All working Canadians know what they do for a living, and most know how they do it. However, other than generating profit for the company they work for, not all of them find meaning in their work or know the true reason behind it.
Stephen Shedletzky, a “purpose coach” from Toronto, is motivated to inspire other Canadians to find their “why,” the reason that drives them to live a peaceful and fulfilled life, and apply it to their work.
The “why” behind Shedletzky’s coaching work is to help create a world where most people wake up every day excited to go to work and come home in the evening fulfilled by the job they’ve done.
A Gallup poll found that 70 per cent of all professionals in the United States aren’t “highly engaged,” meaning they don’t enjoy what they do or find meaning in their work.
“That’s terrible,” Shedletzky told The CJN. “We spend 98,000 hours, on average, working in our lifetime. I feel that we ought to enjoy it. But the current reality is most people are cracking the whip as opposed to working together to figure out what’s the cause of this organization beyond just profit.”
Shedletzky, 26, speaks with ordinary people to help them find happiness and purpose in the work they do. He also makes presentations to dozens of companies each year, hoping to inspire and make workers think about the things that bring their lives meaning.
Since many people are disengaged, they don’t think it’s possible to aspire to anything great, Shedletzky says. Many of his group talks are about helping people operate at their best, which often comes from caring for others and working as a team.
“It’s all about purpose and community,” he explains. “The value of networking is not how many people can you meet. It’s about how many people you can introduce to others.”
In 2011, Shedletzky founded InspirAction, an organization designed to inspire people to lead with purpose. He also works as a freelance consultant for Simon Sinek, the best-selling author who popularized the “Start With Why” concept that Shedletzky works with. Sinek’s TED Talk about the concept is currently the second-most-watched talk in the conference’s history.
Like Sinek, who is one of his mentors, Shedletzky is a poised, confident speaker, which makes it surprising to discover that he had a stutter as a boy and a fear of public speaking for many years.
“I never saw myself as a kid that could actually go up and entertain people or engage people,” he says.
As a student at the University of Western Ontario, Shedletzky took a class called “Advanced Presentation Skills,” taught by professor Denis Shackel. After showing his class Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, Shackel told his students to prepare and deliver a speech with the same rousing passion as King on any topic of their choice.
The next class, Shedletzky stood up in front of his peers to talk about growing up with a stutter and his journey with the Speech & Stuttering Institute to overcome a fear of public speaking.
“[That class] was the first time in my life that I finally spoke about something that was more important than me,” he says. “I finally had a message, something where I could show up to serve others. And it was the most alive and fulfilling experience that I had had in my life.”
Public speaking isn’t just something Shedletzky overcame with training and commitment. It’s now one of his greatest strengths.
“[Shackel] taught me that everyone ought to do the things that light us up,” he says. “Each person’s definition of success ought to be their own definition.”
Shedletzky can also relate to the life of a bored, cubicle drone, as he had a dreary two-year stint working in the corporate consulting world. Much of his day-to-day work was focused on helping companies maximize profits rather than helping their employees become more enriched and motivated.
He describes this workplace life as “a toxic environment where people walk around with cortisol in their veins and they’re slowly dying… and I was.”
In this search for meaning, Shedletzky found happiness as a motivational coach. He trained with the Coaching Training Institute (CTI) beginning in June 2011, shortly before he started InspirAction and working with Sinek’s team. Shedletzky says he hopes to work as a purpose coach and continue to inspire people for the rest of his life.
One of the ways to create happiness is to volunteer, Shedletzky says. By helping a cause and doing something in line with one’s strengths, people don’t only get energy, but they make personal connections and friends that make them feel more fulfilled.
Another way he became inspired was speaking with his grandfather, whom he refers to as Zaide Ben.
Ben Shedletzky was a successful butcher who survived the Shoah. During the war, he lived in a ghetto, hid in the Polish countryside and fought against the Nazis. Still healthy at age 97, Ben remains a role model to his grandson.
“My zaide is great because he inspired me with the message that we ought to work together to serve others and look out for people in our tribe,” Shedletzky says.
“What we know about human beings is that if we’re faced with hardship, it’s those who co-operate, who work together, that survive and thrive.”