Skip to content

Sheldonbarrocks.com Posts

What Evolving In Our Career Truly Means

We all have deep need to evolve into something or someone better than who we were before the pandemic, for ourselves, and for others around us.

My 9 year old son is a big Pokemon fan. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t give me another update about his Pokemon card collection. The iconic trading card phenomenon that originated in the late 1980’s has now turned into a multibillion dollar business including several video games, cartoon series, toys, merchandise, and more recently full length feature movies. If you’ve never dived into it yourself growing up, you probably know someone who has. During conversations with my son, I’ve always been intrigued about how Pokemon creatures evolve. They grow from their original size and skill set and upgrade to new and improved physical attributes. I had to look this up some more and found the best description of this from a Pokemon fan site (Stay with me, I’m going somewhere with this):

“Pokemon, like all organic life are characterized by growth, specialization, and reproduction. One of the biggest elements of growth in the Pokemon world is the phenomenon of evolution, by which a Pokemon takes a form more suitable to its environment and circumstances. This is a much more simplified and rapid form of the same general idea as evolution in the real world. The point is, Pokemon evolve because that’s what their environment demands of them. This is especially obvious because many Pokemon evolve naturally over time, as they grow, and take on more powers and more complex shapes and abilities.”

Though at the core it’s a fictional idea, Pokemon evolution can be synonymous with how we can evolve in our careers. If the last 2 years has taught us anything during this pandemic, it’s evolving in our careers is something we need to continually consider and strive for. As the world rapidly changes around us, the increase in remote work has not only transformed the way we function and communicate with our colleagues, but it has opened up new ways for businesses to market and sell to their customers. There have been challenges, but at the same time it’s opened up new possibilities for innovation and creative problem solving. As new opportunities around us become available, we tend to get uncomfortable with the status quo. We get frustrated when we feel ‘stuck’ in the same role or company because by nature we have a desire to keep growing and stretch ourselves to participate in new experiences and use our expertise to solve the new problems ahead of us. 

Evolving in our career is not just about achieving a promotion or finding another opportunity that provides you with an increase in pay and benefits. It’s about upgrading your skills and finding ways to solve uncommon challenges that arise in today’s economy. It’s about giving yourself purpose and excitement each day as you wake up and face another workday.

As we’ve seen with the ongoing pandemic, our lives are unpredictable and fleeting. We really don’t know how much time we have left. As a result many have decided to make their work days count. The Great Resignation of 2021 signaled the end of meaningless work for millions of North Americans. Last year in July an estimated 4 million North American employees resigned from their current positions. They resigned because at the time there was a record breaking 11 million open job opportunities by the end of July.

As Ian Cook describes in an Harvard Business Review article, the pandemic pushed many to think about evolving in their careers. “Months of high pandemic workloads due to hiring freezes and other pressures caused workers to rethink their work and life goals. [This lead to] mid-level employees leaving their jobs in droves. With remote work there’s a greater demand for employers to hire experienced workers due to the lack of in person training available.”

The Atlantic’s Dereck Thompson’s take on the Great Resignation is slightly different. “The increase in people quitting is mostly about low-wage workers switching to better jobs in industries that are raising wages to grab new employees as fast as possible. [Resignations in the] leisure and hospitality [sector] have increased four times faster than for the largest white-collar sector. More people are quitting their job to start something new.”

Indeed. 

It seems as though the pandemic has pushed many of us to consider the opportunities available to use our transferable professional skills and do better. The Great Resignation on the surface can seem to be about just better wages, but when we look closer it’s more about a deep need to evolve into something or someone better than who we were before the pandemic, for ourselves, and for others around us.

From a personal perspective, developing professionally is proven to increase the levels of our brain’s neuroplasticity. Learning environments that offer plenty of opportunities for focused attention, novelty, and challenge have been scientifically shown to stimulate positive and rapid changes in the brain. When we were young, it was easier to experience improvements to our brain’s plasticity because we were eager to discover and learn new things. On top of that our motor skills grew leading us to go from crawling to walking and then eventually running and other tasks as we came of age. New neuron connections and brain pathways were consistently being created. When we become adults, we tend to get settled in a career and slow down this neurological process when we don’t challenge ourselves to evolve professionally or personally. Having a personal desire to evolve in our careers builds intrigue, growth and excitement, all factors that increase the development of our neuroplasticity.

