Let me begin with a little fun and adventurous coffee cart story …
When I left Auckland and my management career behind to go live on a lifestyle block, my main focus was to create a life with purpose. Part of it was to establish my coaching practice which is now thriving. Part of it was to create a community of family and have a place where my partner could use his talents for building to carve out a place that we could really call our own. And a part of it was to build a sustainable life for my disabled son.
When I moved to Whangarei, and I began to connect with a new community, I came into contact with other parents of disabled youth. These parents were also grappling with the challenge of where their kids would find work that gave them the four things that work provides: social connection, making the most of unique and individual talents, an opportunity to learn and a feeling of contributing to something bigger than themselves.
I had been, over the years, thinking about how I could facilitate this for my own son. In New Zealand, only 10% of disabled people are able to find work. At the same time, it is a big ask for companies (big or small) to accommodate the many and varied needs of disabled people.
When I mulled over what sort of work might give my son the opportunity to experience all four aspects of work, I thought about something in customer service for social connection, something that was not too complex but could take advantage of his talent with people (he loves performing on stage), something that would give him pride in doing things for other people (bigger than himself) and the ability to learn new skills. So what came up for me was working in a cafe or similar.
In the end a coffee cart came up for sale and I jumped at the chance and bought it. I don’t know a thing about running a coffee cart but we had our first day in it with my son and a friend of his with a different disability.
We had a ball! My son did the order taking, interacting all day with the customers. The other young man was great with machines so he was the coffee machine jockey whilst I acted as the team support keeping things running smoothly. We worked for four hours, serving 150 cups of different types of coffee and hot chocolates. The customers loved the different experience. At the end of the day the boys and I were tired out, brimming with confidence and absolutely joyous. This is what I had hoped for and dreamed of. And it is just the beginning.
So, why am I telling you this story?
Because finding joy and purpose in work is not always all about the 9-5 hours, the regular or amazing income or the prestigious position. I had all of that in my management career and yet, at the end of the day, I was spending more time with people at work than my family. I had little time to do anything other than work on things that were interesting although I had little connection with other than personal achievement.
Now that I have my coaching practice, where I am able to make a difference in the lives of others, I have found meaning in my work. And the flexibility that comes with having my own business means that I can work on all sorts of other meaningful projects just like the coffee cart one. I have created a new energy for living.
Now here’s why this story will blow you away AND key lessons if you want to find work you love.
Lesson 1. Find work that plays to your talents, strengths, and natural abilities.
For me, personally, creating the vision of a different life out of the city and then making that happen was playing to my strength of creating and managing change using strategic planning and project management skills and expertise.
Establishing my coaching practice, and then transferring it to a fully online service, has played to my strengths of enabling others to take on and achieve new challenges whilst leveraging my skills in utilisation of technology.
In the case of getting into the coffee cart, everyone played to their strengths.
- I’m good at managing. I got things up and running and then facilitated and supported the team to deliver.
- My son is excellent with people. He serviced customers and interacted with them as the order taker.
- His friend was great at processing. He worked the coffee machine and made drinks.
We all worked as a harmonious team. It was magical.
Lesson 2. Look at the things you already know, do, like and enjoy. Hidden gems are there for jobs, roles or even business ideas that would be amazing for you.
For getting the coffee cart going, I thought about the fact that I love coffee; that I have experience and talent in encouraging and leading people to leverage their unique talents. E.g. my son has special needs (talents) and wanted to do more than push shopping carts around in a supermarket car park
I saw others doing coffee carts and wondered how hard could it be? (turned out to be quite a challenge actually).
I let go of striving for perfection. I was so excited about the possibilities that I didn’t sweat the small stuff and just jumped in and did it.
(It’s funny how much energy, enthusiasm you gain when you take the time to align yourself properly. The same thing happens with the clients I work with. It’s like a small light bulb turning into a fiery sun).
I have learned that it is best to feel the fear, shut your eyes, jump in and do it anyway. Part of the journey (and the fun) is what is shows up along the way.
Lesson 3. Join, find, or create a network that can lead to possibilities. And don’t worry too much, especially if everything is new.
To get the coffee cart idea off the ground, I did a few things to develop a network of people who can contribute, support or help in some possible way. And this was not always well thought out but it worked anyway.
I simply shared the idea with everyone I knew or met. Opening up to complete strangers about my vision conveyed my excitement and enrolled them into wanting to help out.
I confessed I knew nothing about running a coffee cart and took the risk of being vulnerable. While a little uncomfy for me at first, this open-minded way of approaching something new creates opportunity and possibility for others to help.
Before too long, there were people who wanted to help with legal aspects, giving us supplies and connections to others who might also be interested. Not everyone I talked to was caught up in the excitement but I was surprised and overwhelmed by the support that just appeared.
You could …
- Take a step into existing social circles related to your new career ideas (jump in)
- You could invite people to get coffee who would be helpful (create)
- You could attend an event related to an interest of yours (expansion)
- You could just talk to anyone who will listen. You will be surprised what happens.
Often we think about things too much and that makes us not do it. Stepping into the unknown is exciting and also scary. But, that’s where spectacular opportunities will open up.
If you are harbouring some vision or ideas for a sea-change in your life and are stuck or have no idea what to do to make it come to life, then talk to me I might be able to help.