you can also see the tasks you love based on what you volunteer for. When you’re doing projects or activities outside of work — like a passion project, a side hustle, or a volunteer program in your church or community — what kinds of roles do you naturally gravitate towards?
In other cases, seeing yourself how others view you can be helpful in seeing your natural gifting in Processes. What kinds of things do people come to you for help with? What problems do you always jump up to help other people solve? Those answers can be great affirmation if you love having long conversations about English class homework with your niece, or if you enjoy troubleshooting issues with software system compatibility on your mom’s computer. Each of those natural gifts would point to different work (and styles of work) that would be personally meaningful to you.
To round out the 4 Ps of a meaningful career, Dan recommends getting clear on who you work with — and for.
What kind of People do you want your work to serve? Individuals, groups, communities, countries? Challenge yourself to describe a single individual you’d like to help. What is that person’s backstory? What are they like? Why do they need this kind of help?
People also refers to the people you work with: your boss, your direct coworkers, and your colleagues across the organization. What qualities would you want the leaders of your organization to embody? How would you be able to tell through their behavior if they are successfully living out their (and your) values?
Sometimes, organizations can espouse certain values, but act in ways that aren’t aligned.
For Lisa Lewis, one of the career coaches on our team, she had a particularly painful experience seeing a leader give lip service to values while acting out of alignment:
“My last consulting job was at a company that talked a lot about creating positive work-life balance. However, one particular leader on the team actively undermined that policy in pressing employees to take on projects even after they’d said they couldn’t.
“I found out that my grandfather had just died. She called me into our 1-on-1 meeting, and when I sat down with her, my eyes were already full of tears. I told her I’d just learned of a loss in the family, and she immediately responded by telling me to “take all the bereavement time I needed”.
“And then, as if she’d been possessed, she immediately switched into corporate mode discussing her project and told me that she would need my decision about whether I could start on a new project by the end of the day. I was flabbergasted and felt like my legs had been kicked out from under me. I could feel a permanent rage blackout coming on. Something inside of me said, “there has got to be a better way,” so I committed to searching for a new job that same day.”
Reflecting on the best and worst team dynamics you’ve experienced can be a helpful way to clarify what’s most important to you in terms of People. When do you feel alive and safe and thrive in a work environment? What are the times you’ve felt shut down or deflated or hamstrung in your ability and desire to contribute to the greater goals at work? Writing down the commonalities between each set of experiences reveals what your core values around culture, personalities, and individual contributions are.
Wrap up: What Does a Meaningful Career Mean to You?
Now that you’ve reflected on the Product, Profit, Process, and People that create a personally meaningful career experience for you, comment below and share with us: What are some of the traits of the 4 Ps for you? What came up that you weren’t expecting? What came up that validated your hunches about what you need?
Transcript from Episode
Scott Barlow: Welcome back to Happen to Your Career. I’m ridiculously excited to be here today because I have my friend Dan Cumberland to talk about meaning and purpose. Not a small set of topics. Welcome to Happen To Your Career Dan. So excited to have you.
Dan Cumberland: Thanks Scott. I’m stoked to be here. Grateful for the chance.
Scott Barlow: I feel like what we get to discuss today is something we could do 17 -24,000 episodes on and still not quite cover it. We have no small task of tackling a bunch of it today. Very excited to do that. How do you tell people what you do these days?
Dan Cumberland: That is a great question. I do a lot of things as you know. My short answer is I’m a blogger and podcaster. That is the quick response. The longer version is I help people figure out what to do with their lives, help people align who they are with what they do through podcasting, blogging, and creating online tools. I trail off there if people are still interested I tell them my wife and I have a photography company. We shoot weddings, families, that sort of thing. I have a couple different irons in the fire. The one we are to talk about today is the first one. How do we figure out what to do with our lives and find the intersection of work and meaning?
