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What Is a Successful Career?
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.

I think success is about finding your own special spark and carrying it over to a career that sets you on fire and makes a difference in the lives of others.What’s your notion of a successful career? Money? A corner office? Status? Reaching the top? Serving others and feeling your life has meaning? In this day and age, we sometimes think we’re lucky just to have a job. Of course, you may believe success depends on your age, your expertise, where you are in life, your values and your needs. I’m not sure that’s completely true. Your career is a retrospective composite of different jobs, different organizations, different industries and perhaps different professions. I think success is about finding your own special spark and carrying it over to a career that sets you on fire and makes a difference in the lives of others. It’s about following whatever gives you life and energizes you.

Dr. Peter Benson, the late President and CEO of Search Institute, talked about the importance of finding the “sparks” in children. I believe it’s just as important to find your own spark and let it guide your career choices. Your spark may be your talent and skills, whether it’s writing, researching, healing or language. Or, your career may be designed around a commitment to something – social justice, education, eradicating hunger, or athletics. Or it may be qualities such as empathy, kindness, listening, or helping others. Any of these can provide your Northstar for career decisions. Dr. Benson claimed that sparks come from the inside – our spirit. What‘s your spark? Can you name and claim your spark?

The creators of Holstee, a New York clothing brand, ignited their spark and millions of others when they wrote a “Live Your Dreams” mission statement for their fledging start-up after quitting their day jobs. Holstee’s co-founders, Fabian Pfortmüller and brothers Mike and Dave Radparvar, were as surprised as anyone that their mission statement, once hidden on a back page of their website, resonated so strongly with so many people. Through avenues of social media, the Holstee Company’s Manifesto has been viewed over 80,000,000 times and still counting. Why have their words caught the imagination of millions? What kind of powerful messages do they contain?


The text on the Holstee poster reads, “This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don't like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over analyzing, life is simple. All emotions are beautiful. When you eat, appreciate every last bite. Open your mind, arms, and heart to new things and people. We are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is, and share your inspiring dream with them. Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself. Some opportunities only come once, seize them. Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them, so go out and start creating. Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”

Words and ideas change lives. The Holstee Manifesto is a clarion call toward self-discovery of our most precious principals. Their Manifesto is a filter. It asks that we look to the truth about our inner selves, our dreams, our passions, and our spirits. It kindles our sparks. And, these sparks are the bedrock of successful careers.

“You know, it really isn’t about money these days,” a Baby Boomer, Art Director wrote me recently. “I don’t care much about titles and status anymore. To have the respect and trust from my peers, and have the opportunity to fashion something meaningful and useful with my hands and my heart would be a wonderful thing for me at this point in my life. Within the last three years, I’ve “folded my career” twice before landing (with so much hope and excitement at the time) in my current position, so in a weird kind of way, I’m emotionally prepared as ever to secure the career that I can joyfully “hold” onto moving forward.” The message is clear that having meaningful work resonated strongly within his head, his heart and his talents. It became an imperative for him – more important than titles, money or status.

Does Your Work Matter?

I’m inspired and constantly energized by the thousands of people I have met over the years working for hundreds of organizations committed to making the world a better place. When people work in a culture where they are part of something larger than themselves – something that improves the lives of others, they tend to become highly engaged and passionate about their work. Look around.

Passion, support, and opportunity will fuel your career. Dr. Peter Benson’s “Thriving Formula” to ignite an explosive career was the combination of spark with three spark champions or mentors and the opportunity to put them all together. This formula is essential to allow you to break the bonds holding you back and blast off your career to new heights.

  • Do you know your spark?
  • Can you talk powerfully about it
  • Do you have three or more Spark Champions?
  • Are you working in a place that gives you easy opportunity to ignite your spark?

You’re on your way when you have mentors to guide you, admire your spark and give your spark feedback, and support. And most fundamentally, be sure your current work presents you with the opportunity to use your spark and make meaningful contributions. If not, it may be time to move laterally, upward, downward or elsewhere. Start getting to know your spark.

Find your special spark and develop a career that sets you on fire. Sparks are about talent and skills, whether it’s writing, researching, healing, language, just so long as it’s a commitment to something. A good example of Spark is set out in the Holstee Manifesto, a call for self-discovery of our most precious principals. Passion, support, and opportunity fuel careers. Answer five questions to find out where you are in your career.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is Founder and President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Baylor Health Care, Brown Forman, Northrop Grumman, Reebok, Bayer, Sprint, Sodexo, Sandia National Labs, and CapitalOne. MasteryWorks, Inc., provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, e-Learning, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate fifteen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career development, “Who’s Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. She is the leading authority of strategic approaches which consistently deliver employee engagement and retention goals for her clients.

For more information, contact Tom Karl, Vice President, or call us at (703) 256-5712.

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