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What the Queen of Soul and a Maverick Senator Teach Us about Intentional Career Action

by Ellen Fink-Samnick MSW, ACSW, LCSW, CCM, CRP on 09/03/18

Following my last post on the Developmental Career Stages, I received countless emails on the importance of the topic. My original plan for this new blog was to dig deeper into other models, including those of Jon Acuff. His work is full of motivating themes that cue individuals on how unique success is no longer driven by career stages tied to age, but instead focused on tactics to:

·       escape being average 

·       engage in work that matters 

·       achieve awesomeness, and 

·       know action beats intention.


However, as I began to craft the next blog history intervened and stopped me in my tracks. With most individuals across the globe I heard about the deaths of Aretha Franklin, followed by Senator John McCain and pondered the significance of this news. Independent of political perspective or musical preferences, the deaths of two individuals who played such a major role in history was worthy of a moment of pause. Yet, as I considered their passing, I suddenly realized these two American icons exemplified Acuff’s messaging. The countless quotes I have heard over the week reaffirmed this fact. 


So let’s use this blog to set a stage for Acuff’s work and pay homage to the ‘Maverick Senator’ and the ‘Queen of Soul’.  Their lives profoundly reflect Acuff’s encouraging message, to always engage intentional efforts toward career action and demonstrate just how much actions can influence generations of individuals, if not also professionals.


A Common Bond Amid Differences

A variety of articles appeared this week about Ms. Franklin and Senator McCain. Many spoke to how the strong themes of the 1960’s mutually drove the decade and missions of both individuals. The quote below is a favorite: 


‘Think of the most dominant, most kinetic narratives of the 60s, the fiery combustion engines that drove the decade: From race, gender and music (Franklin) to war and politics (McCain), they are contained in the two figures to whom we bid farewell this week’


Both icons had a fierce commitment to the human condition. Each was an advocate for persons and populations in need; Ms. Franklin for the vulnerable and disenfranchised and Senator McCain for prisoners of war and veterans. Each was the voice of a generation that stood for empowerment of human rights. Both were respected for high levels of integrity, especially in the face of opposition and/or challenge. Both blazed trails that inspired the people; one using the universality of music and the other who believed in America’s foundation of government and the law. 


Both Ms. Franklin and Senator McCain modeled through every effort how to set a respectful and civil tone that reflected agreement amid disagreement. This concept continues to be an especially powerful theme for the current times: 


At a juncture like this, faced with this pair of memorials of a man and woman so very different and yet so uniquely representative of the American experience, what better time to stop and think about such figures, about what they meant and mean?’

Memories Create Life Lessons and Guide Intentional Career Action

Like so many other people I have my own distinct memories of Ms. Franklin and Senator McCain. Each memory will now be aligned with one of 5 life lessons to guide intentional career action. I was 7 years old when I first heard Ms. Franklin’s soulful voice streaming from my parent’s stereo record player. I allegedly ran through the house singing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” for months. As I grew up, her music was with me everywhere, in whatever form fit the time; whether record album, cassette, CD, video, or download. I have two of Ms. Franklin’s signature performances cued up to auto play on YouTube when I need some inspiration; her towering version of ‘My Country Tis of Thee’ at President Obama’s Inauguration and her compelling performance of (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman as she paid homage to Carole King at the Kennedy Center Honors. Each rendition epitomizes Ms. Franklin’s genuine talent, her respect of others, and the conviction of her authentic human spirit. 


Lesson #1Authentic intent and action are mandates to guide career evolution.


These words spoken by former President Clinton during his eulogy at her funeral spoke volumes and fuel Lesson #2.;


"The secret of her greatness was that she took this massive talent and this perfect culture that raised her and decided to be the composer of her own life's song - and what a song it turned out to be.” 


Lesson #2We should each feel empowered to be the composer of our own life.


In thinking of Senator McCain, I recall the poignant images of his time as a prisoner of war in Hanoi and subsequent release. While his long career in politics was impressive, the Senator’s reputation of always being true to his constituents spoke volumes. Whether or not I agreed with the Senator’s politics, I was struck by the consummate attention he paid to ethics and integrity. They went hand in hand from his vantage, and accompanied him into every life experience. One quote from a 2005 commencement speech given by the Senator, struck me to my core,


“ I have long believed that the true worth of a person is measured by how faithfully we serve a cause greater than our self-interest that encompasses us, but is not defined by our existence alone.”


Senator McCain’s staunch presence models Lessons #3 and #4.


Lesson #3Our intentions may start for our own benefit, but should always extend to actions for a greater good.


Lesson #4Ethics and integrity should set the foundation for every intent.


Acuff begins his book, Start, with words that sum up the careers of both Ms. Franklin and Senator McCain, while providing the basis for another lesson: 

‘No one aims for average

No one sets out for status quo

No one longs for ordinary……

You just have to start’


Acuff emphasizes how anyone can dream, but the action taken is what will make the difference toward being awesome; keen messaging for Lesson #5.


Lesson #5: Action will take you from average to awesome.


Neither Ms. Franklin or Senator McCain ever settled for anything less than awesome. Why should you?


#MustDoBetter #ActionBeatsIntent


Until next time...Stay Resilient!


Comments (4)

1. Paul A. Dillon said on 9/3/18 - 03:12PM
In the words of that great Roman orator and statesman, Cicero--"Facta non verba." It's deeds, not words, that count.
2. Ellen said on 9/3/18 - 03:14PM
Well said indeed!
3. Judith R. Sands said on 9/5/18 - 01:14PM
Ellen, Thanks for another thought-provoking post. RESPECT is very much "missing" in so many of our daily interactions. Despite the challenges and "barriers" encountered at work or in our routine, RESPECT is vital. Please keep sharing.
4. Ellen said on 9/5/18 - 01:55PM
Judith, well said! You can rely on me to heed the mantra always #Respect #MustDoBetter

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