From a corporate standpoint evolving in our careers can breed innovation within our companies and ultimately lead to a positive impact on our communities. In the late 1800’s George Washington Carver wasn’t just a brilliant scientist, he had a knack for creative artistic impressions, specifically in the area of botanical drawings. Before the days of photographs, botanists (or plant scientists) depended on precise drawings that displayed the essence of a plant’s physiology, reproductive organs, and commercial potential. In discovering this, Carver combined the two skills together, using art to provide visual insights for his scientific discoveries. But it wasn’t a skill that just gave him personal satisfaction alone or looked good for presentations.

As an agricultural scientist, Carver’s ability to combine art and science led him to discover marketable products from crops that poor southern farmers could grow, including sweet potatoes, peanuts and other horticultural products, such as fruits and vegetables. In 1941 TIME Magazine labeled him the greatest African American scientist alive in an article entitled, “Black Leonardo”, bringing reference to his many discoveries combining arts and science including finding 285 new uses for the peanut and 118 products from sweet potato including vinegar, molasses, and shoe blacking. Carver’s evolution from just being an agricultural scientist had an impact not only on his life but on thousands of others, socially and economically.

From reading about Carver’s significant contributions to understanding our brain’s full neurological growth potential, we can be confident that there are unlimited possibilities for us to evolve in our careers. Enhancing our work life and making an impact on those around us. This will be a journey of self discovery. One that will mean we’ll need to face the following truths to fully experience the career evolution we’re looking for:

We must be intentional about identifying opportunities that are not in our place of comfort or familiarity, and put ourselves in situations where our thinking and creativity can be stretched.

We must be vulnerable to admit when we don’t know something, and commit to lifelong learning and professional development.

We must be willing to invest time in building strategic relationships based on a willingness to serve and develop others, as well as learn from others, without the expectation of getting anything back in return.

Ultimately there will need to be something specific to each of us that creates a desire to evolve professionally. As the Pokemon expert explained, “Pokemon evolve because that’s what their environment demands of them”. What do our personal situations demand of us? Our ‘Why’ of evolving is just as important as how we go about achieving it. Stephen R. Covey sums this up best in his book Primary Greatness, “Security today no longer lies in the old psychological contract of lifetime employment. Security lies in the ability to continue to produce what the marketplace wants, and those wants are constantly changing. Unless people learn, grow, and progress to accommodate the market, there can be no security. Our personal development should be relevant to the economy, the industry to the company, and to our current assignment”. 

Our assignment is our purpose. And our purpose is the very thing that will ignite a passion to evolve.

Leave a Comment

Let’s Make A Deal

On July 26, 2019, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner signed a three-year, $54 million contract extension with the Seahawks through the 2022 season with $40.2 million guaranteed. The deal elevated Wagner to being tanned the highest-paid middle linebacker in the NFL.

What makes the deal even more remarkable is Wagner negotiated directly with the team without an agent.

Now this isn’t the part where I tell you that Wagner waltzes into the GM’s office and charms him into the biggest contract in the history of his position.

In actuality Wagner took time to study the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement and several linebacker contracts to gain knowledge about his worth. Once he had the information he needed, he possessed the leverage to get his ‘bag’.

The distance between where we are right now and what we ultimately want in life lies in the trenches of effective, deliberate, and sometimes unconventional work. It’s the unconventional that often yields uncanny results.

Leave a Comment

Opportunity Missed?

Everyday we make decisions. And those decisions reflect how much we value our time and money. In a larger sense these decisions are ultimately building blocks for the future real estate of our life and career.

That’s why Opportunity Cost should not just be measured in business. It should be measured in our entire lives holistically. Opportunity Cost is the value of the next-best alternative when a decision is made; it’s what is given up. $100 going out to eat is a $100 not invested in a high interest savings account.

However, not all Opportunity Cost decisions are black and white. If the $100 for dinner is with a mentor that can help increase your professional value and network, or with someone we’re building a significant personal relationship with, then the opportunity missed to invest for monetary gain was given up for something of equal or greater value.

