Saturday, September 06, 2014

To succeed in career, you have to ride two chariots

People-life chariot

Work-life chariot

Work-life chariot

This chariot helps you achieve work-life outcomes. The four horses of work-life chariot are Negotatiating corporate system, Using skill market to build skills, Understanding skill arithmetic to build skills and Self awareness to run the chariot in a chosen direction.

We need work-life chariot because we want a first-hand experience of our mind's competence to deal with reality. Even though our physical survival is not dependent any more on our mind's capability to deal with external dangers in the environment like our ancestors, our mind still needs the 'first hand assurance' that our mind is competent enough to understand the reality and use the available resources to survive 'mentally and physically'. 

We need to ride the horse of 'skill market' because we must monetise the skills we build. When we use skill market to make 'money', it offers us the freedom to live our life on our own terms. Independence is just a concept if we cannot live our life without depending on others. This is why, housewives who work at home ( and therefore do not produce any marketable work-output) do not have the required self-assurance to feel better in their career. Even Socially-useful outputs ( when we work in NGO's) are useful to give this feeling of self assurance.

Relationship chariot 

This chariot helps you achieve relationship results. The four horses in this chariot are Negotiating 3 relationship systems, Understanding the arithmetic of development relationship skill, Using the work-life chariot to develop relationship skill and Self awareness.

More importantly, we need to ride people chariot because our happiness index depends largely on dense relationships, one of the crucial relationship system. In the Grant Study that has been done to identify the formula of 'good life' over 75 years, George Valiant says that "only thing that matters in life is your relationships" with other people. Friendships are better predictor than any other variable ( even better than money) for determining our overall happiness (1). In other words, happiness in Career surprisingly ( although it is not surprising given that man has survived due to relationships) depends on our dense relationships, which includes family relationship and close friendships.

But there is a catch in achieving these results. We simultaneously engage in other 2 relationships - transactional relationships as well as collaborative relationships in work-life - to achieve our results. This confuses us, because these three relationships demand different adherence of rules to produce results. We are blind, because we cannot see the 3 relationship systems.

Self awareness - self understanding - is the common horse in both chariots

Last month, I met a very successful professional, Rajiv, age 45, who has got everything going in his life. He has all the required assets, is happily married and also has children of which he is proud of. But he approached me for coaching because he want to know 'what is the purpose of his life?'.  

As human beings, we give 'meaning' to our lives. We either ascribe personal meaning to our work-achievement or derive it from our work-achievement. We also change our work-outputs because it helps us in expressing our personal meaning that we have given to life. Initially, we may ascribe similar meaning to our life like that of our friends and neighbors. But  when we can fine 'personal' meaning of our life, it helps us even when we are young. But if we do not personal meaning for our life, we remain unhappy like Mr Phatak even at the age of 50. In a way, this is the most invisible output.


Both chariots - work and relationship - should be mastered to feel that we have succeeded in our careers. The mix between two chariots varies from person to person, and also from one age to another in the same person. That is why we always say that career success is determined  by every individual.

These two chariots help us understand many mysteries of career success: why career success is difficult for men and easier for women, why self-awareness learnt from people-life is useful for succeeding in work-life, why ignorance of arithmetic of skill development can derail career progress and so on.

1.Isaacowitz, D.M., et al. “Strengths and Satisfaction across the Adult Lifespan.” Int’l J. Aging & Hum Dev 57, no. 2 (2003): 181-201.

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