If you’re at all enticed by the idea of following with excellence–of truly participating, making your unique contributions, co-laboring with others to achieve a common purpose–then you may have asked yourself a series of questions.
What should I do? How should I engage? What endeavors should I participate in? If I want an environment in which I can follow well, which organization, association, club, or business should I join?
In a moment of altruism, you may even ask yourself, “What does the world need?” What do I have that could be of benefit to others?
Growing up, I was blessed by a great deal of academic giftedness. The adults in my life had various and grandiose plans for who I would become–doctor, lawyer, NASA engineer, even U.S. President! (Is that still an accolade to aspire to?) I grew up with a sense that I could likely be successful in whatever realm I chose to invest in.
This perspective actually proved to be very challenging when it came to college days and selecting a course of study. I have no specific leaning, and I’ve been told I can do anything. So what shall it be? Computer engineering? Journalism? Mathematics? Linguistics? Religious Studies?
In time, I came to discover the notion of passion–what is it that touches the deepest parts of who I am? They say that if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life. Since I was given a choice, I wanted to choose a career focus that would be me–suitable to my gifts, productive, beneficial to others, and enjoyable.
So what should I do? What do I need?
The question of chasing one’s passions can be supremely selfish. And I have continued a somewhat meandering course through life in terms of education, hobbies, and career.
But a friend of mine shared a quotation with me that tied together the question of passion and the answer to how can I follow well and do what the world truly needs.
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. -Gil Bailie
Many of us desire to be involved in meaningful work, and there is no end to the scope of things that could be done to make the world, our community, our organization a better place. So how to choose?
Gil Bailie answers that question by pointing us to self-awareness, tapping into the depths of who we are and living, working, contributing, following from that place.
In my own words, I offer this perspective at the beginning of Chapter 7 of Embracing Followership:
If we engage in work that we care about and are personally invested in, it becomes easier to fulfill our obligations and make our best contributions in a life-giving, satisfying, and beneficial way. When we do, we move beyond being a nameless cog in an impersonal machine to becoming the actuation of something deep within us.
What does the world need? It needs you, engaged to the full, participating completely, employing your various gifts, talents, and resources to cooperate alongside of others to accomplish aims and fulfill purposes.
If you are truly alive and engaged, you have just the answers you need to pursue the life journey of an excellent follower.
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See also Chapters 11 & 12 of Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture for suggested resources and action steps to encourage you along in your journey of self-awareness and personal development toward excellent followership.