You - "Reader" - are a up-and-coming professional in a growing business. You work hard and get along well with co-workers, but find the office life to be monotonous and unexciting. Most of the other employees seem to be enthusiastic about something beyond the paycheck. Little do you know, you are about to be visited by three wise co-workers who will help you find your purpose. But first, you receive an annoying email.
Prologue: The Passive-Aggressive Email
Hope you’re having a great day. Just to let you know, the carpool spreadsheet for the mid-level professionals’ retreat was due yesterday. In the future, I’d like if you could get important logistical information to me on time. Cool? Cool.
See you out there for some cornhole, buddy! Let me know if you have any questions.
You spin your swivel chair around and look outside the big glass window. A flock of Canadian geese sunbathe in the retention pond across the parking lot. “Damn emails,” you complain to yourself. “What is the point of a damn mid-level professionals’ retreat?”
Wise Co-Worker #1: Purpose in Social Good
As you are about to respond to Theodore's email, your phone goes off. “Please no…” you sigh. It’s a new Instagram post from your best friend Shelley: “Omg having the time of my life on my remote work program in Bali…#remoteworkers #content #SEO.”
You open up your on-going Slack conversation: “Shelley… do you HAVE to post on Instagram every day? Like we all get it, Bali is wonderful, you’re beautiful, and sunsets are majestic.”
“Gosh, someone’s grumpy. Theodore making your blood pressure go up again?”
“Yeah… #everyday lol. I'm just giving you a hard time. You make it sound like all work and no play over there, what are you, a millennial?" you ask her jokingly.
“I get your point...but parts of Bali are quite poor. Every other week we’re going into a nearby village and helping build new shelters. And I actually like it! Feels like I’m doing more here than just working abroad."
“I had no idea! Obviously kinda hard for me to 'give back' like that around here," you reply.
“Well, you know the company sponsors a huge canned food drive to promote pay equity. You should talk to Marco in PR, he’s really big on that!”
“Oh, that's awesome! Hey, thanks Shelley.”
“I got your back, Reader. Alright it’s like 3 A.M. here lol good night.”
Wise Co-Worker #2: Purpose in Fun Workplace Culture
You notice one of the HR reps, Mitchell, marching around your side of the office in a full umpire costume. “It’s softball time, people!!!!!!!!”
He spots you at your desk. “Reader! Why the long face?”
“Oh nothing, I'm good Mitchell. Did you say something about softball?”
“Well duh, our company has a softball team! You know, I’ve never seen you out on the field. What’s up with that? You think you’re too cool for us? Just joking!”
“Well, I’m no good. Sports aren't really my thing.”
“Well jeez, Reader, you don’t have to play! Some folks hit up Jacko’s Pub and then come sit in the bleachers and cheer our squad on. Why don’t you go with them?”
“I don’t know Mitchell, I just don’t know them very well, it’s mostly sales people and I've never really talked to that team.“
“I get that," Mitchell says quickly. "But there's nothing wrong with getting to know your co-workers a bit better. I mean, doesn’t making a few extra friends serve a pretty good purpose?”
“Yeah, maybe. Thanks Mitchell.”
Wise Co-Worker #3: Purpose in Personal Challenges
As you imagine what it would be like to hang out with the softball crew, your mentor Jules walks by your desk. “Dang Reader, you look confused…everything alright?” he asks.
“Yeah, I’m okay,” you say hesitantly. He looks at you and smiles. “Give me a break, friend. You need a grapefruit-flavored carbonated water from the break room, stat.”
You follow Jules to the break room and sit down at one of the booths. He places two waters down on the table and slides in across from you.
“I just don’t understand the point of being here… it’s like everyone here has something to get excited about,” you blurt out.
Jules observes you behind soft, green eyes. “I don’t know, Reader. I think a lot of folks struggle to find something that lights that fire up inside of 'em."
“Jules… you’ve been here for eight years. What keeps you around?”
“I’m just trying to get paid."
“Yeah, of course, we all are. But how do you keep things interesting?” you ask awkwardly.
Jules looks down and folds his hands. “Well… my dog Horace needs surgery. My parents are helping with some of the cost, but my performance bonus should help cover most of the expenses. So, I guess that’s my purpose. I know it’s not glamorous, but it’s what I care about.”
“Jules… I’m so sorry,” you stammer.
“It's okay. This sort of thing is part of life. My purpose ain’t all rainbows and ponies like some of these other folks, but it gives me something to work towards. I think you need to figure out what really captures your attention, and no one else can decide that for you. Don't rush it, find something real."
Epilogue: The Response Email
Sorry about the delay. I’ll be sure to have those carpool spreadsheets to you by the end of the day. I’m excited to play corn hole with you too, buddy, but I think we have the opportunity to turn this retreat into something more meaningful than a series of beer-sipping games. As up-and-coming professionals in this organization, we should cultivate an office environment that encourages our co-workers to find their purpose. I have some ideas for retreat activities that will get people thinking about what really drives them, on a personal level.
Let me know if you have any questions.
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