"What you're getting at is yearnings," Marcus says. "The activities that make us feel strong express these, but we can also find them through the subjects that interest us." The saleswoman, it turned out, always read the obituaries in the paper; she was especially drawn to the part at the end, where those left behind by the deceased were listed. She would find herself thinking about them—the wives and husbands, the parents and children, who had lost someone.
For the saleswoman, the eureka moment didn't come when she realized she was drawn to stories of grieving; she'd always known this of herself. But after working with Marcus she was able to look at this interest in a new way: as a unique strength that she could and should offer the world, and for which the world, in turn, might pay her. That strength summed her up at her most valuable, not just because she was good at it but because she enjoyed it—and when we enjoy doing something, we don't just stay good. We get better and better. The copy machine saleswoman, a naturally empathetic person who liked telling people what to do, knew that the grieving are often overwhelmed with decisions to make. Now she knew she might love guiding them through those circumstances.
She was right. Once she finished volunteering at a hospice, she learned what credentials were required to be a grief counselor, obtained them, and in so doing found real fulfillment for the first time in her life.
After the strengths exercise, Kylie was a step ahead of where the copy machine saleswoman had been at the same point in the process. Kylie was in a job that somewhat let her do what she wanted: bring an idea of her own into tangible form. But the why of her job, which she'd initially thought was important to her—she'd found working in news exciting at the start—turned out not to be as crucial as the what (the ability to control and complete her own designs without unforeseen circumstances disrupting them). And she learned that the who—the presence of people with whom she could speak face-to-face and form bonds—was just as indispensable.
Marcus and Kylie subjected other potential jobs in the design industry to the three questions. "You have the wisdom within you to find the place where you can be your best self. That wisdom isn't out there—it's in there," Marcus says. Of any potential new job, Kylie had to ask, "What will I be doing? Will I be taking an idea of my own and bringing it to fruition—in an atmosphere free of the sort of constant flux that messes things up?" Kylie had told Marcus that she felt strongest when deeply immersed in the work of design; at those times, she said, "it's like a meditation." Clearly, Kylie needed to be designing in a peaceful environment. Next she had to ask, "Who will I be doing it with? Will I be on a small team of collaborators who talk to each other, or will I be lost in an impersonal hive?" Finally, she had to ask, "Why will I be designing?" Now that she knew how important the what of any future job was—this was where her passion lay—the why seemed far more flexible. Kylie might find greater happiness designing a gorgeously produced jewelry catalog than pages of a hectic daily newspaper.
We Hear You!