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Shift Can Happen

Several times since my book came out, people have come up to me with copies of The 8 for signing. “My [boss, wife, sister, colleague] doesn’t understand what matters to me,” some have said, “So I’m going to give them your book.”

“Thanks,” I have replied a few times … although I feel a little squirrely about signing books for people who don’t necessarily want them. I’ve invented a specific dedication for these copies, though:

“To John: I’m not sure you’ll like my book, but your coworker isn’t crazy.”

“John” could have been “Mom and Dad” or someone’s business partner or brother or manager at work, who sincerely cares about the people around them, but sometimes (he said with a real positive spin on it…) cares a little too much to let them have their own happy, healthy, productive life. Sometimes the generational gap is reversed, and it is the kids who worry about their parents. Sometimes coworkers are so wrapped up in their own journeys to see you on yours, and how your pursuits impact them and theirs. And sometimes bosses fail to see that an employee’s purpose-driven life is directly connected to their company’s profit-driven motives.

Guess what? I don’t think that simply reading any book (let alone mine) can change perspectives like that. That’s the bad news that I’ve discovered in my short time on this planet: it’s rarely that simple to change someone’s mind. To those on the outside, examples of successful people (or companies) who are living their values and getting more done aren’t very persuasive sometimes, because people (and organizations) always find reasons why someone else’s success can’t be replicated.

But thankfully, there’s also some good news. If you want to influence the people around you, you don’t have to buy my book (oh boy, the publisher’s gonna’ love this post) but instead, you can lead the way through your own peacefully productive actions. They are not going to change their worldview or their perceptions of you based on something you post on Facebook or Twitter, or by what I write in the front of my book. But when people see you following through on your dreams – and living your life on purpose – they can’t help but notice. Then the shift happens.

The challenge you face, therefore, is to be courageous in the face of opposition from those around you – “John the Colleague”, “Barbara the Mom”, “Frank the Dad”, “Betsy the Boss”… all of them. This is no small challenge, since you would much rather fight dragons or vampires or something that is clearly evil. Your family isn’t evil (despite what may be evidence to the contrary), your boss probably isn’t wicked (regardless of how that last performance evaluation went) and you probably can’t ignore these people and their perceptions. But I’ve learned something else in my short time on this planet, and it became especially clear while writing The 8: you can’t ignore your power and your purpose for very long without eventually losing your connection to both.

Some battles are better won by example than by persuasion. So you can talk forever about the shift you want to make at work or in your life; why you want to study a subject you’re interested in instead of one people think would lead to better career options, or why you want to communicate more openly and honestly to coworkers and customers, or whatever. And by following this well-trod path of just talking about it, you may make marginally incremental progress in the form of compromise. But while you’re judging yourself by your great intentions, the people around you are judging you by your actions.

More than just talking about making a shift in the direction your life’s headed,  you can put it in perspective for the people around you: I’m doing these things in my life today because they are important to me. I’m willing to give up other things to make it work. I am willing to do what matters today. I am willing to walk the talk.

More often than not, people will get used to it over time. You may always be thought of as the black sheep at the office, the strange one on your sales team, the outlier in the family. But you’ll eventually earn your right to freedom and maybe even some grudging respect from some of the “evil-doers” around you.

Then they’ll say, oh, there goes _____ again. That’s just what she does. Or they’ll think,  _____ has another crazy idea to fulfill his purpose in life… but the last one worked out pretty well for him.

And once in a while, a funny thing happens: they’ll learn from the decisions you made and the actions you took, and how you stepped out, faced down your fears, tapped into your talents and focused on what’s most important to you in your life. (They may or may not realize that some of your fears had to do with them, but by then, it won’t matter.)

So for those of you on a dysfunctional team at work, in an “interesting” family or embedded in a workplace culture where doing what matters is implicitly misunderstood; or for anyone else who feels pressured to be like those around them and dare not blaze their own trail, it’s all up to you now to lead by example. Who knows — maybe John, Mom, Dad and Betsy will end up shifting with you. Because (in one last insight I’ve gained in my short time on this planet) …

Shift can happen.

Now…go make it happen.