Wednesday, 30 April 2008

vocationeering (redux)

Just a short post today. I received some feedback from James, a new reader in London, about the dictionary definitions for the word vocation contained in an earlier post. James pointed out that the word vocation also describes a calling or compulsion to follow a particular work/life path, and that it can be used in the religious sense. It is therefore important to make the distinction that, in the context of vocationeering, a vocation is best described as below:

vocation: an occupation for which a person is suited, trained or qualified (

Thanks again to James for making this important point. It highlights how easy it is for messages to become mixed but, more importantly in the context of work/life fusion, it also highlights the way a hypothesis can be challenged and, if the test is withstood, become stronger as a result.

Here's to more feedback as time goes on!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

work/life fusion, perspective and perception

In the previous post, the example of becoming a doctor was used to illustrate how forming a hypothesis based on a fusion of values, talents and goals, offers a real-world testing platform for your career decision making (or, if you have also read an earlier post, your vocationeering).

It is important to stress at this point the importance of gathering external perspectives as part of this process. The way that you define success becomes far more compelling if there is practical, robust reasoning behind it that can be easily explained and understood.

The working experience is littered with self-definitions that are significantly challenged by market experience and/or external opinion. Aspiring to become a CEO and failing to make the grade can be seen as bad luck but in some cases it can also be viewed as external perception being out of step with personal goals and/or beliefs.

Thankfully, the work/life fusion message is not a negative one that suggests that our aspirant CEO should give up. The reality is far more positive because fusion offers such an individual the means to test his/her market feedback, identify any gaps and suggest a graduated path towards qualification. In addition to this, because there is now a closer match between personal and external perspectives, our subject has a better chance when it comes to the discovery and effective management of opportunity situations along the way.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Test, re-test and test again

Earlier posts in this blog have suggested that balancing is a difficult act, especially when it is applied to interpreting the complex commitments and priorities of work and life. In this post we'll leave aside the high-wire act (and the long fall to the ground associated with it) but it is worth re-asserting that the constant need to assess and re-assess in order to find balance is a short-term, inward looking activity that doesn't lend itself well to objectifying success and satisfaction any real distance into the future.

As suggested in previous posts, basing your work/life choices on a greater understanding of personal values, talents and goals offers the ability to analyse and plan without built-in opposition or conflict but, an important question to address in recap is: How do you know that you are on the right path?

The answer is of course different for each individual but the personalised building blocks of values, talents & goals allow you to frame an educated hypothesis and to test it going forward. Once you have a direction that withstands preliminary testing you can test it again and again and not just in theory, in practice as well.

Challenging the fusion hypothesis from another angle, you may well ask how the need to test and re-test can be any more productive than the endless search for balance? Aren't you just swamping yourself again in an endless cycle of frequent, time-sapping adjustments?

There is of course no escape from difficult decisions but the critical difference is that fusion allows you to look and test way into the future and your activity is far more illustrative as a result.

Using the medical profession as an example, if I want to become a doctor I need to get qualified. I am also helping myself if I get familiar with the practical issues around becoming a doctor (additional years at school, long-hours, low wages at first, the sight of blood and weight of expectation placed on my judgement). I can ask myself if these factors (and a host of others) make me more interested or put me off wanting to be a doctor. Even if I eventually decide against becoming a doctor, I have learned some important lessons that have a practical use in shaping my new career direction. Whatever I end up deciding, my new career-hypothesis is an even more educated one as a result of my findings.

Can you do the same if your focus is finding balance? The answer to that question is up for debate!

Friday, 25 April 2008


Continuing a fondness for dictionary style definitions, there are a couple more on offer in this post. It should be noted that only one can currently be found in the dictionary. Can you guess which?

vocation: a call or sense of fitness for and obligation to follow a particular career (New English Dictionary, Editor: Ernest A. Baker, Published: 1932)

and a newer interpretation,

vocation: an occupation for which a person is suited, trained or qualified (, Editors: Many, Published: Current/Present Day)

The definitions are interesting but the notion of a vocation is what really interests me. Thinking about the organised Career Advice and Guidance available for most of us at school, college and in work (via HR, appraisal, etc.), it begs the question why the majority do not use the word vocation. Is the concept that a career can become a vocation that difficult to discuss?

Taking the notion forward a little, wouldn't a better name for Career Counselling or Career Advice and Guidance (as it is called in the UK) be Vocation Counselling or Vocation Advice and Guidance?

Admittedly, a Vocation Counsellor has a far harder task than a traditional Careers Advisor but, when we have sat down with our advisors in this field in the past, are some of us looking for the professional to play a part in the conceptual stages of our career decision making? To help us understand what is out there and how we might achieve it?

Taking a step back, some might view the role of Vocation Counsellor as a quick route to disappointment in the majority of cases but, is it really disappointing an individual to tell them that some career choices require a greater degree of application than others?

Growing up in the 70s and 80s some kids dreamed about being astronauts. Most astronauts were/are either the best of the best in the armed forces or holders of advanced degrees in astro-physics, mathematics and other related disciplines. Explaining this as a Vocation Counsellor may not be the easiest of conversations but what it definitely does, is enable that individual to understand what an informed choice looks like.

