What an elevator ride can teach us about our career

January 31, 2018

I have realized that I can think in the language of metaphors. I had never paid attention to this aspect until a friend pointed this out to me. The power of a metaphor is that it drives home the point without a need for too much explanation.

In my coaching work, I do get the opportunity to coach many corporate professionals who seem to be perennially frustrated with the ‘slow progress’ of their career. When I open up the discussion with them, I realize that many of them are constantly looking only for the big milestones like promotions, overseas postings and coveted assignments and feel frustrated when these milestones don’t happen on time.

With decades of corporate experience behind me, I know that such milestones are few and far between in a career. If one is obsessed with only the big milestones, the opportunities to celebrate life will be few and when such milestones (and celebrations) are delayed beyond one’s expectations, it breeds frustration and anger.

I have always believed that most of our life happens between such big milestones. If one focuses on the life between such big milestones, there could be millions of moments worth celebrating. Then the big milestone celebrations come as an added bonus.

Once during my coaching assignment, the metaphor of a closed elevator and a glass-walled capsule elevator suddenly struck me.

Imagine getting into a regular closed elevator in a high-rise building. Once the elevator door closes, the body language of the passengers in the closed elevator car is one of boredom and impatience as they keep looking at the panel that displays the floor number. Everyone faces the closed door. Many of them are fiddling with their mobile phones or looking vacantly at the ceiling or the floor. They do not make eye contact with the other passengers. In short, they are just waiting to get off the elevator.Now imagine a glass-walled capsule elevator fixed on the outside wall of a building with a panoramic view. As one gets into such an elevator, the tendency is to move towards the glass wall to take in the view, facing away from the door. As the elevator moves up, one gets to enjoy the view from different perspectives. It is an engaging journey – there is little scope for boredom or impatience. The view is sometimes so compelling that one could even miss getting off the elevator at the designated floor.

Irrespective of our attitude to it, Life continues to move forward.

When one is focused only on the big milestones, life is like being in a closed elevator waiting for the ‘right’ floor, the ‘right’ floor signifying the big milestone. Till the ‘door’ opens, it is boredom and impatience and possibly, frustration and anger.

When one is focused on life between the big milestones, it is like being in a capsule elevator – an engaging journey through life.

This metaphor applies not just to careers. It applies to our personal life as well.

Do we want to celebrate only the big milestones of life or Life itself?

The choice is with us.

You Might Also Like

  • Shanker Subramanian says:

    Loved this metaphor!!! While being focused on the big milestones we loose out on enjoying the other, but perhaps small in your eyes, big and important milestones in your loved ones life!

  • >
    %d bloggers like this: