Monday, February 24, 2014

Follow Your Heart ... with a Silver Nose

In the summer of 1978 I became the Tin Man at “The Land of Oz,” a small theme park once atop Beech Mountain, North Carolina. I lip-synched and danced in shows, and after each show I thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures with all of the children who gathered around me, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and Dorothy.

As the Tin Man I wore a silver fabric body suit, a tin cap, tin armor, a pasted-on nose, and silver dust liberally applied all over my face and hands. This silver dust had to be re-applied frequently, for whatever I touched quickly acquired a silver tint.

Each Wednesday night The Land of Oz loaded its characters onto a bus for the hour-long drive to Boone, NC. There we would tour the restaurants, as a means of promoting the park.

As we visited the restaurants, I would ensure that my hands and fingers were thoroughly coated with the silver dust. And, as we went from table to table, I would bring joy to each child by touching their nose. As the tip of each child’s nose became silver itself, I would say, “Follow your heart.”

Nearly always, the next day, I would see at The Land of Oz children come through who still had their silver-tipped noses. I’m certain many a parent heard their children exclaim “I don’t want to wash it off!” the evening before.

Follow Your Heart" - Career Path Selection.  Now I am teaching undergraduate students at Alfred State College, and as before I try to sprinkle a little dust here, and a little dust there, in hopes that it sticks to my students’ noses. Not silver dust, but rather little tidbits which may assist them to lead a successful life. One of the most important concepts I teach is what I also said to young children so many years before, “Follow your heart.”

Which brings me to a fascinating book recently which explores what truly motivates us in life. In How Will You Measure Your Life, author Clayton Christensen explores the types of satisfaction we can find in careers. Understanding these concepts may have important implications for your choice of career.
Four Possible Career Quadrants You Can Land In.  If I were to paraphrase and re-organize the author’s thoughts, there are four possible career results which can follow:
Low Incentives
High Level of
High Incentives
High Motivators BUT Lack of One or More Incentives
High Motivators and  Incentives are Present
Absent Motivators and Lack of One or More Incentives
Absent Motivators BUT  Incentives are Present
Poor Level or Absence of
What quadrant do you desire to be in, during your career? As you will learn – the upper half, and preferably the top right quadrant.
“Motivation” vs. “Incentives”.  Key to understanding the chart above is to understand the differences in what spurs on our happiness as we go through life and various careers.
“Incentives” are those elements of work which, if not present, can cause us to be dissatisfied. These elements (called “hygiene factors” in Christensen’s book include:
      adequate and fair compensation;
      job security;
      work conditions;
      company policies; and
      supervisory practices.
Yet, realize, that it is the absence of any one or more of this factors which lead to job and career dissatisfaction. However, even if all of these factors are present, it does not mean that you will love your job. You just will not hate your job.
“Motivators” are the things which will truly, deeply satisfy us in our careers.  Motivation factors include:
        challenging work;
        responsibility; and
        personal growth.
In essence, these factors lead to the feeling that you are making a meaningful contribution to your work. Motivation “is much less about external prodding or stimulation, and much more about what’s inside of you, and inside of your work.” [Christiensen, Kindle edition p.34.]
Career Paths and Jobs Focused on Incentives. Many persons choose career paths, and particular jobs, based on incentives as the primary criteria. For example, they seek out a high-paying job, and/or a career path leading to high pay in the future.
There is nothing wrong with this approach. It’s just that – if you pursue a career only for purposes of making an excellent salary – chances are that you will not be doing “something important” or “something you really love.”
Some persons pursue jobs with high incentives (such as high compensation) first, believing that they will later – after financial security is achieved – turn to a different job (or career) that they love. Unfortunately, changing careers in this fashion rarely occurs, as higher pay usually leads to adopting a lifestyle which is difficult to give up. The result is that many highly compensated individuals work in jobs with low motivation factors – and they are dissatisfied.
(Although Alfred State’s business professors may be among the exception – for many, having been highly compensated in their business careers, they chose to eschew continued high compensation in order to turn to their love of teaching.)
Career Paths and Jobs Focused on Motivators.  By contrast, other persons purposely forego jobs or career paths which promise higher levels of compensation or status in order to pursue careers in which motivation factors are present. For example, many persons pursue careers in the military – not for the high level of compensation, but rather because they believe they are making a real difference in the world. Similarly, many individuals work for nonprofit corporations, rather than for-profit corporations, for the same reasons.
In other words, if you love your job – even if you are not making piles of money – you are going to be immensely satisfied.
Can You Have It Both Ways – Incentives PLUS Motivation Factors? Are there jobs, or career paths, in which the ideal exists – not only are you highly incentivized (compensation, status, job security, and good company policies), but they also are in a career in which they find the work is challenging, they are provided with great levels of responsibility, they are encouraged to grow, and (for some) they believe that the work they are doing is “making a difference”?
Yes, such jobs do exist out there. That’s the upper right quadrant of the chart, above. Where are they? It requires you to plan, very well, to secure them.
Implications for Managers.  Many managers default to thinking that external factors – such as compensation and status – are the best motivators. Yet, it is rare to hear of managers of nonprofits complaining about getting their staff motivated.
Understanding the factors that motivate those you supervise is an essential skill for managers of all types. When employees find themselves stuck in unhappy careers – and even unhappy7 lives – it is important to not try to “motivate” them through inappropriate “incentives” – and instead it might be better to focus on the true “motivators.”
Explore Your Career Paths. Go to your college's career development office to seek out information on different careers. Use personality assessments to discover your aptitudes and strengths. Search for careers (and particular job positions) online, and see how they are described in job postings and in various articles. Lastly, see if you can, for a day, "shadow" one or more practitioners in one or more career paths which may interest you.
And always, always, keep in mind this quote from the late Steve Jobs: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
Follow your heart, and the path that you travel down will be rich in so many ways.

And, from time to time, you may even find yourself sharing a little silver dust with others.

Professor Ron A. Rhoades, JD, CFP(r) teaches Business Law, Retirement Planning, Investment Planning, Employee Benefits Planning, Money & Banking, Insurance & Risk Management, and the Personal Financial Planning Capstone courses at Alfred State College, Alfred, NY. He is an EPLP Mentor, C.R.E.A.T.E. program mentor, serves as advisor to Alfred State's Business Professionals of America club, and serves as academic advisor to dozens of students.

Professor Rhoades is the author of "CHOOSE TO SUCCEED IN COLLEGE AND IN LIFE: Continuously Improve, Persevere, and Enjoy the Journey," a 10-week program for success in college (available for $2.99 in Kindle store at, or in paperback for $6.99). Professor Rhoades may be reached by e-mail at:

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