Scott Barlow: A little bit of backstory. Dan and I have known each other for about a year. Maybe 18 months. We finally got to meet in person a few months back going to dinner in Seattle, which turns out isn’t that far from where I live. Got to meet your lovely wife, we all got together for dinner. That has fueled me with all kinds of questions. We learned a lot about you two and it was so much fun. I’m really curious, and we didn’t talk a lot about it but where did this start for you? Today we are going to spend the bulk of time talking about meaning and purpose but what happened to start here?
Dan Cumberland: I love that. Just before we hit the record button you said you like the long story and I’m a sucker for it as well. I hope not to tell too long of a version but I’d love to share. To preface, listeners we are talking about big existential topics but my goal is to bring them home and give you solid take-aways not leaving you in an existential funk at the end and so you have great tools and next steps. Let me share some of my story. I want to start way back. Rewind, to understand me is to understand my family and context. My father was an electronics engineer, my mother was an accountant, and my brother is a computer programmer. He knew from the time he was twelve, or before, he wanted to be programmer. He is older, it’s just the two of us. It’s worked well with how my family thought about life and work. A left brained family. I was interested in music and wanted to be an actor in junior high. In high school I’d say I wanted to be a rock star. I didn’t quite fit into the framework of work and career with my family. The question of what should I do, the model I had was my brothers footsteps which was very linear. He wanted to program computers, then graduated college early, got his masters early, then got a job, and has been with a company for 15 years.
Scott Barlow: That is easier than my life.
Dan Cumberland: It’s almost unheard of today. That straightforward of a path. That is what I saw and how it was supposed to work. I had a different experience. I was pushed that way by my family and took computer classes. They were fine but I was more interested in creative endeavors; art, music, photography. ‘You can’t make money at music and art’ is the story that was told. We’ll come back to that, your family and your world telling you stories about work. I felt lost for a long time. I went to a ministry school. Church was a big part of my life. Studied ministry and music and became a youth pastor. Within a few months in the job things weren’t going well. I struggled, I was doing a good job, but struggling to reconcile what I wanted and what I hoped for my students and the church, and other’s expectations on staff and the parents. A lot of politics. I felt depressed. It was also a theological breakdown of what I thought life and spirituality was about. It wasn’t working. I was in my early 20s and just married. It became clear this wasn’t a good fit but the only thing I knew. The only thing that made sense. At that time I would have said I thought God had called me to be a youth pastor. I spent a long time in that space of not knowing what to do with my life. I didn’t know my options. I felt stuck. I could not just quit my job and do whatever. I felt pressure to have a career and do something noteworthy.
Scott Barlow: What caused that pressure?
Dan Cumberland: Great question. I think a lot was the example of my family. My brother and his linear path. My father was similar. He worked the same job for 25 years until he took an early retirement because of downsizing and got another job in aerospace at a different company until retirement. You do one thing and that is all you do. I felt pressure to find that one thing that was my thing. Talking to anyone who would listen on how we answer these questions. I’m struggling. I went on a retreat with a coach, a super small retreat, with like four of us. He had us map out and talk out the last year of our lives. Everyone took a turn and then give feedback. I had my turn, I talked through all of it, and then there was silence after. The struggles with youth ministry.
Scott Barlow: Good silence? Or weighty?
Dan Cumberland: It was a weighty silence. Everyone was just sitting there. The first thing said from the coach was who told you you needed to be a youth pastor? It made me mad at first. No one told me! It took a long time to unravel that. It struck me, whatever I had shared with the room made him ask that. There was something in my story or life showing it wasn’t a good fit and there was another reason I was in the space.
Looking back I can easily point out that my youth pastor told me to and there were a lot of conversations about what to do with my life that have come into focus. He lived in this world view that ministry was the only valuable thing you could do with your life. The answer took a while to emerge but it put me down the path of asking the question of how did I get here and how do I get out? As that began to come into focus and realizing how much I’d been shaped by voices in my life, family, youth pastor, college professors. All these people had good intentions and have shaped me for good. Everyone shouldn’t be painted with a broad negative brush but there were some negative impacts. I started asking the questions, there isn’t a map and easy way to answer the questions. But there has to be some answer. How do we figure this out and help people with these big questions of life, work, meaning, identity, and the messy intersection between all of them?
