The Pursuit of Happiness
How do we really measure career success?
By Erika Welz Prafder
These days, your street value doesn't always guarantee or reflect a personal sense of career fulfillment. Neither does a prestigious job title or a corner office with a skyline view. Increasingly, we are finding ourselves at a spiritual fork in the road. No longer content with material definitions of success, more of us are trying to follow our hearts, capitalize on our unique strengths, and find more meaningful work. But you have to pay the price to follow your passion.
Hitting the High Notes
For those blessed with a musical or artistic talent, modern life presents a common challenge: How do you nurture your gift while putting food on the table? Professional drummer and bandleader Bill Morgan calls it "a constant struggle." Morgan's musical group, Central Park, works for an entertainment company based in New York.
If it was strictly about money, we could find something less time consuming and probably earn more.
Together for twelve years, many of the band's ten members must hold down day jobs in order to support their families--and still maintain a unique level of musicianship. In addition to booking entertainment and bands for his company, Morgan opened Beatboy.com in 1993. Beatboy is an interactive Web site where songwriters, producers, and others can license digital drum sequences and performances by legendary drummers and percussionists. Central Park's guitar player, Lou Gimenez, also runs a Queens-based recording studio: Music Lab. Gimenez remixes songs for celebrities such as Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez. Emily Davis, the group's only female vocalist, earns her living through studio work, radio and television jingles, and singing on dinner cruises.
But not every band member's bread and butter is related to the music business. Bass player Roy DeJesus works on computer systems for a local school district. Vocalist Frank Josephs runs the maintenance department of a housing project. Singer and saxophonist Maverick Gaither spends his daylight hours as a neighborhood postal worker.
For professional musicians, keeping up your chops requires real world sacrifices. A typical week includes at least one rehearsal and one or two weekend-evening performances. "We each have different schedules and most of us are married with children," says Morgan. "The hardest part is maintaining our family lives. When push comes to shove, many professional bands fall apart due to the pressures we face. If it was strictly about money, we could find something less time consuming and probably earn more, but it's the passion that keeps us together."
The Grunt Work
If you weren't born with a passion like that, finding gratification in your work may require a longer, more trying process. For Beth, a 33-year-old Long Islander, a love of animals and the desire to protect them began in childhood. Unfortunately, bad advice from guidance counselors, friends, and family members undermined her aspirations of becoming a veterinarian. The limited number of veterinary schools in America--and their fiercely competitive nature--also derailed Beth's dream.
Beth heard that "it was even harder to get into Vet school than regular medical school." Discouraged, she didn't take full advantage of her undergraduate education. She majored in English because "it came easy" and then completed a Master's degree as well, thinking she'd eventually teach.
After college, faced with a dismal teaching job market, Beth found an apartment and worked at an insurance firm to pay the rent. Almost a decade later, even after achieving management status, Beth was still unfulfilled. In fact, she was "almost at [the] breaking point." Luckily, her employer was bought out and Beth's retirement plan shot up to a sizable chunk of change. Wasting no time, she withdrew some of her newfound money and re-invested in herself. "I viewed this as an opportunity to re-examine my career, go back to school, and pursue veterinary medicine," she remembers.
Beth was forced to move back into the basement of her parents' home so she could save money and attend school. "The courses weren't offered at night," she says, "so I couldn't get a day-job." But, with the support of her parents, Beth was able to shrug off the social stigma attached to thirty-somethings who still live with their folks: "My mom was proud of me for my determination and didn't try to deter me."
After three years of classes, handling grunt work for an animal hospital, and applying to Vet schools, Beth is realistic about her chances of gaining acceptance into an institution in such a cutthroat field. But she's confident that she's put her best effort forth and finally followed her dream. "It's surprising what you can deal with if there's enough motivation behind it," she says. "Even if I don't get in anywhere soon, I know that I'll end up doing something at the heart of where I want to be."
Erika Welz Prafder is the president of Real World Careers (www.realworldcareers.com), assisting college students and graduates in their hunt for quality employment. She also writes a weekly career column for The New York Post.
Learning from Nature
Sun wakes earth daily
Moon lights earth periodically
Rain waters earth systematically
Air cools earth all the time.
Beauty of nature goes further not expecting anything in return
Flower spells fragrance even when nobody around
River flows down even when nobody cares
Forest cleans environment even when nobody bothers
Mountain provides beauty even when nobody watches
Oh we human, let us learn these from Nature to serve
all in a humble and simple way...........
Here's to the start of the new year:
Ernest Hemingway wrote of a commander in the Spanish Civil War who "never knew when everything was lost and if it was, he would fight out of it." That is the way with people who have the quality of determination. They keep on going, no matter what. The hang-in-there attitude gives courage, strength, vitality, power. Somehow, such people always seem to win through anything and everything
How are large buildings protected against earthquakes?
If a large building is firmly attached to the ground, an earthquake
can rip it right off the foundation. Making a building more solid
can solve the problem for some quakes, but it's an expensive solution
that only works for moderate quakes. There's a better way to protect
Base-isolated buildings can survive even large earthquakes because
the building itself is not firmly attached to the ground. When the
shaking starts, the building stays relatively still while the ground
There are several ways to base-isolate a building. Rubber pads can
be inserted between the building and the foundation, or it can rest
on sliding or swinging bearings that move back and forth easily.
Such a system protects the largest base-isolated building in the
world, a new terminal at San Francisco International Airport.
