In today’s uncertain times, career journeys are increasingly under pressure due to the changes in the talent demographics and delivery expectations from fast evolving organisations. People are finding themselves on the crossroads of a promising career wilting under the demands of business and a midlife stage with competing priorities where they need to keep everything going from children’s education to mortgages.
Breakthrough: The framework for an Inspired Career has become a bestselling bible on career success. It has helped readers make the much-needed shift from “making a living” career mindset to power highly successful careers, fuelled by true human potential.
With his unique framework, and various anecdotes and personal stories of individuals who “crossed the bridge”, the author attempts to unshackle you from limited thinking and propels you to make an inspired career move where you can be at your best.
Targeted Age Group:: 30-58
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Hi, I’m Ashutosh Sinha.
As a young executive, I had always dreamt of doing something big in my life, like many young people do. Obviously I had zero idea what that “big” was. When I graduated with an engineering degree followed by an MBA from a premier school, it seemed I had found my road to success and happiness.
At first, it was exciting, but it wasn’t what I had signed up for…
In the pursuit of making a good living, I lost sight of my dreams and don’t know when and how the years flew by. My career track gave me stature and money but was losing its zing – it seemed all uphill and tiresome. Life threw me a curveball when I lost my revered personal mentors, my grandfather and father, within a span of two years. It was a turning point that pushed me to pause and reflect on my journey.
Thus began my quest to search for my higher purpose. Through extensive research and conversations with numerous business executives and entrepreneurs, I learned how they not only defied their middle-age blues, but had also made their journey to the peak and were genuinely enjoying every moment of it. I discovered what distinguished the happy executives from the others was a fine line on how they approached their career.
This propelled me to distil all I had learned into a practical framework on how to energise a listless career into one which provides a deep sense of fulfilment while keeping the cash flow intact. I tried on myself at first – and IT WORKED!
I am deeply connected to my inner calling which I now refer to as the True North on the career compass. My framework has now been used by many senior and mid-level executives I mentor-partner with. I am on a personal mission to share this framework with other executives, entrepreneurs and homemakers on a sabbatical, to help them make a comeback to the rediscovered career destination, where they can be incredibly successful.
SIXTY SECONDS WORTH OF DISTANCE RUN
“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done.
One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day …”
If you are a mid-career or senior executive, who is very content and deeply engaged in your job, this book is probably not for you. If your work inspires
you enough to have that spring in your step every single morning, congratulations – because you are among three of ten executives who are living a career they love. However, if you are among the seven, just like I was, you possibly feel trapped in your work and are prone to stress and fatigue. You find your office bag feeling heavier by the day and your drive to work becoming increasingly monotonous. Numerous stud- ies and polls have shown that executives who do not find joy in their work are twice as likely to be diag- nosed with stress-related symptoms, such as high blood pressure and depression. At the very minimum, these are complemented by severe Monday allergies. Let me briefly relate my journey to unlock the hidden wealth of fusing the elusive happiness with work.
I am of the Generation Xers where post-school in India parents were under tremendous pressure to get their child into a career that would pay for his or her living. My social setup was no exception, and it was convenient to walk the same trodden path. I surely wasn’t a rock star, and I tried my luck at every entrance exam for admission into colleges in engineering, architecture, arts, and even the army, hoping to make a career by accident. My father was an accomplished professional from the IITs, the ivy league of engineering colleges in India, and that surely did not make it any easier for me to accept my rather limited success in the various admission tests. But finally, I did get into a state engi- neering college. I seemed to have found my trade and graduated as a silver medallist in metallurgical engineering, and four years later I found myself in a steel plant as a young hard hat engineer, managing workers twice or more my age producing pig iron. It was exciting at first, but it wasn’t what I had signed up for.
After all, I had topped material science to live my childhood dream to be a NASA engineer, sending spacecraft to planets. I threw my job and decided to pursue my mas- ters from Sheffield, UK, in material science – dream ahoy, I said! But before my spacecraft could even take off from India to United Kingdom, tragedy struck at home. I lost someone I loved dearly – my grandfather. And as if that wasn’t enough, my role model, my guru, my father passed away two days after I turned twenty- five. Fate had thrown a strange life statistic at me – two years and two men who held the beacon to my life ahead were gone, and here I was feeling all grown up. I was soon back at my old steel plant, making a living. In a few months, I moved to an automobile manufacturer closer home to be with my mother and grandmother. For fifteen months, as a quality control engineer, I would take a 7:00 a.m. bus ride to the plant, have six cups of tea and samosas sitting on a creaky wooden table waiting for the clock to chime every hour, and then check the quality of the gear castings on the shop floor – eight times a day; I noted the readings, deliv- ered them to the lab, and got back home on the same bus. I would crash into my room on my father’s arm- chair, very tired. My body wasn’t tired; it was my mind.
