What Shakespeare can teach us about Flourishing in the Modern World of Work


Flourishing at Work

“All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts”.

This famous Shakespeare quote comes front of mind for me at the moment and has done for the last few months. I have been privileged enough to be coaching and mentoring many, many talented individuals whose roles are winding down (for many after thirty plus years) as a result of the automotive manufacturing industry and coal-fired power industry in Australia rethinking their places within Australia’s great terrain.

Yes, life is about exits and entrances, always has been and always will be, however in the modern world, in this VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world) I visualise these exits and entrances not has graceful actors moving on and off side stage but more as actors with stage fright piling through revolving doors and a tad uncertain of the cues the stage manager is attempting to give them.

Therein lies the key. Fright. If the graceful actors breathe, accept, tame the fright and get back into their natural state of passion, self-belief, grace and knowing that their talents and careers are not about them but about moving an audience, then all is well again. These artists are calm and the VUCA style revolving door is no more. Magically that chaotic VUCA world seems to slow down too.

It’s a great metaphor for those who have hit a career wall.

‘Having hit a wall, the next logical step is not to bang our heads against it’. – Stephen Harper, Canadian Politician.

Alongside the Shakespeare quote, this metaphor is pertinent too as it describes the energy of redundancy (career wall) and provides the answers to surviving the career wall too, scaling the wall and entering into the next on-stage entrance of one’s career.

Redundancy Definition: The state of being not or no longer needed or useful.

Wow. That’s a harsh definition. (I googled it).  With this definition, I can visualise the actor at the Old Globe Theatre in Shakespeare’s day literally being pulled off the stage by a big hook.

As I have worked intensely in this redundancy/career wall space over the last few months I have observed that people either give into fear (easily done), allow themselves to be influenced by their negative environment (the harsh onlookers) and stay stuck behind the wall OR they ignore the negative environment, (hard to do but useful), visualise and focus on what’s on the other side of the wall (and why they want it) and then go for it!

These exiting Shakespeare actors (and highly talented workers within the modern workplace) arm themselves with the right tools and equipment, resources and people. They steady themselves with the right mindset and belief in themselves and they scale the wall – right into their next role, next logical career step or if you like, their next Shakespeare play.

Yes. Shakespeare can indeed teach us how to flourish in the modern world of work. Shakespeare’s tips (with a little help from me):

  1. Know you are not alone. Know it is a natural rhythm of life – exits and entrances
  2. Put yourself deeply in the centre – you are more than your resume and your achievements
  3. Keep centring yourself and ignore the destructive parts of your environment – focus not on those throwing the rotten tomatoes but those in the stalls with the big smiles on their faces
  4. Get clear on what is on the other side of the career wall for you. What does Act II or Act III look like for you? What role are you playing?
  5. Get clear on what equipment, resources and people you need to get you there and then engage them all. Ask for feedback and use it. Adjust, adjust, adjust. (An actor would not go into Act II without their script, their dialogue coach, rehearsal and a change of costume by their side).
  6. Take a bow and if it’s a standing ovation take a bigger bow.

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