BY Michael Fleming

DATE: 16 JAN 2013


“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy, on the journey towards the goal we’ve established for ourselves” (Earl Nightingale)

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Being “fully engaged” in “work you enjoy” and all as part of a “journey towards [your goals]”.  But how to achieve that?  Well……

Towards the end of 2012 I decided that it was the right time to take a stand back and review where I’ve got to and where I want to go in my professional career and more generally in my life.  Mid life crisis?   Perhaps – I turned 45 last year and distinctly remember my wife telling me at one point that I need to stop getting my hair cut short and put less gel in it “now that it’s rather more grey” (ouch!)  Perhaps it was just the right time for this – six years have now passed since I left my position as an equity partner and co-head of the litigation department at a commercial law firm and embarked on my new career in learning, development, training, coaching and speaking.  Or perhaps it’s just that the weather on the west coast of Scotland wasn’t exactly the best over the festive period so my outdoor activities were curtailed and there was more time for reading some inspirational books which got me thinking.

Anyway, I thought I’d mention a couple of books that I found useful in undertaking my personal review – just in case any of you fancied having a shot at something similar.  And I might even brave a little insight into what the exercise revealed for me.

“The Passion Test” by Chris and Janet Bray Attwood.  It’s a bit American (apologies to my American law firm contacts!) and rather gushing in its style but if you can live with that then you might find some of its approaches useful.  It forces you to visualise how your ideal career and life would look and to write down all the thoughts that occur to you.  And it helps you to work out what things you are really genuinely passionate about.  In one way of course that’s the easy bit.  You then have to work out how to shape your career and your life so that you are actually doing the things that you are passionate about and living the life that ideally you would like to live!

“Get a Life” by Nicholas Bate is also I think worth a look.  More British in its feel, and very practical.  It uses a fairly standard compass type approach – pushing you to examine your life and career and what you want from it under six headings: career; mind/body; finance; relationships; fun; contribution.  Again you are pushed to force yourself to spend time thinking about each of these areas and to write down whatever comes into your head in answer to some specific questions.  And it gives you really useful, practical advice about a variety of techniques to help you do this effectively – mind mapping, visualisation, data deprivation – to name but a few.

“How will you measure your life” by Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School is definitely the most business like and least weird one and definitely worth a read.  Christensen is at pains to point out that he doesn’t offer any quick fixes and he doesn’t think that he has all the answers.  Rather, by reference to research by Harvard and other Universities, he sets out a series of business theories on what causes things to happen and why.  You get a fascinating insight into some of the challenges and successes of corporate giants like Dell and Honda.  And then Christensen guides you to apply the theories to various aspects of your career and life.  An interesting approach.

One of the most enlightening questions that I spent some time on during this whole exercise was the stunningly simple one - “If you didn’t have to work to earn money, how would you spend your time?”  I spent a fair bit of time on this. And my answers of course included, as you’d expect, being able to spend more time with my wife and children and having more time to pursue and enjoy my various hobbies (which at the moment range from re-furbishing my aging motorbike to learning how to operate all the complex computer systems required to fly a Boeing 737 on Microsoft’s wonderful flightsim software).  But the wonderful thing for me was the regularly recurring theme that actually I’d definitely want to keep doing large amounts of what I am doing right now in my career – learning all the time, and then sharing with others what I think are the most useful bits of the stuff I’ve learned and that I am sure will actually help them to improve – whether that be in delivering a brilliant presentation to clients, in their business development activity so they can generate more business for their firm or winning that really important pitch for a huge panel appointment.

So, while there is always some tweeking to be done, and I will be working on various aspects of my life throughout the coming year, I am one very lucky guy.  Why?  Because on the career front actually for the vast majority of my working life I am now doing something about which I am truly passionate, that I enjoy and that makes me happy.  I really did enjoy a lot of what was entailed in being a partner in a law firm.  But, if I’m honest, there were large parts of it that I really didn’t enjoy.  And I definitely didn’t have the same passion for it that I have for what I do now.

If you don’t feel happy and passionate about your work/career (or indeed any other important aspect of your life) at the moment then why don’t you stick in an Amazon order and have a shot at a variety of techniques that just might help you to sort this out.  Life really is too short so - what are you waiting for?

Good luck!


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about the author

Michael Fleming is our Head of KWC Legal. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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