Friday, 22 May 2009

Me, We

“Me, We.” might just be the world’s shortest poem.

The story of its origins are legend but most attribute this poem to Muhammad Ali. Testimony as to when and where he said it varies but there is agreement it was spoken at a public event and that it was Ali’s response to a question regarding the shortest poem or verse in history.

Muhammad Ali was a boxer but he was also a great wit with a live, febrile mind and a poet with a compelling, powerful voice. The evidence may vary but the legend fits. It doesn’t take much imagination to hear Ali speaking these words and saying them with meaning.

[Apparently that is "laser" engraving. Does Buck Rogers work for Steve Jobs?]

This poem has followed me around since I first read it. It came up again last week in a question about the way most of us think about our careers. The question was:

“Can our individual career thinking be changed from Me to We?”

The questioner's premise was that our careers are never isolated, they are in fact always connected. Your career joins you to your work, your employer, your colleagues, your intentions, your life outside of work, the list goes on.

So if there are hundreds of touch-points, convergences and connections between ourselves, our careers and the outside world, why do we default to 'Me' when we think about careers?

Is there necessity around 'Me' thinking in careers or is it just history and habit?

Thinking about your career was traditionally a lonesome activity. The number of people going to their boss to admit 'thoughts about leaving' is growing but is still a minority. We take career advice from third parties (our friends, relatives, HR & career professionals even) but this advice is too often based around individualistic thinking alone: “What should I do?”, "What do I want?", "Where is my career going", etc.

It is still essential to resolve individual career questions but the Me to We shift behind career management is inevitable and has already begun. Your career may be yours but for it to be successful, for you to experience your career in full, for your career to deliver genuine satisfaction and fulfilment, it must be understood holistically too.

Although it wasn't always so clear, work/life balance is Me, work/life fusion is We.

Of course there is much more to learn (your opinion is welcomed for a start!) but - going back to Ali's poem - sometimes we need a simple and memorable expression to get us started. Besides, it wouldn't be the first time in history a poet has figured something out first.

Have a great weekend wherever you are!

All the best


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