In all my travels no physical structure has ever left such a lasting impression as the Taj Mahal. As my travel companions and I walked through the gates, a strange calm came over the group and my eyes involuntarily welled. It was simply breathtaking.
The Taj was built by the 5th Muslim ruler of India as a memorial for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. This was a woman he loved and trusted so deeply that he empowered her to make kingdom decisions during his rule. A concept so unheard of in the Muslim tradition and at that time in history, that it ignited speculation and contempt by many. She was known for her work with the poor and for the economic vitality of the kingdom. When she died after childbirth, the emperor’s inconsolable mourning went on for decades.
The Taj took 22 years to complete and employed 20,000 people to hand carve each individual marble and semi-precious stone piece. Although skeptics have come forth attempting to debunk the romantic nature of this structure, the hand crafted semi-precious stones that lay within each section including only the decease empress’s favorite flower designs tell a different story. It was an economic driver in the kingdom like none had been prior. But more, it was a labor of love – true love and true loss. The gesture was grand and standing in its presence today you cannot help but feel its intensity.
I am not completely convinced modern love is any more or less complicated than the tradition laden days of old but despite the centuries, we are perhaps no less skilled at handling it either. So many of us toggle between our own self-preservation causing us to hold ourselves away from experiencing the deepest part of love. Or conversely so in need of partnership that we sacrifice authentic love for companionship.
Couldn’t the same be said for the connections we have to our careers? My doctoral dissertation focused on a phenomenon called Psychological Contract (PC). Coined by Levinson in 1962, in simple terms it is the expectations we carry with us when we arrive in our chosen jobs – the way we perceived the work, the organizational culture, the feedback loop, etc. When our expectations become shattered either by our own false beliefs or an organizational change such as new boss or even a promotion, our reactions tell a story and often leave a lasting impact on our future decisions.
A decision to jump into entrepreneurship is shaped largely by these past experiences. Do we use them to drive us to be better, stronger in our own entrepreneurial journeys or do we self-preserve and shrink away from opportunity, choosing the comfortable companion of a paycheck despite its lack of true joy? Just as truly meaningful love needs a sense of fearlessness and sheer faith, so it goes in our pursuit of career fulfillment.
The Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore called the Taj Mahal a “teardrop on the cheek of time” and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt felt that its white marble “symbolizes the purity of real love.” We all need these symbols of inspiration – whether a lasting impressionistic symbol like the Taj or just a daily reminder we are on a journey to fulfillment and to keep faith. Perhaps they are found in the Snapchat visual pep-talks from a good friend or the longer winded dinners with a mentor. Perhaps they are in readings from the masters or tiny quotes that speak to your soul. Maybe it’s a long run along the river or the city skyline at dawn. Find your daily inspiration and hold it close. As with lifelong love, building a meaningful career takes patience, devotion and unwavering faith. Most important, never forget why you chose this path in the first place.
And as always, keep asking…
What are you InPursuit of?