I went to graduate school with that all in mind. I studied theology and psychology emphasizing culture and personal formation to understand how we become who we are and how meaning is shaped in our lives and stories and what you do about it. The now what question. That is the medium length version of my story. What has brought me here, after graduate school I started my blog The Meaning Movement and working one on one with clients. People I knew that had questions. Coaching them and forming a process around what I had studied.
Scott Barlow: Let me ask you about the negative impacts by well-intentioned people. Let me preface, I heard you mention your youth pastor and other influences where we as human beings have a tendency to say and recommend to others that our way is the way you should go. I’m super curious, one, what you recommend people look at and how they pull themselves out from it. I can think of plenty of people I care about and their feedback but the way they went shouldn’t have anything to do with the way I go. How do you recommend people deal with that, think about that, or pull away from that?
Dan Cumberland: I can’t help hearing that question and as a parent, I have an almost two year old, thinking how do I parent in a way that isn’t imposing my will and preferences on my son as he grows up. There are two sides to every coin. Along with every good intention they are is the possibility of negative impact. But what do you do about it?
Super practical advice, become aware of it first. I recommend getting out a piece of paper and brain dump the stories and rules that you have for yourself around, or feel are, around work and what you do or not, who you are. Put it all on a piece of paper without judging. Just get it all out. Money is important too. Get it all out. Once you have a big list go back through and put names next to each of those items you wrote. Could be people’s names, ideologies, cultures, institutions. We are shaped by all the institutions in our lives. Assign where it came from. Where did that story, rule or narrative come from?
As you do that, some will be really hard. The first time you do it, you may not be able to tell where any came from. By doing it and writing it down you start shaping your understanding of your own narrative. Brainstorm then assign names, then go through and put a circle around the good ones, positive ones and an x by the ones keeping you stuck. There are both positive and negative stories. By doing that you sort some of it. It is subjective which is good and bad but you will have a clear sense of what is keeping you in an unhealthy place with work and identity. It can be liberating. Even that first step is super liberating for people I work with. Many of us have never taken the time to sort through the story around work.
Scott Barlow: This is super helpful. I’ve done it in a variety of ways for different purposes. We develop these narratives or expectations around every area of life, not just work. Alyssa and I did this with our marriage when working with a therapist a while back. It was super impactful because we both had a ton of stuff.
Dan Cumberland: I think in all of life, any part of life that takes a big commitment we have such a big expectation of what things should look like. Especially when there is a partnership and two people are bringing different expectations it can get messy.
Scott Barlow: This is interesting and thank you for running through that. When you do that and the initial steps you begin to create the awareness. I know from studying lots of psychology that until you have that first level of awareness you can’t even hope to – as people are telling you things, until you get that first stage of where things are coming from you can’t hope to have the second level that as it’s happening realize if it’s good for bad for you.
Dan Cumberland: 100%. The importance of language, to get philosophical, the language we use to describe something shapes our experience. I live in Seattle and love coffee and done a few tastings and side by side comparisons of different roasts. Beans from the same region but different altitudes. You talk with the other people doing the tasting and it’s an interesting experience. I’ve heard it described as trying to remember the license plate number of the car that just drove by. I didn’t really look at it, but can almost remember it, but can’t put my finger on it. As people say, there are berry flavors, and they come into focus for you, like oh yeah. Someone else says it’s like a blueberry, and you think yeah you are right. As you put language to the tastes and experience it shapes how you experience those tastes. The same is true with your narrative around work, marriage, yourself. As you begin to do the work of putting language to the rules it shapes the way you think about it and allows you to access it and filter during conversations whether it is for you or not.
Scott Barlow: That is amazing and would co-sign for that with what I have seen. I appreciate the coffee example. It hits on so many levels. Let me ask a few questions. Diving into some of the areas. I agree that unless you are having awareness of where they come from it will be difficult to move from that and create your own narrative and what is good for you versus what you grew up around or experienced. I’m curious, how do you go from there to being able to identify what meaning can look like in your own life? That is a huge question but nip around the fringes.
