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“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”

You may recognize this quote from the movie “Interstellar.” I saw it a few weeks back, and this quote has stuck with me since. It’s a heavy thought, one that can apply to almost anything in life. To some who interpret this literally, this quote is about space exploration. To others, it may be about idealistic childhood dreams we had for ourselves as children, and the present reality of short-sighted goals and an abyss of normalcy.

Personally, this quote is especially resonant in terms of a career.  It sums up the doldrums many encounter in a position we’ve unconsciously settled into. When we start a new job, we are enthusiastic about this new chapter in our lives. We gush to our family and friends. Like a kid on the first day of school, we’re excited about who we’ll meet, what we’ll learn, and growing up to a new level of responsibility and standing. We have an audacious vision of success at this company and endless creativity spawning a constellation of a million ideas.

But what happens after a year? After two years? This new opportunity’s luster of promise has dulled into the routine of a job. The visions of creating something groundbreaking once our guiding light, are now dim on our daily horizons, barely noticeable and easily ignored.

Why? What happened to the exciting promise of building something great, a personal monument?

Instead of looking up at the stars thinking of grand concepts of our future accomplishments, we are looking below at the dirt trying not to fail. Perhaps it’s because we’re inundated with too much work. Maybe it’s because pursuing a special project is too complicated, maybe we don’t know where to start. I think the main reason is simple, we’re shifting our focus from long term dreams and goals to the short term checklist. Our goals are to deliver on a current project, to finish that weekly report, or just make it to that vacation in the Bahamas scheduled in just 43 days (but who’s counting?).

Whatever the reason, settling on a safer near-term outlook robs us of our passion and vision. Constant fixation on what needs to be done today, tomorrow, or this week, doesn’t afford us an opportunity to pause and reflect, learning new ways of problem-solving. Focusing our vision on the near-term at our feet in front of us doesn’t allow us to see the big picture above us.

Our fire for doing something great becomes placated just as we are when taking off our shoes upon the daily post-work collapse on the couch. What is something we can do that will make a major impact? What’s something that we can create that will be our legacy?

If you’re like me, you might think “I’m beyond busy, what can I possibly do that will actually help?”

Some people say you need to create an action plan, design a vision-board, or even to take 30 minutes every day to visualize success. But those don’t work for me. I’m a skeptic without available time. Instead, I ask myself a series of questions.

  • Remember how you felt the night before you started your current job? What would that person think of the legacy you’ve built so far?
  • What would that version of you do if they were to go into work for you tomorrow?
  • What’s one thing you do regularly, which you know deep down isn’t really making an impact?
  • What can you do instead that would actually make a difference?
  • What’s the proudest moment you’ve had in your current position? How do you replicate that?
  • You get a glimpse in the future – 10 years to be precise. You’re now a VP at your current company. What did you do to get there?

The bottom line is simply to not get caught up worrying about your place in the dirt. Life’s too short to not do something great. As we enter another new year, be sure to keep your eyes on the stars. Take a chance. Go big. Make your legacy. Don’t let another year pass without creating something meaningful.

Categories: Be Your Own CEO, Small Business Advice