Are You Dressing The Monkey In Silk?
Look Into The Mirror

By By Doug DeCarlo

Let's face it. It's not getting easier, especially for those of us who are working on extreme projects... those complex, high-speed, change-driven adventures that like to defy the rules of traditional project management.

These highly demanding projects tend to follow us home at night, and live rent free inside our heads. They can even take over our personal lives, relegating us and our families to being a mere subset of our projects. It's not so much that we have projects. Our projects now have us.

The Project Is You. Who's Managing It?
By losing our identities to our projects, we run the risk of becoming the forgotten project and can find ourselves walking around suffering a general malaise. (If this doesn't apply to you, my feelings won't be hurt if you stop reading this column and take a nice quiet walk or play with the kids.)

The all-too typical response to project malaise is the self-defeating belief that, "If I can just put together the right combination of project management skills, methods and tools, I will finally be free and be able to enjoy life fully. Have more tools, methods and skills made anybody that you know of happy? And what if it turns out that project management is not the right job for you in the first place? I spent 22 years in publishing as a manager and executive in the computer and communications industry doing just this. I had convinced myself that I liked it, but in fact I disliked 90% of my job.

So I became my work, and my work became disconnected from the real me. I didn't even know there was a real me. I lost sight of my true purpose and passion in life and didn't realize that my current job didn't express my core self, even though I was considered very good and quite successful.

One day I walked into the office and got outsized; the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. Then, a cartoon appeared and it changed my life. Picture this. These 2 old codgers are standing there talking to each other. One says, "Hey Zeek! What do you think I should be when I grow up?" His friend replies, "Wada ya mean Zeek, you're already grown up." At which point Zeek says, "But this ain't what I wanna be."

That was my wakeup call.

If You Dress A Monkey In Silk, It's Still A Monkey.
For the first time, I saw how futile it was to have invested so much energy into getting better at a job that I didn't like in the first place. If it's not working, why do more of it?

I'm not saying put down your Gannt chart and go become a florist. I'm suggesting that you might want to look into the mirror and ask yourself, "How congruent is my job with who I really am?" That is, congruent with your true purpose and passion in life. Then ask yourself, "What adjustments do I want to make, if any?"

Without having a clear, felt sense of purpose, you make poor choices, feel depleted and are at the mercy of others. Without a clear sense of purpose there is no filter to determine what to put into your Palm Pilot. A life of trivia prevails.

Here's a way to get started, a few steps to take that have worked for me and for countless others. This is not something that you do in 15 minutes. It can take days, or even a few months to come up with something that inspires you and gives you the tingles.

Awareness: Will The Real Me Please Stand Up?

The first step is to uncover your purpose and your passion for being. This involves coming up with heart-felt answers to such questions as:
  • What are those life experiences that have given me the greatest satisfaction?
  • What do people like to seek me out for?
  • What do I care enough about to stand up for?
  • When and where do I feel most energized, most like myself?
What are the common threads that run through your answers?

Having done a similar exercise about 10 years ago, I came up with the following statement:

"My life purpose and passion is to work with individuals and teams in a way that achieves extraordinary results."

Assessment: Am I Being The Real Me?

Given your statement of purpose and passion, ask:
  • What are the vehicles that I can use to express that purpose and passion? E.g., Hobbies, professions, practices
Using myself as an example:

I express my purpose and passion through the art and science of project management, team leadership, self-mastery and organizational development. And I do this by using the skills of consulting, training, coaching, facilitation, public speaking, writing and playing the drums.

Now, here's the big one to answer: What are the matches and mismatches between your inspired purpose and your current job?

Adjustment: I Want To Be Me

If needed, what actions are you willing to take to synchronize your profession with your life's purpose?

Now, go tell it to the mirror. There's someone in there looking back at you with hopeful eyes.

Extremely yours,


If you want a couple of good references, check out the following:
  • Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. This book helped me re-invent my life.
  • The World Class Project Manager: A Professional Development Guide. By Robert W. Wysociki and James P. Lewis. See chapter 7 (by yours truly) on the subject of self-mastery for project managers.
  • Mastery Works has an excellent instrument and program for helping people awaken and live their purpose and vision. 800-229-5712

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