To be an astronaut I have to study. Most successful astronauts have advanced their study in the following directions. I am looking at a minimum of 10-15 more years at school and in training. Does the prospect still appeal? Can I leave my meeting with my Vocation Counsellor with a new knowledge of the important questions and the preliminary qualifying steps I need to take?

I have a new word and a new definition that applies here and may help the debate to move along,

vocationeering: engineering the likelihood of your vocation being found. The process of steadily moving towards your vocation

and what, at this time, might offer the best chance for a vocationeer's success?

work/life fusion: understanding an individual's values, talents and goals and applying them to the pursuit of personal success

It's arguable but that's the point.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Is fusion all work, work, work?

I know that it's only three posts old but looking at the content of this blog so far a reader may wonder whether there is indeed any life amongst a seeming predominance of work. The answer is that there is more to life for me now than at any other time in my career and, rightly or wrongly, I am attributing this to fusion and the removal of the need to constantly check for balance.

In the traditional relationship between an individual and work (and this won't apply to those of you who have already found your vocation) there can be certain advantages to separating your work and your personal life.

Many of us have colleagues (past and present) whose interests outside of work have pleasantly surprised us. In most cases, we are not surprised because these friends have interests in extreme sports or Japanese sub-culture, we are surprised because the individual's personality at work gave us so little by way of clues.

The same relief that you feel when your interests are no longer completely hidden from view might be a taste what work/life fusion has the potential to deliver. Where your values, interests and ambition are increasingly represented in your profession, you are closing in on your vocation and a lasting, individual definition of success.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Why we often struggle to balance

Balancing is a difficult act. The dictionary offers many definitions for the word balance but most of them suggest a constant state of adjustment and re-adjustment. Long past its golden period of media attention and hero-worship, for me the high-wire act is the picture that comes to mind when I think about balancing.

Sometimes difficult to watch, especially when the tightrope is strung between tall buildings or over a canyon, the high-wire artist is continually correcting the distribution of their weight while moving steadily forward. The high-wire act appears to be a perfect illustration of balance but is it more accurately viewed as the perfect execution of focus? There may be many aspects to it but, arguably, the focus point that best defines success for the artist is making it across the rope or wire.

When it comes to balancing concepts as abstract as work and life, the challenge is an even harder one. Unlike the tightrope walker, the single objective is not so clear. Even when a good balance can be found between the commitments of work and life, it is hard to make it a lasting one. Something always changes and the balancing act begins again.

Like the tightrope walker, perhaps the best chance of success is offered by identifying a more central point of focus. With a unified focus offering a clearer definition of success, developing our skills and acquiring the knowledge and ability to achieve a certain goal becomes a simpler planning objective.

Learning and focus may offer us a more fundamental assurance, supporting the view that we are heading in the right direction. This view, because of its veracity, would also be harder to unsettle, regardless of what was encountered along the way. Naturally, change will still need to be faced and adjustments made but, equipped with an understanding that is not based on the balancing of opposing forces, a clearer definition of personal success can be the result.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


Hello and welcome to the first post on this new blog! I am completely new to posting (and hosting for that matter!) but have enjoyed reading blogs so much that I felt compelled to join in and start writing.

There is plenty to be found on the web already under the headings of work, career and job satisfaction but the writing and opinion pieces I find most interesting are something of a minority view at this time. The title of this blog reflects just one of the differences that is part of a new discussion and approach in this area. To start, I'll offer up a couple of definitions:

work/life fusion: understanding an individual's values, talents and goals and applying them to the pursuit of personal success.

and for all of us who aren't nuclear physicists

fusion: when two or more things join or combine.

The work/life fusion concept grew from a closer study of the work/life balance principle. In my current and previous professions, work/life balance has been a very useful, often laudable principle but, on closer examination, there may be a fundamental flaw in its reasoning.

Work/life balance separates 'work' and, for want of a better phrase, 'non-work'. Having made this separation work/life balance then sets us forward in a continual struggle to equalise the two. The fusion hypothesis argues that, in doing this, work/life balance essentially creates opposition. It goes on to suggest that where such an opposition is used to support reasoning, it can lead to one side feeling compromised or suppressed, especially at moments of critical decision (e.g. promotion, relocation, career change and so on). 

Regardless of how much we would like it to happen, we can't send someone else to work in our place and, because you are the same person who leaves the house in the morning and returns home later that day, work/life fusion looks at the individual in the singular, the individual as a whole.

In taking this approach, work/life fusion suggests that all of our individual priorities (decisions, behaviours, motivations, rewards and actions) can be interpreted using the same set of values. It also argues that when this set of values is trained and tested (i.e. underpinned by a greater degree of outward and inward knowledge, reliance and direction) the resulting change in our relationship with work can edge us all closer to a vocation and/or closer to our individual definitions of work/life success.

With the voices of those who comment playing a central role, this blog is intended to apply, explore, test, gather feedback, perspective and opinion on this subject and find out if work/life balance deserves further criticism and if work/life fusion can evolve into something that has genuine relevance to job seekers, employees and employers, today and into the future.

It is up to us, and by 'us' I mean anyone with an opinion (contrary or otherwise), to ask questions and to get the ball rolling. Please feel free to submit general comments or any specific work/career/balance related questions or issues. I will post more on the subject as regularly as possible and look forward to the conversations unfolding.

Here's to success in all our endeavours!