One weekend I could not take it anymore. Something was amiss. I was at home with a decent paying job, but every month I was becoming someone else. I pulled out my father’s car in pouring rain and drove to his old office, parked the car, and allowed the dam to break. Deluge of tears forced their way out, and I was shout- ing at myself or maybe talked to myself; it didn’t mat- ter. By the time I heard the sound of rain drumming the car roof, I had probably been with myself for a cou- ple of hours. This was it! I had to do something mean- ingful. It was not that the job was below my dignity, but it wasn’t me. My intuitive mother saw through my eyes when I reached home, and that night over dinner, she gave me a sealed postal envelope from my father, which had never got posted. It had a newspaper clip- ping of the last para of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” which ended with
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute, With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the earth and every-thing that is in it, And which is more – you will be a man, my son”.
In his handwritten letter, he had challenged me to find a “sense of purpose” in life and follow my dreams. It was surreal timing. Supported by my very courageous mother, as it was too late to get back to my NASA ambitions, I instead resolved to pursue a business degree from one of the reputed business schools in the country. In two years, I graduated and joined a reputed market research firm and was back on the road, this time in a suit and a tie and driving my new Korean Matiz car to different industrial clients on a polymer research project. Couple of years into the job, I felt I had arrived in life. On one such client trip, as I parked my car and looked into the rearview mirror to tighten my tie knot, my eyes looked back searchingly to ask me: have you found a sense of purpose? Here I was in my early thirties, a young executive thinking I was in the groove a moment back, and now the words from Kipling came ringing back. Was I living every single minute? Strange for it to come. By traditional wisdom it was all perfect. Another ten years on the road and I could be a senior business head, no complaints. Then in my forties, I could push myself to be a senior executive or, who knows, even a CEO maybe, and so on. Was I truly making a difference? Hard to answer, but it kept ringing like a hundred fire engines running around in my head on the way back from the business meeting. I woke up next morning with a clear thought – a resolve – I am not going to live to just make a living. I had to live for a purpose, one that would positively impact lives around me.
Providence plays an equal part in life when you resolve. A senior industry mentor of mine referred me to an interview with one of the top executive search firms of the world. It was unusual couple of decades back to move by choice from a fast-track business career into what the world referred to as head-hunting. But it was beautiful. I could never imagine that I would end up meeting so many CEOs, board members, and business owners at such an early stage in my career. It was a steep learning curve, but I relished every minute of it. Over the next few years, I observed and absorbed why CXOs across the world succeed or fail and how business owners think. Most importantly, I developed a net- work of nearly three hundred CXOs around the world. I attempted to decode the secret algorithms of successful senior executives. However, even as I observed many success stories, I soon realised that it came with a huge caveat to what I will now refer to, for the sake of analogy, as the Bermuda Triangle effect. Many cruising career planes hit a thunderstorm in their mid-forties to early-fifties, and their career trajectory went off the radar. I will delve into this topic at length in a later chapter in this book.
For nearly twenty years, I have been fortunate to have played the Head of Human Resources and Talent Acquisition role for some of the best organisations in the world across various industries: manufacturing, healthcare, tech, BPO, consulting, petrochemical, and retail. I have interviewed close to two thousand CXOs and hired over forty thousand people at various career levels across the world for nearly two decades now. In hindsight, every interview and every hire has been a learning. I have learnt that your career is like that young sapling that you can’t be reckless with; it needs careful nurturing and care, not by someone else but by you. In the absence of right nurturing, the roots do not go deep enough to hold against the gusty winds in later years.
Over the past decade, I have found myself on a mission to mentor senior executives. The focus of my work has been on the Bermuda Triangle Effect – the career midpoint where many lose their way. Many tend to mix this up with midlife crisis. With mortgages kick- ing in, growing children, higher education fees, age- ing parents, rising medical bills, and some bumps to the career, it seems like one giant crisis is taking shape. The trick is to decouple career and life. Yes, it is easier said than done, but there is a way and we will delve into it together later in the book. Eight out of ten senior executives in their mid-forties feel they are unable to balance the demands of personal life with a fast-peaking career graph.
During my conversations with fifty CEOs, over 78% confided that they started finding their jobs rather monotonous somewhere in their forties, which led to a growing sense of disengagement. The spring in their step was gone, and the disengagement led to disenchantment that effectively took the passion out of what they did. Many admitted that the magnified focus on what they did not like in their occupation made them dwell more and more on what was wrong with their careers till it became a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. I counselled those who were willing to partner on this journey of resurrection to make a career transition to what inspired them most, their sweet spot, where they could play from a position of strength. Again, the transition wasn’t easy keeping in mind that the equation of career drives money, which in turn drives life, played the most on everyone’s minds. Monthly salary was like an addiction that inhibited any lateral thinking beyond the requirements of the job and survival against the politics of the organisation. After years of research and discussion with my network of CXOs, I have developed a framework that has produced sustained results. I am happy to report that many of the senior executives found their step and added another twenty years to their career trajectory. I do not claim to have any magic self-help mantra. I offer a serious partnership over the course of this book to navigate the career plane above the level where the thunder- storms are playing and rediscover your “future career”. It could be inside the same organisation or another career track. This framework empowers you to achieve a breakthrough.
I invite you to find your higher purpose to fuel some passion back in what you do tomorrow. It’s time to make that right next move!
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