Dan Cumberland: That is a super important question. That work of identifying the voices. I think of that as creating space and freeing up and clearing the table to start thinking about what you want on it. After you do the work. I think there are a few things. First talk about what meaning means.
Scott Barlow: Really confusing really quickly.
Dan Cumberland: We’ll get real deep, don’t get scared, then talk about how you are experiencing it in your life. Let me go back to what meaning means. When we talk about work and meaning we are talking about impact, agency, and identity. What is fulfilling for you when utilizing your agency, your ability to impact change on the world around you. What is a fulfilling way for you to utilize your agency in the world? That is abstract. What that means what makes work meaningful isn’t isolated to the realm of your job but a broad theme of meaning and impact. The things you find fulfilling and with purpose outside of work have a lot to do with what you find fulfilling in a job. After we’ve cleared the table to think about meaning we have to think where are the places in my life where I have experienced meaning, both past and present. Everyone is doing something in their life, even if it’s small, that they love and believe in. You have to look at that before looking at your dream job, where to go next, and the career change you want to make. I recommend starting to think about where you are already doing things that you get lost in, that are fun, and fascinating. As you see that come into focus you’ll see they are connected. Even with people who do a bunch of different things, what is that word Emilie uses?
Scott Barlow: Emilie Wapnick? She’s a good friend. She has really popularized multipotentialite.
Dan Cumberland: Exactly. My assumption is that someone who is a multipotentialite, doing a bunch of different things, that those things aren’t as disconnected as they might seem on the surface. Beneath the surface there is more going on that connects to who a person is and the impact they want to have. Looking at all these areas where you are finding meaning and purpose and asking what do they have in common and how are they connected. I think that is where we get tripped up with big words of calling and vocation, I have to find that one thing, like I experienced with being a youth pastor, and I needed that one thing. That one thing isn’t out there, and you have to find it. It’s much closer in and has to do with who you are and the impact you desire to make.
Scott Barlow: People I’ve worked with get caught up in this area. Let me nerd out, I’ve observed when people start to go through that and create that list, essentially what is already working with meaning and all. They get that list and write golf, I love creating mix tapes, and have a big list and look at it and ask what do these have in common. I have found that for at least 50% of the people that initial step to go from mix tapes and golf, that it is difficult for people. I’m curious what you have seen that help people get past that? And I’d like to point out it may not be one layer below the surface but two to five layers below to find the commonality. Lay it on me.
Dan Cumberland: That is a great question. I’ve heard that before. People will say I like pizza, video games, and sleeping, what should I do with my life? I think it’s important to note when discussing what you like and enjoy that it requires work. I think that is where agency comes in. Applying yourself to something. What have you done you have really had to work for and you enjoyed it? Maybe it was in high school or college maybe a group project where you grabbed the bull by the horns and took charge of it and were proud of it.
In my house growing up, we had a bookshelf in our living room. On the top we put all of our sports trophies. I played soccer. Every year you got a participating trophy and I had a bunch of those little trophies. Occasionally we’d get a bigger one. Later in high school I did track and field and had medals and we put it all on the shelf. I think of that as a great metaphor for this part of the process. What are the trophy moments and projects and things you’ve done you are proud of? It’s not necessarily an outward achievement like a promotion but just I had a project at work I did with a couple coworkers that weren’t invested but I nailed it and no one really recognized it but I was proud of it. It’s an internal compass. That is a helpful metaphor.
What are the things beyond golf and mixed tapes, if you are golfing at a high level maybe it is the challenge or the honing of a skill but more than it’s just fun. Same with mixed tapes, maybe you make them just for your friends, or maybe you spend days and days making every tape so every transition is perfect with ambiance. Then maybe there is something there. You have to parse out. Is it just a diversion, something to do so I don’t have to think of work, or something you are really applying yourself to? That is an important characteristic.
