The following are approximately the first 1000 words from Chapter 6 of Jonar Nader’s book,
How to Lose Friends and Infuriate Your Boss.
Looking into the seeds of time:
You can’t reap what you can’t sow.
Shakespeare wrote, ‘If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me…’
Can you look into your own situation and know where your future will take you? This is difficult. It is for this reason that you are better off focussing on planting the right seeds and nurturing them.
During some of my lectures, I hand out seeds and ask students to tell me what those seeds will produce. They could be holding seeds from which will grow the most intricate of flowers, or the most marvellous of vegetables. No-one is able to tell me, because most seeds look the same. They are brown, hard, small, unattractive, and offer no clues whatsoever about what will spring from them. Even if cut in half, there is no way of seeing the miracles of creation. Deep within the cells reside incomprehensible codes that untangle to unite with the soil, sun, and rain to produce profound beauty. Each seed has an inbuilt reproductive system so complex that it can humble anyone who ponders the intricacy and miracle of life.
The garden of Eden
Each of us carries an assortment of seeds — whether inherited or acquired. All the seeds look the same, so the challenge is to know which to nurture and which to discard. These seeds are sometimes called opportunities, skills, talent, attitude, luck, or fortune. In the style of Vollenweider’s poetry, I maintain that if we harbour seeds of doubt, we will grow vines of confusion. If we endure seeds of tears, we will contend with leaves of loneliness. If we cultivate seeds of compassion, we will raise trees of love. If we develop seeds of understanding, we will produce fruits of forgiveness. If we foster seeds of tenderness, we will sprout flowers of laughter. If we nurture seeds of calmness, gardens of joy will flourish.
So it is with our careers. What we sow today will determine what we can reap tomorrow. Therefore, those who are confused about their careers can easily determine what their future will bring, simply by looking at what they harbour, what they foster, and what they nurture. Take a close look at your life and observe what you tolerate and what you cherish. Observe what you find agreeable and what you find permissible. That which you allow into your life will set the foundation for your future. This means that if you allow energy-sappers into your life, you can be certain of a depleted future. If you accept mediocrity, you can be certain of misfortune. If selfishness is your disease, you will contend with emptiness.
Mission improbable; vision impractical
Many people do not understand what it means to have a mission. A mission is a set of activities that you must accomplish if you are to reach your goal. So start by deciding what you want, then reverse engineer your strategy so that you can determine which seeds you need to accumulate. Never mind trying to dictate how the seeds will grow, because you cannot control the laws of nature. Do not tamper with nature. Instead, learn its laws. For example, if you inject hatred, you will see devastation. If you inject laziness, you will see death.
Your most urgent task is to focus on what you are doing right now. How well did you perform today? How hard did you work? How much love did you inject into your craft? Did you try to cheat anyone?
People fumble when they go in search of that which cannot be found, and when they seek to turn into that which they cannot become. For example, a chef who wants a cake does not set about to become the cake. Furthermore, the chef does not go in search of the cake. Instead, the chef sets about acquiring the right ingredients in order to bake a cake.
This means that when you can see what you want for yourself, you cannot attain it by looking for it because ‘it’ does not exist — you have to build it. This is what is meant by building your career. (By the way, what you ‘see’ becomes your vision, and what you must ‘do’ becomes your mission.)
The first step in any mission is to acquire the appropriate ingredients. These might include knowledge, awareness, attitude, and other soft and hard skills. The second step would be to learn how to combine them. The third step would be to build the stamina to be able to physically unite them in the right proportions so that they blend harmoniously.
This is not as easy as it sounds. In the case of baking a cake, almost every household has the ingredients, yet few would know how to mix them. Although their pantry contains flour, sugar, eggs, and butter, and even though they all have an oven, few are able to bake a mouth-watering chocolate gâteau. So it is with careers. Most people have the ingredients. Sadly, the possession of ingredients is not sufficient to cook up a storm. It requires knowledge and timing.
It is important to learn about the general ingredients you need for success. Set about acquiring them, and learn how to combine them, and build the stamina to be able to undertake any arduous task. Here you will need persistence and tenacity.
The worst thing that disgruntled employees can do is to ‘work to rule’ (whereby they do only what is required of them, and nothing more). Being on a ‘go slow’ is self-damaging. It would be like refusing to undertake your exercise program just because you do not like the gym instructor. Many resilient prisoners maintain their exercise regime while in captivity. If they refuse to train simply because they do not like the prison and its wardens, or because they feel that they were incarcerated unjustly, they would only be harming themselves.
You need to keep up your personal development program no matter what you think of your boss or the organisation. Whether your boss deserves it or not, you need to maintain your momentum so that you do not slow down. By the time you have built the right attitude, aptitude, and acuity, you will be in a comfortable position to design and build any career you choose — much like a chef can use handy ingredients to make different delicious four-course meals any night of the week. Combining talent and energy to create your own opportunities is more important than lusting over one job. It is better to learn how to cook, than to master one recipe.