Planes, Trains and ‘Ought-To’ Mobiles

Planes, Trains and ‘Ought-To’ Mobiles

Whatever this blog, essay or tome turns out to be I am certainly taking a different track than where I thought I was heading when I decided to respond to a request on The Implicit Career Search (ICS) Facebook page to blog about success. I originally thought this would give me the opportunity to poke some fun at the recent spate of writings declaring that success is not about money or prestige or possessions or even passion; it is about, wait for it…happiness! That response would probably have been much shorter than this one is turning out to be, it could have been one word…‘DUH!’ and perhaps a challenge to those writers to define happiness. My guess is they would have answered something along the lines of… “Success.”

Then I realized that ICS claims to provide clients with a formula for career bliss through the Career Development Spectrum, a model that presents five stages of development: Craftsperson, Manager, Leader, Expert, Creator. A complete career, to borrow a phrase from philosopher Ken Wilber, successfully translates and transforms each of those stages. To translate means to define what the stage means to you, to transform means to move on from the lower stage to the higher one. Let’s take them one at a time.


This stage is about learning the skills necessary to deliver the purpose of your work. The most important learning at this stage is the realization that work is fun. It is fun to learn new skills, especially when attempting to align them with a work purpose statement that will help you make a conscious contribution to the world and help you to participate in a positive manner. So this stage is about instant gratification. When I coach 3 and 4 year olds to play soccer my emphasis is not on teaching them specific skills until I have first taught them how much fun it is to learn those skills.

Translating the Craftsperson stage means defining what skills you already have that you would like to expand upon and what new ones you would like to learn. And learning to do this with a sense of fun and wonder. Joyously wondering where all this is going to lead you.

Transforming from the Craftsperson stage means realizing that delayed gratification actually helps accumulate fun. There comes a point where you have been in school, literally and metaphorically, long enough and it is time to move on. And you know when you have reached this point, you feel sated. Two glasses of wine, for me, is enjoyable, the third is too much. There will be many people, solidly ensconced in the Craftsperson level, telling me I ought to have another drink, or take another workshop, or another year at school. Transforming is a challenge.


This stage adds discipline to the fun. Although the third glass of wine often seems like fun at the time, experience has taught me that I feel better and have much more fun the next day, when I have the discipline to stop at two.

Translating the Managerial stage involves defining how much money and possessions you want and how to acquire them. The answer to the first part isn’t simply ‘a lot.’ We are all different in this area and an honest answer requires a healthy dose of self-awareness. Some people sincerely want to make a lot of money and they contribute a great deal to the world while doing so. To others, money is not as important as a simple life, unencumbered by the quest for material wealth.

Transforming from this stage requires not getting overly attached to the security you have developed. At what point do you have enough money to feel secure enough to be able to serve the world? As important as it is during a plane crash to put your oxygen mask on first, remember the point of doing that is so you can help others.

And there will be many voices telling you that you ‘ought to’ make lots of money or live simpler. Whatever you decide will take discipline and that is work. Remember, work is fun. You learned that already.


Fun plus discipline produces passion. At the leadership stage of ICS-style career development you will be passionate about serving the world. Your oxygen mask is secure and you are capable of making a unique contribution to helping others survive and thrive.

Translating the Leader stage involves defining more specifically who or what you will serve. People? Animals? Science? Spirituality? What kind of people? What type of animal? What branch of science or spirituality? At this stage you have a clearer vision of the unique shape your career will take and you have the fun, discipline and passion to accomplish it.

Transforming this stage involves moving on from the healthy ego you have needed to develop to help you get to here. Someone with a lesser ego would have tried to help those they see as more important, put their oxygen masks on before putting on their own, distressing not only themselves but all they came in contact with.

Transforming at this plane requires using your ego and passion as launching pads to serve the world. Or maybe you ought to just have more pride in yourself and go around the world telling all how you saved the day…once.


The expert views work as a responsibility. It is not only a responsibility to have fun, and be independent, and help others, but to release their unique contribution and provide the world with a solution to a problem they passionately desire to solve. This takes courage because unique solutions are criticized simply because they are unique. Experts go to bed with the phrase “We don’t do things that way” ringing in their ears. And they wake up determined to present their solution again.

To translate at the expert stage involves presenting your solution, your better way to do something, to the world.

To transform here means becoming aware that you didn’t create this solution you simply let go of something that you had been holding onto for a while. You do not desire a statue erected to memorialize the fact. Your ego is still with you, but in the back seat.


Successfully adding the courage of the expert to the passion of the leader produces a state of bliss. Your work is who you are. Instead of doing your work you are your work. You are ‘being’ it. You have successfully transitioned through each stage.

As often happens when pontificating I find myself coming to the conclusion I started out to ridicule…success is happiness! And, as in all things, there are levels of happiness, from fun to passion to bliss.

There is also a shortcut to happiness and you may have noticed it puffing it’s way through these paragraphs; a train with a destination sign that reads “From Taking to Giving.” This is your work purpose and the tracks leading to that destination get closer as you ascend each ‘plane’ of the spectrum. Either route works: begin with a work purpose and transition through each stage or transition through the stages to realize your work purpose. Your career and life become a success when you choose to view them as such and this choice is easier to make when you consciously choose how to participate in both.

And remember, stay off those ‘ought-to mobiles’!

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