Scott Barlow: I think I’m hearing you say, it’s not necessarily what they are on the surface but the why you love it and what you love about it, why you enjoy it or were proud. The context. If I love pizza, which I do, and have come on a quest to find and top each experience. We had amazing pizza in France, which has amazing food, they had an Italian place. The thing I love about finding the world’s best pizza isn’t about the pizza, a few layers under the surface I love the challenge of finding something new and exploring. The bad side is I can’t eat at Papa Murphy’s anymore, it doesn’t even sound good. I just lost their sponsorship.
Dan Cumberland: I think that is a fantastic example. That desire to create an experience, explore, your quest for more, there is always better you just have to find it, that it shapes your work and how you build your business and how you interact with clients you work with, that there is more you are calling people to that they don’t have to settle for a bad job. A few layers beneath but I see it in your quest for the best pizza. There is a theme of meaning.
Scott Barlow: I think you are right. In action.
Dan Cumberland: You can now justify your pizza quest.
Scott Barlow: Where do we go from here? We have this initial list of work that is maybe meaningful and started breaking down the context. What happens from there?
Dan Cumberland: That is the question. I hope we haven’t lost everyone in our philosophical ponderings. As you begin to have these connections, these are the themes around my work, the next step is experimenting. People start getting lost here. It’s natural and easy to philosophize and think I have to find my one thing before I do anything. Having the conversations are important but they are the first steps. You have to put them into action. If you realize I’m always doing this thing with people where we create a sense of community or bond, I like to facilitate the question is how have you done that in your work? At your current job are you doing that? Maybe it’s just once a month at a team meeting, or a project, where are you already doing it? Can you lean into those and see what it is like? If not in your job what is a move you can make that will allow you step into that more fully. You have to treat it like an experiment. I take this step seriously. If you are conducting a scientific experiment you have to be objective. You put on your scientist, hat?
Scott Barlow: Do they wear hats?
Dan Cumberland: If someone could tell me if they do that would be great. How about a lab coat? They are probably like scientist wears whatever they want. Think of yourself as a lab rat. What happens when you take Scott out of his current context and put him in another one where he gets to facilitate deeper interaction. As you start doing that in your job or in a transition outside of your job but leaning into context to do more what does it feel like and how does it shape your purpose in that? You have to do it in practice. The rubber meets the road. You can’t just live in your mind. You have to feel what it’s like. You take the outcome and let it shape how you think about yourself and your work and what is meaningful.
Scott Barlow: That is awesome. It helps people think about this differently. I have found people struggle with now what? How do I really know? They can get stuck there afraid to make the wrong decision. Instead thinking as a small experiment and then deciding. I’m going to do this for a week or 90 days. There is a defined end date and becomes lower risk and convinces our brains it’s not the end and we get feedback.
Dan Cumberland: I want to share more about that. There are different ways work can be personally meaningful for you. There are four main categories as a helpful framework. Because I was a pastor, they all start with P because that is how you do it in pastor land. Put on my pastor hat, which is a sombrero.
The first is the Product of the work. That is the one most people think of. What is the impact and change you are making? I like product because you can think of it in business terms, what the business is making, what the business is doing. It can be a physical product you believe in or the problem it is solving like a nonprofit, solving a health crisis. What is the end result of the work?
The second is the Profit. What does it do for you or your family? This is the industrial revolution. The only aspect of work emphasized was motivating your labor force by giving a good job and benefits. We’ve come a long way. What is the profit? It goes one of two ways. Some are all about the profit and want to make money, others think it’s a weird thing I’m uncomfortable with. With me being in ministry, all the people I went to school with had a dichotomy around work and money because we were gearing up to not make money. I had to readjust my framework starting my own business that it was okay to make money and a good thing. By making money from what I love that is making a good impact I can do more. That is my stuff, you may have your own around the profit. First is product, the end result, second is the profit, how it’s benefiting you.
Third is the Process of doing the work. The easiest example is an artist who loves to create. Maybe you are a designer and totally focused on making whatever you are doing that you get lost in the process and in flow and it’s so good. That is important for you to note.
