One look at Trevor Wilson and you think “success.” He’s well dressed, articulate, strikingly handsome and commands the attention of his multinational clients with ease. He has a loving wife and children, owns his own consulting company and is in the process of writing his second book. So, it can be strange to hear this quintessential businessman say that he is “four years old.”
So, what’s up with that?
Trevor, like many of us, has had his share of ups and downs. Over the years, he’s endured dead end jobs that stifled his creativity and thrived in others where his love of learning and curiosity have soared. But, when Trevor faced his 50th birthday, something completely unexpected happened — he couldn’t get himself out of bed.
Down and Out
Days, weeks went by. He rarely changed out of his bathrobe. Occasionally, he’d join the family for dinner. His absence from work could be explained as ‘taking time to write his book,’ but the fact was, it lay dormant. Inside his private hell, Trevor had never felt more confused and lethargic in his life. In spite of being someone renowned for his ability to motivate others, he simply didn’t know what to do with himself.
One day, a friend and colleague stopped by. He said he had information he thought might help Trevor with the book he was writing on maximizing human equity in the workplace. Fortunately, Trevor found enough energy to get dressed and welcome the friend inside. “There’s a course coming to town that centers on character strengths,” the friend said. “It’s put on by the VIA Institute – VIA stands for Values in Action.”
Bingo. Little did the friend know he had just poured lighter fluid onto Trevor’s dormant soul. The topic of “virtues” was an area Trevor had identified in his work as being crucial to one’s success, but he’d been struggling with how to articulate this in his book. Just recently he’d discovered the definition for virtues to be: values in action. The very same name as the group conducting the workshop. Coincidence? Maybe, but Trevor knew immediately that he needed to give the course a chance. ]
This was four years ago. And, it was for this course that Trevor took the required VIA Strengths Survey and identified his top strengths as: Spirituality, Creativity, Curiosity, Love of Learning and Gratitude. All but the first strength seemed on target to Trevor. But, spirituality? For some reason it seemed almost an irritant. The top strength? He’d never really considered himself spiritual. But, soon Trevor couldn’t help but notice how often he was thinking about his spirituality.
He remembered the course instructors citing research that shows we are happier and more productive when we employ our strengths in new ways. Trevor wasn’t surprised to hear this. After all, he’d been miserable lately, and obviously wasn’t using his strengths. But, spirituality? Maybe he could find ideas for this at home, but in business? That seemed impossible.
What Would You Tell a Client?
Trevor imagined what he would advise a client in the same position, and decided to scout for signs of spirituality in his life by paying close attention to his actions, his thoughts. It wasn’t long before Trevor found himself relating more personal stories during his presentations, stories that alluded to a reliance on faith in himself or others, how ‘coincidences’ and ‘unexplainable events’ had greatly impacted the outcome of various projects.
“I’d end my stories by saying how unusual it was for me to reveal such personal things,” Trevor says. “But, what I would find is that my willingness to use my honesty and openness gave others the courage to do the same. “
“One man stood up in front of the entire audience and explained how he had learned the power of compromise by being one of 13 children. He shared stories of tough times the family had faced and how they had worked together to manage them. None of his co-workers knew this about him and were able to see him in a new light. He was later sought out for his ability to negotiate.
The Missing Link
As a result of Trevor’s new approach to his work (deliberate use of his spirituality), he has seen an increase in personal feedback after his workshops. People approach him, thank him for coming, comment on his stories or share one of their own. The feedback has not only been rewarding and helpful to Trevor as it reinforces his decision to be more authentic in his work, but it has also allowed him to see more of the progress his clients make. His client base has increased, as well.
Through the VIA survey, Trevor was able to see and define himself more clearly. As a result, he was able to follow the very advice he was giving his clients and readers: work in line with your own highest virtues. “The VIA survey,” he says, “was the missing link I was searching for.”