Lesson of the Week

Employed: I am gainfully occupied

Maid of the Mist Senior Captain Malcolm Bunting has driven over sixteen million people to the base of Niagara Falls.  On his first trip, he asked, “WHAT am I doing?”  No sailor in his right mind would navigate this dangerous gorge or worse yet, approach the scree!  But he learned the secret of keeping safe and finding potential, not peril, piloting the boat filled with people awed by the whole experience.

Begin your employment with a dream. Guy Kawasaki suggests not losing your vision in rhetoric, but starting off with a simple mantra.  (The Art of the Start, Penguin Group, 2004.)  Here is one of his excellent examples.  The March of Dimes mission statement is:

“March of Dimes researchers, volunteers, educators, outreach workers, and advocates work together to give all babies a fighting chance against the threats to their health:  prematurity, birth defects, low birth weight.”

Guy Kawasaki changed the Red Cross mission to the following mantra: Save babies.

The Southwest Airlines mission statement is:

“The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”

Guy Kawasaki changed this to:  Better than driving.

To be employed or gainfully occupied, you stop being cluttered with verbosity and create a short appropriate mantra of five words or less.  You answer Captain Bunting’s question:  “What am I doing?”  You make your slogan an active, honest statement of what you expect to do.  Then you do it – you put your mantra into action.  Here is an example of this principle.

A woman got married and had a desire to be employed and gainfully occupied as a mother.  Employed meant doing something useful, productive, beneficial, rewarding, and profitable as a mother.  Profitable or gainful means having value or worth.  Typically being gainfully employed means having a job that makes money.  This could have been the case in this story, however, this mother believed that being gainfully employed would mean receiving the non-monetary altruistic rewards from being a good mother and watching children grow in grace and success.  These rewards include joy, confidence, compassion, courage, strength, creativity, and mutual love.

However, this woman did not become a mother after getting married.  She and her husband did not get pregnant.  The couple was infertile.  Because of this, the woman was not employed as a mother and not gainfully occupied.  She became distraught, depressed, resentful, jealous, confused, lonely, and hopeless.

One morning she woke up and like Captain Bunting she asked, “What am I doing?”  What is my purpose?  What is my mission?  How am I employed?  How am I gainfully occupied?  She started with a simple mantra, an expectation of good:  I am a mother.

Post Mantra:  The woman decided to put her mantra into action.  She did not let a prescribed definition of motherhood limit her ability to be a mother.  She did not need a biological offspring to define her motherhood and make her mantra possible.

She defined motherhood as look after, care for, protect, tend, cherish, and nurture.  There was no biological limitation in that definition.  She started babysitting, working in the church nursery, and leading a Girl Scout troop.  She received her Masters and Doctorate in social work.  Every action manifested “I am a mother”.

Soon something miraculous happened.  She was presented with the opportunity to adopt children.  One by one, beautiful babies came into her life and she and her husband grew into a family with four children.  Her employment and gainful occupation as a mother was realized in hundreds of ways and not made impossible by the lack of biological offspring.

Begin your employment with a mission.  Set boundaries with a mantra.  Put the mantra into practice.  Take the steps necessary to be active and dedicated to this practice.  This is the proper formula for becoming gainfully occupied.


The high prize of life, the crowning fortune of man, is to be born with a bias to some pursuit which finds him in employment and happiness.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Essayist, Lecturer, and Poet


Activity:  A Mantra of Five Words or Less

Materials: Paper and a pencil or pen, a 3 x 4 removable label

Time:  Ten minutes to write and ten minutes per person to discuss


1.  Write down a mission you want to accomplish this week.  Make a detailed checklist and description to accomplish this mission.

2.  Make a list of key words that relate to this checklist and detailed description of this mission.

3.  Now create a five words or less mantra that completely encapsulates or represents this detailed mission.  For instance, Southwest Airlines mantra could be “Better than driving”.  The March of Dimes could be “Save babies” (as described by Guy Kawasaki).  What would your mantra be for this whole week’s mission?

3.  Write the mantra on a 3 x 4 removable label.  Put this label in a place you will notice during the week.

4.  Discuss your results with the group.

5.  Activate yourself to practice and fulfill the mission this mantra discloses for the week.  Review the description and checklist that gives the detail operational definition of this mission.  Complete the mission and thereby be true to your mantra.


I am employed so I can ...... We'd like to hear your story about being employed. Write your story below.