by Jonas Altman, author of “Shapers: Reinvent the Way You Work and Change the Future“
He was the mastermind that helped sell 72,000 units of Beyonce’s Heat perfume in an hour. This was back in 2010 and the man behind the scenes working his magic was Marcus Collins. Today, he’s an executive at a Motor City advertising firm and a marketing professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business where he teaches a new generation about social engagement.
Collins is a better academic because he’s a practitioner and vice versa. The thread that ties his careers together is in an unrelenting curiosity and desire to understand people. ‘All I want is dopeness,’ is what Collins says when I ask about his unrelenting drive.
Whether gracing the stage at conferences, scooping up advertising awards, supporting students, raising his kid, completing his doctorate, or helping out his church, pursuing dopeness is the guiding principle for his life.
Achieving ‘dopeness’ is really an age-old idea dating back to Aristotle’s eudaimonia. Loosely translating to human flourishing, eudaimon is all about living in good spirits. It can extend to your higher self by achieving your unique potential. And it also entails persevering in the face of adversity.
Likewise, dopeness can be realised through small gains and the commitment to continuously learn, practice, and improve. There may be countless posts touting how to hack your way there, but the real question lies in whether you’ll show up and do The Work. For many, the answer is an unequivocal yes–the key to living well comes when it’s virtuously earned.
If we’re really serious about pursuing excellence, we need to put an end to the God-awful habit of multitasking. It’s proven to make us less efficient. We fool ourselves into believing we’re doing many things simultaneously when in reality we’re just switching between tasks super-fast. We’re fracturing our attention because we’re still thinking of the previous task when we embark on the new one. This is precisely why we do well to work in deep focussed intervals, just as athletes train.
A Lab for Self-Development.
‘A classroom where we’re always growing to be better,’ is what Collins replied when I pressed him for his vision for the future of work.
The opportunities to indulge our curiosity in work have never been greater. There are so many ways to integrate our hopes and dreams into our working lives. The trick, it seems, is to see work as a deliberate practice on which to improve. And this means rocking steady with doing the work that matters while staying open to new possibilities and better ways to show up in the world. The dopeness will emerge.
Bad managers can be a drag. So too can disenchanted colleagues that relish moaning about work. So if we really want to be engaged at work, we’ll need to start with ourselves. With over 175 cognitive biases at play, your own story of your place in the world is inherently skewed by how you choose to see things. Yet what never waivers is this: when you’re cognizant that your work matters and happily engaged in what you do, you perform better. Ultimately, you decide how you feel about your work. The possibilities of work, the sorrows and joys, are psychological.
When you’re connected to your work, instead of saying ‘I have to go to work’, you say ‘I get to go to work’. Your family, friends, and colleagues all take notice. When you are hardwired to operate from this genuine place of purpose, it has a glowing butterfly effect. That inner smirk manifests as an outer beam. Envious onlookers want some of what you’re having.
A Quality Only You Control.
Reinventing work so it celebrates the human spirit won’t happen overnight. It’ll likely happen only for some, over time, and probably through small wins. We work for both intrinsic and instrumental rewards, but it’s internal motivations that have the greatest impact on performance. Without the agency to control our work, the feelings of progress will remain illusory.
In the early 1980s, management oracle Charles Handy predicated that work would become more bitty and fractured. His portfolio worker–a lifestyle choice that is now the norm–has led to an endless array of personalised life paths. While it may be a luxury to make a living as an organic Kombucha brewer serving hot yoga patrons, there is no shame in contemplating meaning in work.
When having five different careers in a lifetime is now standard, the road once less travelled is now bumper to bumper. Pursuers of dopeness are in effect system designers, seeking to mix and remix the pieces of an endless work puzzle. They retrofit their work so as to make it more compatible with their unique passions, strengths, and values.
To be and work at your best, take a step back to reveal whether you have autonomy, find what you do meaningful, have the opportunity to continually learn, and enjoy who you work with.
With the continued rise of the global independent workforce, shaping your career in real-time will be necessary to keep yourself fueled. The challenge becomes knowing precisely how. Whether inside or outside the company, shaping a meaningful working life is an evolutionary practice. It’s through this struggle that the rewards come. And like Marcus Collins, the degree to which you shape your work and expand yourself is something only you control.
*excerpted from “Shapers: Reinvent the Way You Work and Change the Future“
Jonas Altman is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur on a mission to make the world of work more human. As the founder of award-winning design practice Social Fabric, he creates learning experiences to elevate and grow leaders at the world’s boldest organizations. He is author of “Shapers: Reinvent the Way You Work and Change the Future“.