In the case for spending $600 million on a Canadian election (2 years after the last one) during a pandemic, only to have little change in the results? Well, most would say that Opportunity Cost is pretty black and white. $600 million could have been better spent.

Author Todd Henry sums it up best: “Each choice you make to do something is a choice not to do something. You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.”

Leave a Comment

How To Thrive In a “Not My First Choice”​ Career

It may be hard to believe, most people aren’t currently living and working in a professional field that was their first choice. This of course can be for several reasons beyond the control of each individual. And the reasons vary from the number of available opportunities on the market, to accepting the first offered position due to personal or financial reasons. A 2013 Gallup poll surveyed 230,000 full-time and part-time workers in 142 countries and found that fully 63% were not engaged in their work. And not much has changed today.

The trouble comes when days turn into weeks and weeks turn into years and we’ve all but given up on the dream career opportunity we’ve fantasized about since leaving school and entering the work force. Its true, there’s nothing stopping us from leaving a job we don’t like and setting of a new path whether it be with another company or starting our own. And while these “grass is greener” and “fear of missing out” options look like immediate attractive resolutions to our daily grind, making an emotional decision can end up being premature in nature, leading to more problems.

Striving for greener pastures isn’t inherently wrong, but not embracing opportunities each day has to offer right now can have an affect on your person/professional growth and overall holistic mental well being. From a practical perspective there are a few approaches we can take to help cope with the day to day grind. 

The first is attempting to connect the dots between your passion and your present. With your ideal profession in mind, think about what type of work you are truly passionate about. Is there a way to incorporate those skills in your work today that will help you meet your current role’s objectives? Before you immediately say its not possible, understand the goal isn’t to gain 100% alignment between the two points. 

For example if your working in analytics but your ultimate goal is to be a software developer, you probably won’t be offered the opportunity to create analytic software from the ground up. However, based on your coding and programing expertise, you could request to be a part of the committee that selects the software to purchase and even be a part of the implementation team. In his book The Spark and the Grind, well-known author and motivational speaker Erik Wahl insists that if we look hard enough, the can be open doors for us to explore our passions in our current work. “Within your current context lies more creative opportunities than you probably ever realized. There are no dead end streets for the truly creative.”

Another approach you can take is to unlock a personal deeper purpose within the organization. Aside from a pay cheque, personal purpose is the other motivating factor that pushes us out of bed each day. The distance between just surviving through our work and thriving in it is located in the dimensions of our personal purpose. And real, soul changing purpose is in most cases connected to the action of service to something or someone above and beyond ourselves. According to Happify.com, an organization dedicated to the science of positive psychology for the last 15 years, when we give, there’s a positive psychological response internally. We get a boost of ‘feel good’ endorphins-the same ones associated with runners high. Oxytocin floods our body, lowering our stress and making us feel more connected to others. Our brain’s pleasure centers light up as if we were the recipient of the good deed, when in reality we were the giver. Within any given organization, there are opportunities to serve in different capacities. Some are clear, like volunteering your time for community work your company is already involved in. Or you may have to step up and lead company initiatives yourself. On a smaller scale you might choose to offer your time to train new employees on the systems and culture of the company. Ultimately seeing your daily job function as an act of service to others rather than just an act of work can dramatically change the way you see your work.

While it can be challenging to do, you need to be honest about the need your job is meeting in your life right now. Let me be clear: There’s no shame in keeping a job that wasn’t your first choice for a period of time in order to provide for yourself and your family and keep the lights on. When we’re honest with ourselves about the need for the role currently, it frees us up to uncover creative and purposeful fulfilment in other areas of our lives. Certain elements of your job may be overly dry and not too exciting, but it happens to be located 15 mins from home. Minimal commute time is time that can be used for other passions in life. From a financial perspective, your current salary and benefits compensation might not only help your family, but give you the extra capital needed to make an entrepreneurial move in the near future. Shark Tank mainstay Daymond John famously lived by this principle by keeping his job at Red Lobster while he built his first multimillion dollar business on the side. Not only did he provide for himself and save capital to start his venture, he also took several business principles he learned from the way Red Lobster operated their business on a financial level. In short: when you can be honest with yourself on the current benefits of your job, it makes it easier to contend with some of the more mundane moments of daily work.

