Career Development and Lighthouse Keepers

Career Development and Lighthouse Keepers

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states (paraphrased) “a closed system winds down over time if there is no outside energy coming into it.”

“OK”, you think, “but what does that have to do with either career development or lighthouse keepers?”

The traditional lighthouse keeper lived in a “closed system” back before the days of radio, television, and the Internet. His job required him to live on an island offshore and keep the light bright and shining at night for ships at sea. There was virtually no contact with other humans and, even if he had an extensive library, there were still limitations to his potential for emotional, intellectual, and sociological growth. In short, over time, he would “wind down” intellectually and emotionally without some external input of energy from other people to keep his (internal) system developing.

A modern day example of this is people who become so self-absorbed in their world that they almost become a closed system. All they can talk about is the current events at work, internal politics, or their personal life. There is little, if any, thought given to where can these current events may lead them or what tomorrow can look like.

While it is certainly important to deal with the daily issues of work, and interact socially with coworkers and friends, an obsession with being so focused on these non-developmental interests will stunt your potential for career growth. Without taking frequent and consistent steps to expand their knowledge of the world around them and develop new skills and interests with others that we do not know, these individuals run the risk of limiting their personal development.

Someone thinking about career development should ask themselves if he or she, too, is frequently caught up in the daily issues of work life to the extent that there is little room to consider their future or that of their organization.

Specifically, I suggest they ask themselves this question: “When considering all of the time I spend focused on these daily work life issues and challenges, how much more employable am I now than I was before I became so engrossed in them?”

Why would that be a key question for self-analysis?

If there is a finite number of hours allotted to your life, which would serve your desires better to move ahead in your career?

Continue spending most of your work time becoming frustrated (and possibly demoralized) over doing the same routine tasks daily and putting out the same fires over and over again


Break out of that non-developmental cycle and take your future in your hands by some honest introspection of your talents (and weaknesses) and developing your strengths as much as possible while minimizing the potential impact of your weaknesses on your career. Sure, you will still have those same fires as long as you are there but at least now you are working on creating a way out of it.

Your “developmental muscles” are just like your physical muscles: the more you use them, the more they will grow! You must take the initiative TO CREATE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES and get off that island. Let the lighthouse take care of itself!