I always dreaded being asked ‘so what do you want to do when you grow up?’ My answer would always vary depending on who was asking the question – my unimaginative responses varied from ‘News Reader, Astronaut, Inventor, Designer, Scientist and Lawyer’. The idea of being a lawyer stuck and I found myself at University studying Law and a year later, I was at Law School (more on that journey here).
That was all a long time ago and my ‘almost career’ in law is a distant memory. My career journey has taken different paths over the years; the consistent theme being working with people – in the human resources arena, with roles ranging from Specialist, Consultant Facilitator and Coach.
At the heart of my career journey, what I have always longed for was to do ‘work’ were I was able to bring my Whole Self, a space where there was an invitation to engage beneath the day-to-day façade.
At the end of 2009, I decided to embark on a freelance career. Whilst I had enjoyed organizational life and my career path, I often got frustrated with navigating the ‘workplace façade’. I felt my passion for working with people gradually evaporating. My work no longer seemed to be about people, but about ‘dehumanized resources’. It felt unsafe to be authentic at work, and in order to succeed in the workplace, the survival game had to be played – Not playing meant exclusion!
During that whole period, I was coming across a number of people in a variety of professions who simply saw work as a means to an end. I wanted more, I wanted to enjoy the ‘means’. I wanted to feel passion when it came to work. I wanted to do work that explored the intangible, I wanted to do work where people were willing to be courageous, by being vulnerable and explore the Life issues that really mattered… and so a new chapter began.
The work that I have been doing with gay men, through The Quest, over the past 10 months has been amazing; it’s all about investigating and exploring what’s beneath the surface – all done with a view to cultivating an authentic future path. Using the word ‘work’ does not do it justice, as very often it feels like play – passion! Initially I had thought that perhaps I felt this sense of passion because it was work that ignited my own journey as a gay man. And whilst there is some truth in that, I discovered recently that there was more to it than that.
I recently got an assignment to run a workshop for managers in a public sector organization. As I worked on the design for the session, I remember feeling slightly anxious, particularly around the old perceptions that I had developed about organizational life. Even though I had done a number of organizational assignments since going freelance, this felt different. I felt different. The workshop was due to take place within the same period as the Weekend Exploration workshop for gay men that I co-facilitate and I wanted to be the ‘same person’ when I delivered both sessions – I wanted to deliver the sessions with the same level of passion and congruence.
In designing the session, I therefore decided to apply the essence of the work I have been doing with The Quest – exploring beneath the layers and engaging the Whole Self. This approach was very different from when I had run the same session for managers in my organizational life. In those designs, the approach was very much to engage the head… this time, I wanted to engage the head and the heart.
The workshop came and went, I remember beaming as I sat on the train going home. I had indeed brought ‘passion to the work’ and enjoyed every single second of delivering the session. As we explored beneath the façade and the intangibles around people management, we dived into a number of themes – being authentic at work, trust, uncertainty, humanization of the workplace. Setting the intention to bring my authentic Whole Self to the room had meant that I was able to be at my best. I was chuffed when a participant came up after the session and said ‘that was the best workplace course I have ever been on!’
What I came to learn from designing and delivering that session is that for so long I had been ‘looking for passion in the work that I do’. That was a futile approach, full of a lifetime of disappointment – passion cannot be found at work. Instead, I needed to ‘bring passion to the work that I do’. For if I bring passion, it stands to reason that I will find passion….. regardless of whether it is working with gay men, or another group of people.