No alt text provided for this image

Finally, do some homework and research stories about others who have either endured a long road to professional fulfilment or surprised themselves by thriving in a role they never thought they would. It would be crazy to assume that the people who feel the most fulfilled travelled a perfectly liner road to professional success. But we buy into that very idea in our social media culture that’s saturated with perfectionism content (To a degree, we’re all a little guilty of fueling this online). Deep down we all know that’s not reality, but we align our beliefs with the images and ideals we see the most. That’s why we must be diligent and intentional about finding and reading about what others endured over the the long journey to professional happiness.

The story of Jo Green exemplifies this. Currently in his 4th career, he’s worked in relocation, market research, fundraising for charities, and now is (naturally) a career change coach. “I felt like a square peg in a round hole in my previous roles and realized that I needed to take some time to understand more about myself, my interests, motivation and skills before moving into my next role. [Through the process] I realized I learned a lot through changing careers. I’m really interested in psychology and what makes people tick, and that I’d love to help other people to have a less stressful time than I did in finding meaningful work (quote from myadeal.com).“ When you uncover more stories like Jo’s, not only will you be inspired, but you’ll begin to realize there’s value in what you’re experiencing at your job right now. 

All the points above work best when founded on the principle of building relationships at work. Psychologically speaking we are wired for human connection. And the right type of relationships with our managers and coworkers can make even the most not so ideal career situations seem like the best job we’ve ever had. In his book The Accidental Creative, Todd Henry devotes an entire chapter to the concept of relationships. “Investing in healthy , thriving relationships yields long-term benefits for everyone involved and can be especially beneficial in allowing you to see the world from a new perspective , exposing you to unexpected creative insights and helping you stay inspired.” Its a two-fold benefit. Relationships at work give us the human social connection we need daily for personal mental well-ness and they can open doors to career opportunities we would never be aware of or think about. 

Thriving where we are right now is best initiated outside of isolation, and connecting with those we work with daily. This will then lead us to: Connect the dots between our passion and our present, Unlock a personal deeper purpose within the organization, Be honest about the need our current job is meeting in our life right now and Research stories about others who have either endured a long road to professional fulfilment. 

You got this! Jump in and begin to thrive where you are right now!

Leave a Comment

Private Jets

In 2015 I started a new position at another company. One of the requirements of the new role was to attend training in another city. This involved travelling on the private company jet.

I obviously couldn’t wait to savour that moment and tell everyone about it. It was one of those signature moments that happens only a few times in our careers and I wanted to make the most of it.

But the reality of the moment didn’t match my anticipation. The plane felt cramped travelling with my manager and another associate. The only food served were the few granola bars I had stashed in my carry-on. But that wasn’t the worse part.

Private jets typically fly at 50,000 feet in the air, whereas commercial airline planes on average fly at 35,000 feet. Why does this matter? Because the higher you ascend, the more severe case of ‘airplane ear’ you’ll get (the ear plugging sensation).

I probably had the worse case of airplane ear in the history of its diagnosisAnd it didn’t just stop when I got off the flight. My ears were still plugged while meeting new associates for the first time at the training facility. I was talking but had no clue as to what I was saying. I sounded like the adults in the Peanuts cartoons (whomp, whomp!).

Some things aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sometimes we’ll only find out by going through them. The tragedy occurs when instead of learning from it, we continue to chase experiences that have the appearance of success instead of success itself.

Leave a Comment

True Compensation

A few years back I left a company I had been working at for 10 years for another position elsewhere. Though it was a more of a lateral move, the base salary the new company offered was $27,000 more than my current pay.

I reviewed minor details like the expectations of the role, daily commute, and main benefits package. It was enough for me to make the move. It ended up being the worst career move I’ve ever made. Aside from being a toxic environment, I miss calculated my compensation offer.

A chunk of my base salary was put into a mandatory pension fund and I had 1 less week paid vacation . When all was said and done, my expected $27,000 ‘take home’ increase looked a lot less.

