Last Updated on October 15, 2020 by Paul Farrell, MRP, JD, PhD
“As most millionaires report, stress is a direct result of devoting a lot of effort to a task that’s not in line with one’s abilities.
It’s more difficult, more demanding mentally and physically, to work at a vocation that’s unsuitable to your aptitude …
Millionaires who have a high creative intelligence often make one very important career decision correctly: They select a vocation that provides them with enormous profits, and very often this same vocation is the one they love.
Remember, if you love what you are doing, your productivity will be high and your specific form of creative genius will emerge.”
– Thomas Stanley, The Millionaire Mind
We’ve heard the warnings a thousand times if we’ve hear them once: Stress kills! Seventy percent of all doctors’ visits are stress related. Stress is costing business a couple hundred billion a year. High blood pressure. Heart attacks. Warning: Stress kills! Change now!
But few listen. We rationalize: That’s the price of success. It’s a jungle out there, with enormous pressures to perform, to succeed, hit a home run, bills to pay … we’re trapped, we make compromises, we tough it out, not me.
Mid-Career Crisis – A Very Long Meditation
Then one day – after years of pushing ourselves too much, watching the stress build, trying to hold everything together, at home, in the office, in our gut – we finally go over the edge. Could be a health problem, emotional and family problems, job performance, maybe a spiritual crisis where you lose faith in yourself and all the values you were taught to believe.
Finally, you just can’t take it any more, something pushes you over the edge. Whatever it is, big or small, something happens and you know you can’t go on living the way your living. At this point nothing’s working anymore – all the meditations and medications, prayers and affirmations, the therapy, trips to doctors, clerics and psychics, and the extra hours in the office – nothing.
You’re running on empty. Everything you’re doing to keep yourself in the game is gone, the passion you once felt for your career, gone, your edge, gone, you feel lost. Nothing’s working. You even start reading books about burnout, the midlife crisis and the dark night of the soul.
The Turning Point – Surrender to Win
Welcome, now you really belong in the club. We all go through these life-cycle and career turning points, sometimes more than once. And we all come out the other end successfully, even though it may take several years, so there are no quick fixes.
Reaching this point is actually a gift, because if you get to this point of acceptance, surrender and understanding – that your way of doing things no longer works – then you are open to change. You probably don’t know what to do next, but you suddenly realize it can’t be what you’ve been doing in the past. That’s why this midlife dark night of the soul can be the greatest period of meditation and adventure in your life.
Fortunately, we eventually do come through the challenges with a renewed spirit, charging ahead in our careers – or moving into new and more exciting careers with a new sense of energy and passion. Two turning-point scenarios – and either way you come out a winner.
Scenario One : The Corporate Athlete in Transition
The Corporate Athlete is a great example of the first of these turning-point strategies. These guys take a very positive approach. Instead of trying to reduce stress, they accept stress as a fact of life and focus on making stress work for you – by increasing your capacity to manage stress.
The program was developed by James Loehr, a noted sports psychologist and author of The Mental Game and Toughness Training for Athletes, and his partner Dr. Jack Groppel, author of The Corporate Athlete. And their unique, positive approach has a strong following. Regular clients come from Merrill Lynch, BMW, Dell, IBM, Disney, Ford, AT&T, Motorola and Travelers, as well as the FBI and ER physicians.
In fact, The Corporate Athlete program is so effective graduates of its three-day trainings – which Fortune called both a “bootcamp” and “soul training“ – say it not only changed the way they work and improved their performance, it changed their entire lives.
The Corporate Athlete program increases an executive’s ability to handle stress in all areas of their life “not just a sharp intellect but also physical strength, emotional intelligence and a strong sense of purpose,” plus strengthen their spiritual capacity, “the energy unleashed by tapping into one’s deepest values.”
Hardwired Values in Your Soul – Plus Renew Sense of Purpose
They refocus the way executives deal with everything from nutrition and fitness, rebuild a sense of purpose and confidence, and also introduce them to yoga and meditation. Ultimately, however, Loehr says “change only happens when it’s powered by your values,” and you “get it hard-wired into your soul.”
One of the highlights of this bootcamp is a homework assignment requiring executives to answer five value-oriented questions that echo the core existential questions asked by contemplative mystics throughout history and in all traditions, Christianity, Judiasm, Hinduism and Buddhism, questions guaranteed to revive your sense of purpose and values:
- If you were on your deathbed and wanted to tell your children the three most important things you’ve learned in life, what would they be?
