Apple's Tim Cook is a better CEO than the late Steve Jobs was.

So it's no surprise that people were very excited when Tulane University announced that Cook would be their 2019 commencement speaker. Many wondered, "What career advice would one of the best CEOs in the world give to the newest generation of job seekers?"  

You would think that Cook would provide tips and tricks to what led to his monumental success. But his advice was actually quite the opposite.

Rather than presenting himself as the role model many people think him to be, Cook took the stage and told the graduates to challenge older generations' successes and to find their own. He further encouraged them to fight against what today's tech giants--including Apple--want them to see and regain their own perspective. Tim Cook's message is something I've talked about extensively with my clients, as well as instilling in myself.

How often do we buy into society's definition of success, which is often associated with money, power, and material luxuries? It's easy to look at someone and think we can achieve what they have by following their formula. But success is a very personal thing, and not a one-size-fits-all approach (Which is why it's crucial to create your own definition of success--here are a few examples).

If you're unsure how to start defining success on your own terms, you can start by identifying and understanding your genius and purpose. Tapping into your inner genius involves the kind of thinking and problem solving that keeps you challenged in the best way possible. Focus on the moments when you feel "in the zone" and identify the kind of thinking or problem-solving that got you there. Understanding the specific kind of thinking that you are best at and keeps you challenged in the right way is a guiding principle when seeking out and creating work that is intellectually engaging (Here's more on how to do it.)

Your purpose is linked to the kind of impact you have on colleagues or clients that is most meaningful to you. It's linked to a core emotional challenge that you've experienced in your life. If you can identify that core emotional challenge and then reverse it, you have your purpose. For example, if struggling to be seen by your family was a core emotional challenge, then helping others be seen for who they are is endlessly meaningful to you. That then becomes your purpose...helping others be seen. When you're doing work that's linked to your purpose, you are infinitely motivated. It's an absolutely essential tool for navigating career momentum and having the kind of meaning from work that we all desire.

Once you know your genius and your purpose, you have two critical data points about yourself that can help you navigate career decisions with much more ease. If you're doing work that's connected to your Zone of Genius, then success, the kind that feels good AND is connected to you, as Tim Cook suggests, will allow you to go far!

Published on: Jun 10, 2019
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