Vocation and Meaning: An Explosive Mix

Vocation and Meaning: An Explosive Mix

In one of the first articles I wrote, Why You Should Focus on Your “Why”, I explained how I found my purpose. An epiphany that made my career take a drastic turn.

Little did I know at that time that it was only the first in a series of epiphanies. And I couldn’t imagine that these epiphanies would begin to be more frequent, and happen one after another, at an unimaginable rate.

Here’s what happened until now, one year later, and the results I obtained.

After finding my Vocation

The moment when I was able to name my Vocation and explain it in some sort of elevator pitch, it was suddenly tangible. From that moment, it was clear that all I would do would be aligned with my Vocation.

Every decision, every article, every intervention, every post, every discussion would contribute to bringing humans at the heart of businesses and the world of work.

And I’m proud to say that I managed to follow this guideline. There were a few situations where I could have hurt my Vocation. When it happened, I felt dirty and disgusting. I was threading on my values. So I decided that I would uphold my convictions, even if I had to put myself at risk.

It was systematic. I just could not contribute to a system that encourages the abuse or contempt of humans at work while turning them into cogs in a machine. The first thing I did was to find an environment that would be safe for people to be people, and where my beliefs would not be seen as whims, but as something that goes without saying. And that’s when I agreed to work at Marine Press as a manager.

Scattered experiments

I tried quite a few things. Experimentations on humans, if I can use that expression. I’ve created definitions of awesome, squads of managers at the service of employees, experiences to increase psychological safety, constant reflections on how not to be indispensable, experiments to rehumanize recruitment and found a way to create interviews that are optimized for the candidates, promoted benevolent leadership, savagely rebuked traditional management and its bloodthirsty and power-hungry managers, realized that being an imposter is not such a bad thing, to the point of diving headfirst into the creation of video series, more recently…

All these were my short controlled experiments to find ways to put people once and for all at the heart of work, so that they can be its actors rather than its victims.

I enjoyed every minute of these experiences, and I learned something from all of them. They all reminded me that what I was doing was worth doing.

Additional epiphanies

Other epiphanies have occurred more recently, and these were not related to all humans for once, but one in particular: myself.

Time is not an infinite resource

In my early days, my experiences were confined to the Products and Technology department at Marine Press. I was paid to do these experiments. Awesome, right?

As I expanded my playground, I realized that I could do more. My experiences began to grow outside of my work, and into my network. We exported our experiences to Spark the Change by giving a lecture, and I started to include people from my network in my experiences by giving them a voice.

The more experiments I did, the more I was exposing my network to these experiments, and the more they were time-consuming. Very time-consuming. At first, Primos Populi required about 2 or 3 hours a week. Today, if I do not hold back, it can go up to 35 hours. The thing is, I’m already working 40 hours a week.

I sometimes worked 75 hours a week because my need to bring people back to the heart of businesses is stronger than doing the minimum to live and eat.

I had to find ways not to sacrifice my physical and mental health, my life and my family while continuing to promote the place of the human being at the heart of work.

Time is Money

By spending so much time working to fulfill my Vocation, life started sending me signals. Tiredness. I was burning myself out. And this is how one realizes that of all the resources available in life, time is the only one that you can’t buy.

After reading Maurice Lefebvre‘s article entitled How to find time for meaning, and after much discussion about how much value people actually bring to companies in 40 hours, it did not take me so long to realize that what I was doing in parallel of my work was what was paying the most in terms of intrinsic motivation.

Understanding that time can’t be bought, I wondered what I could sacrifice. The family and my personal life, my vocation, or my full time job. To ask the question was to answer it.

Inspiring people is more dangerous than it seems

While working on Primos Populi, I kept telling myself that if my texts or videos helped but one person, they were worth the effort.

I have received a lot of positive feedback on my texts about Vocation. Several people wrote to me to say that they wanted to reorient their career to devote it to their vocation. That made my heart smile.

But more recently, I started to have much more meaningful and emotionally charged feedbacks. Here are a few.

I cried watching your video on the Impostor Syndrome. Thank you, thank you for saying it aloud !!

After watching your video on The Goddamn Resources, I went to see my boss who is preparing the creation of an ERP tool (Enterprise Resource Planner). I told him, “Hey, you never treated us as resources or even called us resources, why don’t we do an Enterprise People Planner?” We could add people’s skills and career management functions to it. It would make us stand out from the competition”. My boss said it was an incredible idea and gave me the lead of the project. I was thinking of looking for another job because I was lacking in challenges, in the end, I found the challenges without changing employer!

But the most significant feedback was this one:

Someone shared with me your Practical Guide to Becoming a Terrible Manager. When I finished reading it, I was shaken because I recognized all the bosses from the company I worked for in it. The next day, I resigned, with nothing else ahead of me. I had just decided that I deserved to be happy in my work.


Oh. That was a kick in the hornet’s nest of my Meaning. It was not immediate, it took a few days for me to understand what I had just read. But when I did, I was completely overwhelmed by a sense of tremendous accomplishment. My quest for Meaning finally reached its first milestone.

If the Vocation is a goal more or less attainable but for which we will fight body and soul, our Meaning is the means by which we can reach our Vocation while having the most significant impact. That’s what determines how you make a difference. How you matter.

And I had just found the Meaning of what I was doing and realized that what I was doing mattered. This blend of Purpose and Meaning brought me a feeling of happiness as I have not known before in my professional life.

The story has come full circle

Actually, there are two stories that came full circle.

The person who gave up her job because she deserved to be happy, I contacted her recently to tell her about the effect her message had had, and that I also decided to sacrifice my full-time job because I too deserve to be happy, without burning myself out, without sacrificing my personal and family life.

The other part that came full circle made me smile. Since all this time my Vocation was clear, I was always looking for how it would become Meaningful. I thought I had to find the way that would have the most impact on people, myself and the world.

This testimony made me realize what I did mattered when I help people take ownership of their career, and take charge of their future to be happy.

And yet, if I go back to December 2017, in my article Why You Should Focus on Your “Why”, here’s what I wrote:

A good day was when I had the opportunity to help someone improve their work environment or work conditions. When I helped someone take charge of their own future. Not only someone in my team, but anyone within my organization, or within my external network.

There was always Meaning in what I was doing. It simply took some time to understand how much it mattered.

What now?

I’m joining my friends Maurice and Axel in their companies. By doing this, I will be able to help people flourish in their work or to emancipate themselves from toxic workplaces. I can devote my time to transforming companies so that their employees can take ownership of their work, bring a maximum value and live in a healthy culture. I can inspire by giving lectures, coaching, mentoring.

And what about Primos Populi?

It will be the voice of our work. You will have way more content, much more regularly! 🙂

Vocation and Meaning : An Explosive Mix
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Vocation and Meaning : An Explosive Mix
Finding your Vocation is very powerful, but finding the Meaning that defines how much you matter can act as a catalyst. Mixing the two results in an explosive cocktail of happiness!
Primos Populi
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