Fourth, is the people you do the work with, to, or for. A few categories. One is your co-workers. You love them, the teamwork. Maybe it’s your clients and people benefiting from what you are making, or maybe it’s your family. Maybe you don’t love the process or product but you have kids you are putting through college and that is meaningful to you. I would never tell you that that isn’t a meaningful endeavor to support your family.
Those are four categories. The best work would be you could go through the list and say I love the product, the company, the work we are doing, I’m getting paid a fair wage and living a lifestyle that works for me, I love the process it’s fun and I love the people. That is a dream job in my book if you can check off all four.
The application for you is right now whatever your work realm is, how many of those can you, if you were to rate them 1 to 10 with 10 being this is super fulfilling I love it – Where are you with each of those? It’ll give you a good assessment of where you are and things you can change whether it’s career, a lateral move, or whatever. There are great examples, I’m almost done.
I read Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc., he a founder of Pixar. It’s about the journey of Pixar, a fascinating and creative company. He talks about how his life goal was to create a digitally animated movie. He worked for years with that goal in mind. A very clear product and one focus. He created Pixar and they released Toy Story which was a massive success but now that one thing had been created. He had an existential crisis that he didn’t know what to do with his life because he had done that one thing. He talks about how he spent time thinking about it and he loved the company he had helped create, the people, the process and everything so he expanded his vision of what his work was about. Not just digitally animated movies but creating a company where people love to work, its fun, and he can be on the cutting edge of teamwork and collaboration and creativity. It’s a great example of someone ultra focused on one category and zooming out to include the others.
Scott Barlow: I think that is how it happens in real life. For me, I was very focused on achieving in one area of my life. I satisfied it and then it was like now what? For me it was my career. I had a ton of promotions, and increases, and raises and then realized I’ve been there done that, now what. Do I continue to become the VP of HR for this other company? I don’t really want that. Totally understand that and I think people check the boxes in one area or another, not everyone, but we’ve seen it again and again. I like what you said about the definition of a dream job. If you are thinking about it in terms of the categories, products, profit, people and process and what do you value and do they align it can help you understand where the disconnects are and what you want.
Dan Cumberland: 100%, one thing on that, as you reach that point where you achieved all you wanted to and hit the ceiling that is a super common experience. Those are the moments when people find my blog and say I did the thing I was on a quest to do and I’m figuratively lost. Those are super important moments. There are common ones, especially around families, if you are parents and your kids leave the house. Maybe it’s when you retire or been in a job for a while that your heart was set on but it’s not what it was cracked up to be. We hit milestones and start wondering what we do next. Those conversations get me fired up. I love those conversations. The invitation if you are in one of those spaces you are not alone, it’s super common. I have a blog post, called Inciting Incidents in Your Quests for Calling. To give context, what are some of those moments you have been through in the past and on the horizon?
Scott Barlow: Very cool. This has been super helpful and I appreciate you taking all this stuff that is cloudy normally and breaking it down to navigate the path.
Dan Cumberland: Awesome. Thank you. That is what I love doing. I know sometimes I can get heady with it because I geek out. My goal is to make it practicable and actionable. I hope that has come across.
Scott Barlow: A couple other quick questions. Where can people who have loved what we have talked about get more Dan?
Dan Cumberland: You can find me at the meaningmovement.com, it is the home base of my work. I have a podcast. Search for my name or Meaning Movement in iTunes. I’d love for you to follow along. I also have a mini course called Five Clues to Your Calling that is five quick questions delivered in email to help you start the process to think through this. It is set up for htycers if you go to the meaningmovement.com/htyc. It gives you practical actionable items to write about and think about and talk about with friends and family.
Scott Barlow: Head on over there. I’ve gone through it and was rather impressed with the exercise and emails. Very simple and easy to follow and great way to start thinking differently. I want to say thank you because we have spent more time than anticipated. Thank you for that time and I can’t wait to do dinner again.
Dan Cumberland: Absolutely. This is super fun and we could go on for hours. We can save that for conversations over dinner. Thank you for the opportunity to hang out with you and your audience. Love what you are doing. I’m grateful for the chance to chat. It’s always fun.
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