Thursday, July 17, 2008

Are You On the Frontier?

I'm in Cheyenne, on a biz/fun trip...and am lucky enough to be in town for the first two days of the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration, the largest throwdown in Wyoming each year.

Seeing the "Frontier" reminded me of a recent Wall Street Journal Article. The point of the piece was that America has been one of the few societies in the history of humankind founded on the concept of seeking out the frontier. Settlers came to the new frontier, what would become America, seeking a new and better life. Once here, their sons and daughters advanced west to do the same thing. Once we had settled from sea to shining sea we looked up and headed to space, the moon, and points...out...there.

The article noted that today's frontiers are science, technology, business, and how we can grow as humans. To me, that means that as long as we live in a society in which work defines much of life and lifestyle, the new frontier is the idea of work we have in our minds and how we take that idea into the workplace.

There is a wonderful story about a man walking up a road and encountering three men unloading rocks from a wagon. The walker asks the first workman, "What are you doing?"

The workman answers, "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm unloading rocks from this wagon."

The walker asks the second workman, "What are you doing?"

The second man says, "I'm unloading these rocks because we are going to build a wall over there."

When the third workman is asked what he is doing he says, "I am unloading these rocks so that we can build a wall that will be part of a church. It will be a place my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren can worship."

All three men were doing the same job; all three had different ideas about their work.

When I talk to some people about what they do; essentially, when I ask them why they are unloading rocks, some tell me they have a J.O.B. On some level, that means Just Obey the Boss.

When I ask others the same question they talk about their W.O.R.K. On some level, that means a Wonderful Opportunity for Respect and Kindness.

If you can not fathom that your JOB can be your WORK then you have an opportunity to explore a new frontier, to try and look at your work in a new and different way. If you were proud of your WORK at some point in your life but it has deteriorated to a JOB you have the same opportunity.

The explorers (and don't mistake it, the people who put everything they owned in a wagon and pointed it west were definitely explorers) who have defined Americans as a people who sought the frontier started with a step into the unknown, the unfamiliar, sometimes the undesirable. If your worklife is not what you want it to be define your frontier and take a step.

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