- What gives you the greatest joy, satisfaction, and renewal in our life – and how could you do more of it?!
- Who are you without your job and your money? Describe in details.
- What activities could you add to your life that would be a source of richness and joy?
- Think of someone you admire deeply – and explain why.
The questions are designed to help you identify your core values, reconnect with them and start living them, with family and friends as well as in work. And it works. In fact, one Wall Street director of sales operations says The Corporate Athlete program has changed hundreds of people’s lives at the firm, helping “traders find more balance in their high-pressured lives.”
In short, the program is a perfect way to reenergize and refocus an executive going through a midlife crisis – assuming they’re already in the career best suited for their personality type, as Stanley says in The Millionaire Mind.
Scenario Two : Do What You Love – The Passion Will Follow
But what if you’re in the wrong career? Well, if it’s really wrong for you, then no amount of training to go back into the same old business again is going to help you – you just don‘t belong there.
I went through my midlife journey before The Corporate Athlete program was launched. For three years I struggled with staying on Wall Street with Morgan Stanley. I was doing a great job. In fact, they loved my work. But I wasn’t a happy camper, in spite of all the money I was making. The money just makes a major career change more difficult as you compromise your values.
At night and on weekends during those years I saw a psychiatrist, wrote screenplays, took acting lessons, belonged to a dance meditation group and made short films at a Television Academy workshop. I even went to an astrologer after I heard J.P. Morgan regularly used them. By day I continued working on mega-million dollar investment banking deals with Morgan Stanley, but that no longer fed my soul.
Eventually I realized that I wouldn’t be happy until I got into the creative arts business, somehow. So I quit and went to Hollywood. Life in the entertainment business was exciting for a few years. Then I got a doctorate in psychology – yet another unexpected twist – and worked as a career counselor advising business men and women.
And finally – at age fifty-seven, after years of searching – I realized that writing was the perfect outlet for my creative soul. I started working as a journalist, published a financial newsletter, and wrote several investment and personal finance books, plus The Millionaire Code, a career planning book that builds on the psychological profiling system first developed by Dr. Carl Jung.
Career and Life Planning – The Longest Meditation and Most Rewarding
Planning and replanning your career and your life-style is probably the single most important meditation you’ll ever do in your lifetime. Very few executives ever make the break and get out of their career rut, so evident in Thomas Stanley’s rhetorical question: “Why is it that only a minority of our population love their work?”
Career and life-style planning often begins when we get to that midlife cycle, start questioning why we’re pushing ourselves so hard at something that’s making us unhappy, stressed out and close to going over the edge. Planning, or re-planning your life and your career isn’t just another meditation, it’s the ultimate meditation, and sitting meditation isn’t enough.
Yes, a comprehensive strategy like The Corporate Athlete’s is a great starting point. You may well be in the right career, just in need of a major retooling. I recommend trying something like that to begin the process. But if you’re in the wrong career, you’ll have to go on searching to find out why and what’s next, in a larger living meditation that will go on for years.
How to Pick the Right Career? Peter Drucker’s Ultimate Test: Your Values!
In the final analysis, there is no right way, only your way. So while you’re searching, here’s how management guru Peter Drucker made his decision:
“Many years ago, I too had to decide between my values and what I was doing successfully. I was doing very well as a young investment banker in London in the mid-1930s, and the work clearly fit my strengths. Yet I did not see myself making a contribution as an asset manager. People, I realized, were what I valued, and I saw no point in being the richest man in the cemetery. I had no money and no job prospects. Despite the continuing Depression, I quit – and it was the right thing to do. Values, in other words, are and should be the ultimate test.”
What values most to you? Meditate, write about them, discover them, hardwire them deep in your soul. Become a true corporate athlete – your way.
About the Author
Dr. Farrell is a Behavioral Economist. His books include The Millionaire Code; The Millionaire Meditation: Stress Management for Wall Street, Corporate America & Entrepreneurs; The Zen Millionaire; The Winning Portfolio; Expert Investing on The Net; Mutual Funds on The Net; and The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing.
He also published 1,643 columns on DowJones-MarketWatch and for years was their #1 traffic-generating columnist. Before the Internet, he edited & published FNX: Future News Index, a financial newsletter for stock market traders. Earlier he was a Wall Street investment banker with Morgan Stanley, Executive Vice President of the Financial News Network; and Associate Editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
He has a Doctorate in Psychology, Juris Doctor, Masters in Regional Planning and Bachelor of Architecture. He worked on the Esalen organic farm and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as Staff Sergeant in aviation computer technology.