Everyone Has A Story

In May I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with my husband and we spent two fantastic weeks cruising from Portugal to England, with stops in Spain and France. Throughout the trip we caught ourselves identifying people who were engaged and passionate and those few who were definitely disengaged on the job. I guess it’s an occupational hazard now that I tend to quickly slap these labels on people.

When we were aboard ship, we had the opportunity the first night to meet Jerome, the ship’s Executive Chef from Bordeaux, France (where we would be spending two days later in the voyage). From our first conversation it was clear that he absolutely loved what he did. He suggested joining him at the open food market when we reached his hometown. A week later we docked right in Bordeaux and we set our alarm for a ridiculously early time and jumped out of bed to go on this amazing adventure. I love being around people who have a passion for what they do!

Our experiences on this trip reinforced for me that engagement is what motivates people to not only feel dedicated to their job and their life, but also to feel rewarded by what they do and how they do it. It pushes people to look differently and go above and beyond, not because they have to but because they want to. Engagement is buying in, going all in, and remaining within and contributing to the passion and mission of the company.

I am finding as I talk about my work that it strikes a chord with so many people; a number of who have graciously shared with me their own story of reengagement. One of these stories of reengagement came from an onboard performer named William who we met on the very first day as we set sail. He heard we were celebrating our anniversary and couldn’t wait to congratulate us.

The first night onboard the ship, the performers did a show where they told a bit about themselves and chose a song that best represented their life story. William talked about discovering in a school choir that he had the talent to sing and eloquently spoke about how he was supported to continue by his parents, including his hearing impaired mother. He chose to sing Oh What a Beautiful Morning and to also sign it in a tribute to his mom. He blew us both away with his fantastic voice and his giving nature.

A week later we found ourselves seated with Will and some other people in one of the lounges where we all chatted about our lives. Someone asked me what I do and I mentioned that I had written a book about overcoming disengagement. Will turned to me and said, “Wait, that’s me, I was one of the disengaged who got reengaged.”

He then proceeded to tell me about his life before singing where he was a successful manager in the retail division of one of the world’s top technology companies. He recounted his ‘moment’ when he realized he had crossed over from engagement into disengagement, and how he decided that life was too short not to follow his passion and make singing and performing his career.

Watching him perform everyday and interact with our fellow passengers, it was easy to see how engaged and passionate he is, not to mention incredibly talented! While William knows he is starting out on a tough road in becoming a full-time performer, it’s clear he knows deep inside his heart that this is what he’s supposed to be doing with his life. I have no doubt that we will be seeing William’s name up in lights in a few years. It’s a given when you are this talented and passionate about what you do.