Getting to Yes, And

Life's Great Question


Tom Rath

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Kelly keeps the questions going with longtime Gallup executive Tom Rath whose new book focuses on the importance of contributions over passions.

I was reading your book and it reminded me of this great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. He said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” That seems to jive with the central themes in your book. Right?

“You know, it's interesting that you mentioned that quote from Emerson because one of the quotes that most inspired me is from Dr. King, when he said that ‘Life's most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?’ And you know, I think we often see a quote like that go by, but I took that to heart a few years ago and essentially asked myself, how could I remind myself of that call to action on a daily basis and really refocus what I do on an hour by hour basis. Am I adding to something that will make a contribution for another person that continues to grow in my absence or am I just getting into another 10 emails or whatever. It's served as a way to refocus a lot of my efforts and it's also helped me to rethink the basic relationship we have with our own self development.”

Isn't it interesting that there are management theorists in the forties and fifties - Peter Drucker was talking about this, and we're only now starting to get to the importance of purpose and destroying these corporate hierarchies. I just wonder what took so long?

“You know, it's kind of wild. I started working on this maybe 10 years ago and I'd assume because companies have gotten really good at measuring and working on how they can extract as much satisfaction or engagement or experience or essentially how much discretionary effort they can get out of a person between eight and five. And boy companies are good at that and they have it down to a science. I would have assumed 10 years ago that organizations would get all rallied up and excited about how we can measure how much we're putting back in the individual's lives. But unfortunately the way corporate structures are set up today, they're just not wired for that.”

There is so much scientific evidence that sharing personal details, sharing what is important to you - who you are - improves workplace conversations.

“So for me, it's being a dad and a husband or a researcher and a writer. What are the big experiences that have shaped why you do what you do? And I think in any work setting we need to have, to your point, more personal conversations about who we are and why we do what we do. And, essentially, we've got to get about as far we can away from the lifeless, cold, sterile resumes. I mean you couldn't invent a poorer way to describe the work a person does over a lifetime then a profile or resume or LinkedIn profile today.”

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