Build Yourself a Castle - 180 x 600

In her book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career, Sylvia Ann Hewlett  retells the story of how Walt Disney inspired his team that planned Disneyworld.

Build the castle first

As Hewlett explains, “Disney understood that everyone involved in achieving his vision needed literally to see the beauty of this vision to remind them what they were working toward. So the first thing to rear up out of the swamp was Cinderella’s Castle, which, with its fluttering flats and whimsical turrets, was the very embodiment of the magic he intended to make.”

Building a successful career is difficult.   Many distractions can easily set us off course. Family commitments, travel requirements and relocation possibilities can cause us to abandon our goals prematurely. 

No matter what direction you’re headed, the destination must inspire you in order to prevent life’s headwinds from setting you off course.  Particularly for parents juggling careers and parenting or baby boomers caring for aging parents, success is often not viewed as worth the price of the inevitable tradeoffs.

That’s where your castle comes in.  As a way to inspire your own audacious imaginings, Hewlett recommends creating your personal castle.  The idea of planting your flag atop your castle is bold and daring. The intent is to help you get out of the “should” and “can’t” way of thinking and dare to dream big.

She suggests asking the following questions: 

  • What place would feel magical?
  • What kind of room or space do I want to inhabit?
  • What is the view when I look out the window? Whom do I want to meet with?
  • Who intrigues or inspires me?
  • What sort of conversation do I wish I could have with the people there?
  • What transformation do I most want to drive?
  • What transformation do I want to be part of?

The idea of planting your flag atop your castle is bold and daring. The intent is to help you get out of the “should” and “can’t” way of thinking and dare to dream big.

The practicalities

Once you’ve imagined your castle in all its glories, then and only then, should you turn to its feasibility.  At this point, consider the strengths and resources you have to help you realize your dream.  Ask yourself: 

  • What am I very good at that I find energizing?
  • What sets me apart?
  • What experiences distinguish you?
  • What inherent or acquired differences lend you a distinctive brand or value added?
  • What accomplishment has given me joy and won me accolades?
  • What gives me satisfaction, so I want to do more of it?
  • How does the mission or mandate of my organization overlap with my values or goals?

Next steps

  • To make your glorious castle a reality, enlist a mentor, a personal board of directors, or coach to help you brainstorm an action plan and a process for accountability.
  • Review past performance reviews to get reacquainted with your accomplishments and strengths.
  • Read about inspiring role models – not only those who achieved their goal but enjoyed the journey.

By taking these steps, you too can keep the vision for your career castle in view and shape the path to get there.