Imagine this scenario: You’re a young gun, hired by Hot, Trendy, Innovative Company, Inc., a big international company with a powerful reputation. People who work for this company are revered and respected in the space. You join with your youthful idealism and begin working your way up the corporate ladder.
A few years later, you stumble across information that the company engaged in some improper financial accounting. Now you’re pondering what your proper course of action should be: Report the bad behavior and risk career reprisals, or forget you saw this and leave the decision for someone else. Do you think your course of action would be influenced if you had a Hot, Trendy, Innovative Company, Inc. logo on your forearm?
I bet it would. Because to get that ink, you’d have to have made your association with that company a huge component of your self-identity. Once you would subconsciously seek to protect.
We’re continuing our series about how beliefs in different categories can hold you back. Last post we looked at your beliefs about health and wellness. Now let’s study the prevalent mind viruses and the beliefs they create about career and work.
Earlier I told you that every time you assign a label to yourself, you’re creating an identity you will feel the need to justify, thereby lowering your intelligence. I would add that when the label you’re assigning yourself is your job or title, this is likely a sign of low self-esteem or misplaced priorities.
The main memes and their related beliefs to beware of in the Career/Work category are:
Identifying yourself by your occupation is similar to feeling you need a partner to make yourself whole. Think of the people whose primary identity is as a parent or spouse to a famous person. That’s an incomplete, superficial self-identity that rarely ends well. Defining yourself by a title is a very limiting way to view yourself. If you see yourself as an accountant, physician, attorney, etc. – who are you if you lose your license or accreditation for some reason? (Full disclosure: That last sentence written by someone who fiercely identifies himself as a writer.) Work should be something you do – not who you are.
Let’s unpack the second belief, that companies must engage in malevolent behavior in order to be successful…
As I’m writing this, we’re in the process of the next presidential election in the U.S. As is always the case, there’s lots of talk about millionaires and billionaires, and you can imagine the type of inferences these conversations contain. Also lots of talk about companies and how much they pay in taxes. The current target of attack is Amazon, which allegedly earned a $2.5 billion profit and paid zero in taxes. Amazon makes for an easy villain here. But if we look at the issue mindfully, things are a little more complex.
Amazon takes advantage of many tax credits for investing for the future. Many of those tax breaks were created expressly for the purpose of encouraging companies to stay relevant by investing for the future, and Amazon has done that magnificently The company is providing jobs to 300,000 people. That’s a lot of paychecks that taxes are coming out of, and a profound ripple effect to the economy in general. It's safe to assume they pay massive amounts of sales, state, and real estate taxes. To suggest that they are a zero-sum contributor to government coffers isn’t a rational argument.
Now, having said that…
Is the U.S. tax code fair? I certainly don’t think so. And evidence shows the last tax cut benefited the wealthiest people and companies disproportionally better than lower income Americans, so the disparity is getting worse. Still I didn’t send in any extra income tax and I bet you didn’t either. So why blame Amazon for taking advantage of every lawful tax break they are entitled to – just as you and I did?
If you want to rewrite the tax code, great. Want to donate more money to charity, great. But don’t make Jeff Bezos the villain. He’s doing his job as CEO to provide a return on investment for his investors. (Many who stood by and believed in the company in the early years when it was losing millions and millions of dollars.)
We can agree that the tax system needs reform without coming to the conclusion that companies must rape, pillage and plunder in order to be successful. Because the latter belief doesn’t serve you.
There are many proponents of conscious capitalism who demonstrate that it is possible to become a successful company and still serve your customers, employees and the environment in general. You can argue that more companies choose the short cuts, but that doesn’t invalidate the premise.
If you believe that companies have to be bad actors to become successful, you’re even more likely to fall into the next limiting belief, that you must choose between your family or a career. (Or that to choose a career requires you to be a bad parent.)
Rather than spend more time than necessary on this, let’s keep it simple. There are stay-at-home parents who are mentally or physically abusive to their children, and there are people with stellar careers who are model parents. Whether or not you work a job, or what job you do work, are not the defining criteria for being a good parent. The criterion is good parenting.
Now that you are aware of the beliefs you want to avoid or reprogram, let’s look at some beliefs that are more empowering for you…
Not everyone enjoys a job that is considered to be for the greater good (teaching school, nursing, researching a cure for cancer, etc.). If Julio works in a lab studying DNA in an attempt to prevent multiple sclerosis, and Ben works at a car wash, does that make Julio a better person? Not in the least. Because your occupation doesn’t determine your value as a human being.
Earning more money will not increase your self-worth. The way in which you earn money, the actual service and value you create with your work, has a much stronger effect on how you view yourself. Having a more “prestigious” title won’t make you a better person either. Earnings and occupational titles have no more bearing on your attributes as a person than a car’s color does to its ability to go faster. Even the cancer researchers need someone to drive the buses, harvest the oranges, and install the streetlights. If you do your work honestly and provide the value you are hired to do, you’re contributing to a prosperous equation.
Some people are able to find a career that they are passionate about, it helps the greater good, and it allows them to become wealthy. Others do work they’re passionate about and the financial rewards are not there. Yet other people do work that provides tremendous financial reward, but they’re not passionate about it.
You might choose to be a schoolteacher knowing it doesn’t have as high a financial upside as a stockbroker but are at peace with that reality. Or you might choose to be a stockbroker, amass a fortune, and then finance schools in the third world. Recognize that your job, title, or occupation won’t determine if you are an enlightened human being or whether or not you live a prosperous life.
An empowering belief to live by is that no matter what your job or career is, you can choose a path of enlightenment and prosperity. And you do that by how you actually live your life, the habits you create and the choices you make, on a daily basis.
Here’s one more belief I suggest that you adopt…
You don’t discover your assignment in life. Your assignment discovers you, provided you are mindful enough to notice. And the universe won’t provide you your next assignment until you are over-qualified for your current one. So if you set the intention to live each day with curiosity and wonder, seek harmony and enlightenment, and commit to growth and learning, you’ll find interesting and fulfilling work to match your progress on the journey.
Thoughts, comments, questions, trolling? Please check in below.