Top Ten Career Resolutions for the New Year
> > This the season to deck the halls, to celebrate, to be jolly . . .and to
> > come up with a new set of resolutions to help us get the new year off on
> > right note. Resolutions can be extraordinarily successful and help us
> > life changes. So, take advantage of this time of self-reflection and
> > reevaluate your career--where it was, where it now stands, and where you
> > want it to be. Here's a short list of ten career resolutions to consider
> > this holiday season.
> > 1. Re-evaluate your career.
> > This one should top your list. Before you vow to make any other changes
> > improvements, you should sit back and take a look at your present career
> > situation. "Career development takes place over time, and it's healthy
> > 'take stock' periodically," says Norma Zuber, a career counselor and
> > and director of Careers Development/Life Planning: Zuber & Company in
> > Ventura, California. In order to learn where you'll be happiest, take
> > opportunity get to know yourself. Take some time to assess your skills,
> > aptitudes, likes and dislikes.
> > 2. Continue to educate yourself.
> > Education does not end after high school or college; it continues
> > your life. And the New Year is the perfect opportunity to step back and
> > what areas you want to brush up on. Is there an accounting class that
> > help you manage your work responsibilities? Or maybe you've been wanting
> > take an art history class to create balance between your life and your
> > Take advantage of what is out there. "Without lifelong learning you will
> > become stagnant and not feel fulfilled or satisfied with life or work,"
> > Zuber. "Don't allow yourself to fall into a 'couch potato' mind-set."
> > 3. Manage your time.
> > After the busy holiday season it will probably become painfully apparent
> > that you need to learn to schedule your time and develop methods to
> > more efficient. So, add this task to your resolutions for the new
> > millennium. "Be on the lookout for a quicker, more efficient way of
> > tasks," says Zuber. "This simple commitment to become efficient will get
> > noticed and help you balance your work and private life."
> > 4. Go the extra mile in your job.
> > It's so easy to fall into the "doing your time" rut of a nine-to-five
> > But not only is this not satisfying to you, your employer will notice
> > or later. So take this time of year to infuse your day-to-day job with
> > enthusiasm. Go that extra mile, and when you are done with an assignment
> > don't sit and wait for something to be handed to you. "Be proactive and
> > positive about your assignments," says Zuber. "This attitude will get
> > noticed and maybe even promoted."
> > 5. Listen to feedback.
> > This year, make a vow to listen to what people at work are saying to
> > You'll be surprised at how much you can learn about how people perceive
> > you.Then work to make changes or--if the feedback is very positive--keep
> > doing what you are doing. Also, try to learn how to take feedback, which
> > Zuber claims is not as easy as it seems. "If the feedback is positive,
> > accept it by replying with a simple 'thank you.'" What if the feedback
> > negative? "Never become defensive," says Zuber. "Hear it out. If you
> > the feedback is not accurate, ask for examples. If you see it as
> > respond with appreciation for having this pointed out to you. If you
> > disagree with it, calmly and confidently state your position. Don't
> > become upset."
> > 6. Stay on top of emerging trends in your industry.
> > Keeping on top of what's going on in your industry is vital to
> > your career, but we often don't take the time to do this. This New Year,
> > resolve to read professional publications or attend conferences or
> > in your field. Check out the business section of newspapers and
> > They are filled with information about new trends. "Staying current and
> > being able to discuss trends and issues intelligently will help you
> > out and enhance your position," says Zuber. "Also, when you know what is
> > going on in the broader world of work, you will also know when and where
> > look to move up professionally."
> > 7. Find out your worth.
> > You only need to do this every few months, and the New Year is the
> > time to benchmark your worth. Once you do it, you will be able to
> > how it is changing and what you need to do to grow it. Research into
> > positions in your own company, or a related one, will quickly reveal the
> > financial worth of your own position. Also, a frequently overlooked
> > longevity with your company. "Over time, a person becomes increasingly
> > valuable, especially when you follow the other "resolutions" such as
> > on-going education," says Zuber. "When you realize that your worth gives
> > favor in the eyes of your employer, you might be able to negotiate a
> > or a more advanced position."
> > 8. Build good relationships with other professionals.
> > The holiday season is the perfect time to build and nurture
> > So why not extend this and make it one of your career resolutions? "Be
> > supportive and open with those you work with, and never spread rumors or
> > gossip," says Zuber. "Be known as a person of integrity." Zuber also
> > recommends you make an effort to contact other professionals outside
> > company. "Join the local or state chapter of your professional
> > You might also consider becoming involved with community organizations."
> > 9. Work on your people skills.
> > Building relationships may also require you to work on your people
> > Zuber suggests some basic tools. "Be known for your firm handshake and
> > smile. Warmly and sincerely greet people you see every day, only
> > occasionally, or think you may never see again. Learn to be assertive
> > open." Zuber says being assertive is a healthy, positive reaction to any
> > situation. This attitude is respectful both to yourself and to those
> > you. It lets you state your needs and thoughts on an ongoing basis
> > offense while allowing others to do the same. It creates an environment
> > trust and respect.
> > 10. Always make time for yourself.
> > Last but not least, resolve to take care of yourself this year. "You
> > take care of yourself," says Zuber. "Nobody else will. It's rare for an
> > employer to suggest you take time off." So you need to do it yourself.
> > Schedule a time for what restores you. Take a friend to lunch, read a
> > go to the fitness center, get a massage, or go to a movie, the beach or
> > art show. Do whatever it takes to put you at ease and regenerate. Only
> > can you be productive.
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Some of my postings will be more personal. I'll write about my job or my family, or describe a trip or vacation that I took. Where appropriate, I'll also include pictures and sound to help you get the "full experience."
Here's a picture I took on a recent trip.
We hope to update this page often with new photos.