Compensation at times is challenging to calculate. While we focus on base pay and benefits as the main drivers for our decision, it’s easy to over look other areas such as: the working environment, company core values, potential future growth and sustainability. Even basic benefits like an opportunity to participate in a pension or matched RRSP plan, and negotiating vacation should all be considered.

In the end there shouldn’t be a price tag on our mental health and wellness. No amount of compensation should be accepted in exchange for it. Doing as much upfront research as possible on a company can help avoid this from happening.

Leave a Comment

Treat Yourself Mondays

A new survey by LinkedIn found that 80% of workplace professionals experience stress and anxiety that builds up on Sunday nights before the return of the work week, also known as the “Sunday Scaries.”

3 quick ways to combat these feelings when they arise are:

1. Take 10 minutes Sunday evening and write down the top 3-5 items, work or personal related, that you will accomplish on Monday. If work related issues are driving the biggest anxieties, create a quick action plan on how you’ll address them instead of just thinking about it.

2. Start winding down Sunday evening at a reasonable time. Listen to music, read inspirational articles or stimulating books. Remove every and anything that stimulates you in a negative way.

3. Treat for yourself on Monday. Wake up early and buy yourself breakfast or a fancy $10 coffee from Starbucks. Ultimately the idea is to give yourself give something to look forward to Monday morning.

Leave a Comment

Like LEGO, Be Yourself

In 2003 LEGO sales dropped 35% in the US and 29% worldwide, combining to be the biggest annual loss in the company’s history.

This was new territory for a company that saw generations success decade after decade. But how exactly did it happen?

Like many other business trying to stay ahead of their competition, the iconic toy brick manufacturer attempted to pivot into an untapped market. Problem was they pivoted wrong.

LEGO tried to innovate without researching or simply asking their faithful customer and fan base what they really wanted. This resulted in a product that was very un-LEGO like. Items that were mostly prebuilt and had minimal assembly factor.

LEGO eventually rebounded and has since experienced steady growing sales, leading to several full length feature films and other entertainment expansions like streaming tv series and gaming franchises.

All because LEGO returned to their roots of success. Which was relying on their proprietary brick building system as the foundation for new innovation.

The moral of the story? When others seem to be growing in new experiences, opportunities or innovation, don’t be afraid to continue being your authentic self personally or professionally. Especially when you’ve had success doing so.

Leave a Comment

More vs Efficient

Before many of us were mandated to work from home due to the global pandemic, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes already had driving operational efficiencies on their radar.

Remote work and lockdown closures has unlocked another layer to what efficiency looks like in our holistic daily lives.

Case in point, my home office has evolved into just more than a space I use to conduct business. It doubles as my home gym, coffee reading area, man-cave for movies and gaming, and a fully functional studio space.

Oh, and my wife operates her business in the same space too.

The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasized that more is the enemy of efficient. And the more efficient we can be in our whole lives, the more effective our impact will be in whatever we set out to do.

Leave a Comment

Community Enhances Creativity

Perfectionism loves isolation – Jon Acuff

One of my favourite short films to watch with my kids is the animated movie Burrow. It features a rabbit who has aspirations of creating a modest one room ‘burrow’ home for himself.

When he begins digging he realizes how pedestrian or simple his plans are in comparison to other elaborate homes by other animals. The others offer their assistance in expanding rabbit’s blue prints but he’s so embarrassed by his small, simple idea that he consistently declines.

That’s where the problems start. His zeal to do things on his own and not be open to even the smallest suggestions lead him into a world of trouble, and ultimately put the other animals homes at risk. Once they realize the approaching danger, they ban together to put a stop to it. With the help of the rabbit they’re eventually successful in avoiding disaster.

The film ends with the rabbit finally being open to getting help in creating his new home.

Sharing our ideas can sometimes be tricky but being in a creative community helps in two specific ways: Communities help us expand our ideas in ways we would never think and help us avoid repeating mistakes they’ve already made.

The problem with rabbit’s plans had nothing to do with the simplicity of it. The others in his community just wanted to use their expertise to ensure it was as functional as he needed and wanted it to be.

Leave a Comment