By Lea Krohn, Director of Education
Abraham Maslow, the psychologist best known for identifying a hierarchy of human needs, said, “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”
So many of today’s young doers and achievers are merely surviving, not growing. Why? The work of Todd Rose, co-founder of Populace and a former Harvard Graduate School of Education professor, has taught us that, as individuals, we rarely associate fame and wealth with “success,” but we believe others do. We also often make decisions about our careers with those things in mind, rather than considering meaning, passion, or even our own skills. COVID-19 has added to these challenges, and while technology is making it easier for us to get work done during the pandemic, it can’t solve the problems associated with not enjoying our work. It certainly can’t help us find meaning in it.
To do that, we need to both learn about ourselves and continually stretch our knowledge and skills.
To introspect, to continue to grow, and to hone the ability to innovate and problem solve, individuals must have time to invest in themselves and their future. This always has been the case, but many of us are more acutely aware of it during quarantine. If we cannot carve out that time, we will suffer, and the budding entrepreneurs and activists won’t develop rapidly toward their potential.
Late last year, I had the chance to catch up with several alumni from the Charles Koch Institute’s (CKI) Koch Associate Program (KAP). KAP is an opportunity that blends professional development with real work experience. Through our Market Based Management® (MBM) curriculum, participants learn how to lead, innovate, and use principles-based thinking to make more effective decisions in their careers and in life.
While I was talking to our alumni, one question kept coming up: The structure of KAP made it so easy for them to invest in themselves, but how do they keep that going when the time is no longer structured into their day? How do you invest in yourself while also honoring your commitments to staff meetings, project deadlines, and basic inbox management? Post-KAP, our alumni were finding it hard to carve out extra (or any) time to think deliberately about their own personal development, where they would like their career to move next, and how they could better make an impact on society.
While working full-time, KAP participants have the opportunity to spend a day out of their week to reflect on their work, invest in their growth, introspect about what they are learning about themselves, network in service of their goals, and so much more. They are invited to consider what they are learning about their own passions and gifts through that work and how they can hone their skills to better serve their community and address issues they care about.
These alumni missed that activity and were surprised how hard it is to do that during the course of their regular day. With a bit of regret, I heard more than one person say something like, “I wish I had recognized the value of that unique opportunity at the time.”
What is that value? Why is making this space an important — indeed, essential — part of the work week?
Because it leads to self-actualization, or the uncovering of one’s own talents, potential, and passions. It also helps build the skills needed for lifelong learning. Making time to discover things about yourself, how to push to your limits, and developing a mindset that invites learning will pay dividends over the long term. These activities create a virtuous cycle of mutual benefit, meaning that, as a person learns new things, they see new opportunities to apply those skills and to learn, advance, and grow even more.
KAP provides support through this journey. During the program, KAP participants work closely with coaches who provide feedback on projects and help them apply MBM to their work. The coaches also push associates to learn more about their passions and skills and to identify resources that can help them be more successful. Finally, coaches gather their associates into small groups, offering a close-knit community of peers to learn alongside.
To answer the toughest questions society faces, we need individuals who are prepared to solve problems and who know how to have their insights challenged and refined. In other words: Solving today’s problems requires that we first choose growth by investing in ourselves.
Interested in finding time to do that? Learn more about KAP here.