The Temple and Professional Development

One of the perks of working in downtown Salt Lake City is easy access to the Salt Lake Temple. We’ve written before about the beauty and symbolic meaning of the temple grounds, but today I wasn’t there just to admire the flowers or ponder great religious thought. This morning before work, I parked beneath the Conference Center, crossed North Temple Street, and entered the Temple for some professional development and career planning. Seriously.

I had some specific career questions I wanted to ponder and was also craving some peace and quiet before a busy day of meetings and madness. I figured the Temple was the place to go, and I was not disappointed. While it would be inappropriate to share everything I saw or thought about this morning, it occurred to me that the temple (and perhaps experiences in other holy places) can teach us a lot about how to excel at our daily work, while keeping that work in its proper perspective.

You’ve probably got a long list of your own insights, but here’s mine from this morning:

There are names and titles you can take with you. Senior Interaction Designer, CSS Guru, and Employee of the Month are not among them. I was not expecting this to hit me as strongly as it did this morning, because I was also getting great vibes about my employment. I love my job. I want to excel at it, not least because I believe so strongly in the work I am supporting. But I love my family even more and want to excel at being a great father, husband, and disciple more than anything. Thankfully, these goals don’t have to be mutually exclusive. But it’s good to remember the pecking order when push comes to shove, as it often does in our hectic lives.

Where you sit is less important than doing the right work, the right way. While this is true in any temple, you get reminded of it more often in Salt Lake, because rather than staying in one room, you move through many rooms and are seated and re-seated multiple times. In the past I’ve sometimes been frustrated if I got separated from a friend or family member that I was hoping to share the experience with. But in my better moments, I realize that exactly where I sit, what my position is in relation to the room or to other people in the room is infinitely less important than the work I am doing. The same is true at the office; my job title, where my office is, or what my role is on a specific project is much less important than that I fulfill my responsibilities with exactness, go the extra mile, and focus on the worthy goals the project is supporting.

The Lord pays attention to detail, and rewards your close attention to detail. I am constantly amazed at the richness of the temple experience. Every time I go back with the right motives and attitude, I see something new. The Lord is a stickler for detail and progressive disclosure, and I’m sure he loves it every time a temple-goer or scripture-reader says, “Hey! When did that get in there? Why didn’t I notice that before?” I’m not advocating that key functionality be anything less than immediately discoverable, but a good site or application invites users to find new ways to use it. It’s not a flash-in-the-pan experience, but a deep one that starts good and becomes great over time.

If your attention wanders, stand up, move around, and admire something beautiful before you sit back down. Breaks are important, not just from your work but from your chair and office. There’s a lot of design inspiration outdoors; go drink it in.

Silence is golden. Frequent, quiet reflection is not a nice to have, it’s a necessity. Constant interruptibility may be a boon for your interrupt-prone co-workers, but it’s a recipe for fragmented thinking and limited productivity.

Silence is platinum when it occurs in a holy place and frame of mind. Go to your temple, church, synagogue, mosque, shrine, altar, or prayer room. Contemplate your life as a whole. Get perspective. Then ask for help with specific questions about your work, professional development, or whatever. It works. (See James chapter 1, verse 5.)

Finally, inspiration must be eaten fresh. When I exited the Temple, I should have written down all my thoughts and ideas. But I had an “important” meeting to get to, so I put it off. I can still remember a lot, but I’m sure some of the inspiration has gotten stale and I’ll miss something I was intended to remember.

I guess I’ll just have to go again soon—which isn’t such a bad thing anyway!

posted by Ted Boren on Tuesday, Oct 31, 2006
tagged with inspiration, career, temple