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Bugs, Dolls & Engaging Work

Stars were bright when my granddaughter and her friend wound down a successful lightning bug hunt. The two girls put their florescent treasures in an orange and green bug holder with a two-way magnified viewer for easy and thorough bug inspections. (When I was a kid we used a quart-size Ball jar, anyways- back to the story.)

We sat in the family room that night. My granddaughter’s eyes were wide with excitement. She verbally examined each bug: “what makes it glow, why do the lights go on and off, why is this one, where do you think they go during the day?” all the while she was making big bug plans for tomorrow. Her friend was settled on the couch considering her diagnosis of her doll’s recurring health issues. She carefully covered the hard plastic body with a soft blue blanket, “Sarah needs her rest. She will be better tomorrow” she said quite seriously. The next day, both were fully engaged in more good kid work.

You need not see what someone is doing to know if it is his vocation,
You have only to watch his eyes: a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon making a primary incision, a clerk completing a bill of lading,
All wear the same rapt expression, forgetting themselves in a function.
How beautiful it is, that eye-on-the-object look.

W.H. Auden

Page 57 of the May 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review reports that the number of employees described as “highly disengaged” and looking for other employment opportunities has more than doubled – from 8% in 2007 to 21% at the end of 2009. This excellent article on retention recommended several actions an employer could take to re-engage their high performers, such as: more money, more big projects and more personal attention. However, one idea that seemed to be missing was the need for disengaged star employees to take some personal responsibility for their happiness.

Some professionals today may need to stop looking outside for career fulfillment and start looking inside a little more. In doing so, you might discover the kind of projects and people that make you feel most alive and regain that wonder filled eye-on-the-firefly, eye-on-the-doll, eye-on-the-object look from which no one can disengage you, but you.

Journal Entry: This weekend answer this question: “If you could spend a full day next week working on any creative project with any people you desire, with whom and what would you work on?” Write for five minutes. Don’t edit as you go. Open a clean page and answer this question again differently. Set your writing out of sight for a couple of days. Then read it aloud – alone . You may begin to see what you can do to become more beautifully engaged, where you are today, in your leadership and life.

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