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Four Work-Life Lessons from the Wizard of Oz…

Posted 01/11/22

Four Work-Life Lessons from the Wizard of Oz…

My sister and I crept downstairs at the crack of dawn into the living room and chose a VHS (recorded off the telly – obvs). It was always a musical. Our favourites like Annie and Grease played on repeat until the tapes perished. The parental unit would emerge wondering why we were watching the same thing for the 157th time.

Musicals bring me the immense most joy. The razzle dazzle, the music, the dancing, the costumes, the sets! Whether on stage or screen, give me a musical, and I’m there – totally transfixed – my brain both freed and focussed. I had hoped my career might be on the stage. I dabbled in acting (professional and amateur), and my dissertation for my music degree was on Moulin Rouge.

I found my un-musical purpose with my mission to help people get more joy in their working lives. As I started researching the WorkJoy book (watch this space) I delved deep into my favourite books and films for inspiration on storytelling, including The Wizard of Oz. I can recite every word, sing every song, and I can even deliver Somewhere Over the Rainbow in sign language.

I sat with a notepad and pen, keen to learn. What I discovered were many lessons about working life. You’re probably thinking “Beth, you’ve lost the plot”. Bear with me for a few minutes longer and let me share just four of my insights with you:

1. THE SCARECROW, THE TIN MAN AND THE LION

Dorothy collects her squad along the way. They are open and kind and not in competition with her. Her squad are diverse, with different strengths and vulnerabilities. They bring their perspectives and support her in different ways. They’re rounded, covering the head (the thinking), the heart (the emotions) and the hands (the action). They make Dorothy more determined, courageous, and accountable. Without them, she may not have made it.

2. WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD

Dorothy’s quest to meet the Wizard is on the assumption that he has the magic power she needs. This mythical figure might be your boss, a mentor, or a leader in your organisation. Perhaps you’re hoping they have all the answers or can offer you a promotion or… insert your own wish list here! We must always remember that behind that curtain is always a real human as fallible and flawed as the rest of us. Other people can help, yet we must all take personal responsibility for ourselves.

3. FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

In some organisations, there are nicely laid out career paths for you. They can tempt you in as a newbie and convince you that this is the route to eternal happiness. Just keep swimming and working your socks off, and the rewards will come. If you are on the yellow brick career road, take a moment every now and then to take a pit stop and consider the routes not yet explored. Maybe the rewards of the well-trodden path no-longer align with who you are, your values and what you want in your life.

4. THE MERRY OLD LAND OF OZ

That shiny new organisation tempting you might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Are the forced smiling images and offers of table-tennis or the best coffee in town really what you deeply desire in your life? Have you checked that the people are great to work with? Will you be truly valued for who you are? Is the job going to light you up?  The grass isn’t always greener, so always do your due diligence before you sign on the dotted line. Sometimes un-shiny Kansas is where you feel like you truly belong.

For me, the biggest lesson is that power isn’t within other people, it’s within you. Like clicking your heels three times whilst wearing the ruby slippers, you have the choice to determine the work life and career on your own terms. Perhaps take inspiration from Dorothy and ask yourself these four questions:

  • What kind of squad am I building for myself?
  • How am I taking personal responsibility for my working life and career?
  • How can I check-in on my career and make sure I’m on the path that’s right for me?
  • What will I consider before I make my next career move?

You can also check out the “Where do you get yours?” Work Joy guide here for more guided insight.

Beth

P.S. If Andrew Lloyd Webber called me and said “Beth, we need you to be the Narrator in the West End revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”, I’d be there in an instant!

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