Sunday, February 5, 2012

What It Takes

In all my maundering to my friends about the stress of starting a new job, I've had a few conversations recently about what it takes to be successful. Well, to be a rockstar, actually, since that seems to be the preferred parlance of our service. And I'm not saying I have any intentions of being a rockstar...I'd really rather just be able to walk out at the end of the day with a sense of having made my best effort. And hopefully that's enough that I don't make a complete muck up of my responsibilities.

So what does it take to not make a complete muck up of what I'm doing? One good friend for whom I have complete respect (and is definitely a ROCKSTAR!! of the highest order...*waaay* beyond my league) said that it's a matter of momentum. You get one job that you do well at, so you're given the next bit of responsibility, and you do well at that one and you get another good job and...future success snowballs from past success. I think her exact words at one point were, "Anybody could do these jobs."

Huh, there's a bit of a reality-checking ego bomber. And I think the snowball effect  has more to do with the scope of success over a career, rather than at any one job. I may need to get her to explain her thoughts on the "anybody could do these jobs" statement as it relates to a particular position. Because, I'm not sure I agree with her. She seems to have been born with the political savvy to easily spot the shoal waters of our hierarchical organization and how to navigate around them. Me, not so much.

Tangential aside: Thank god she's my friend and has been so generous with her advice! Though, really?! do I have to wait a whole month before I take in my stability ball to use as my office chair? I mean I can understand waiting a coupla-three months before dropping the f-bomb in front of the CAPT (hopefully this never happens, but a) this is *me* we're talking about and b) my desk is like, 15 feet from his office door, so chances are good that it will eventually occur), but are they really gonna care what I sit on? Tee hee.

Anyway, back to business...

Another good friend, who is also a rockstar in his field, said that it's all about putting in the time and effort. He doesn't feel like he's anything particularly special when it comes to what he does, capability-wise, but he puts in nearly 12-hour days because he enjoys what he's doing and well, doesn't have anything better to do, since his kids aren't close by. So he gets a lot done, and is the go-to-guy in his office.

It actually sounds to me like there's two things contributing to his success: the time he puts in *and* the enthusiasm he has for what he's doing.

This is where I took a break from writing this post and went off to clean the house. As I was on my hands and knees, scrubbing the tub, it occurred to me that I missed a potential critical aspect of this whole discussion. What do I mean by "success?" Or at least, what do I mean by "not failure?" Is it when someone else tells me I've done a good job, or thinks I'm good at what I do, or respects me for my capabilities?

I really hope not, because I've been trying hard lately to not give a rat's ass what other people think. It may stem from yoga classes - trying to focus on myself as I am that day, in that posture, in that moment, and not comparing how I'm doing to how I did the time before or to anyone else in the class. But, ya know what...not caring what other people think is damn hard. Contrary Goddess (I love her wisdom! And though I've never met her in person, I think of her as a wonderfully grounded mentor. There have been many times when she has said *exactly* what I need to hear.) got me thinking about this a while back in her post, which is not really about what other people think, but is about a lack of self-doubt.
People who need assurance, who are always in need of support, their egos are out of control and controlling them.  But people who can stand whether it be in the calm or in the storm, well, the only way it is possible to do that is to be ego-less... Non-attachment is ego-less-ness; it is the hand opening and not grasping, not controlling, not blaming.  There is nothing that makes you happy or unhappy outside of you.
For all my life, I've been in the former category, but see the tremendous value in tending towards the later, if for no other reason than my own sanity. However, in my profession, if I'm going to try to be ego-less, I need to examine whether my values of what it means to do a good job align with what my organization values. Because if not, I will always, *always* be fighting a depressing battle, with the very real possibility of losing myself in the melee.

I value: the ability to see and appreciate the importance of multiple sides of the same story (compassion, empathy, respect?), passion (dedication?), curiosity (intelligence?), communications (thoughtful analysis?) and my own special brand of integrity (making your best effort, willingness to accept consequences, being (at the *very* least) honest with yourself?). My organization values: honor, respect and devotion to duty...or at least those are the core values. I suspect their  actual application can be interpreted differently, depending on who is doing the evaluation. But close enough. I think there's enough common ground that I'm not doomed to continual strife over misaligned values... though the devil always *is* in the details.

Funny how this post started out as one thing, but became about something quite different, but way more important to me. Screw "what it takes." I'm much better off spending my time, energy, effort living up to my own values.

1 comment:

Azulao said...

Whew, apparently your friend is magically not subject to the Peter Principle, which in academia is a law akin to that of gravity.

I really appreciate where you went with this. And to me, it sounds like attending to your values will get you very far in your hierarchy as well. In academia, again, it wouldn't, because "being smart" is always more important than "doing good." So it sounds like you're in the right place...

Regarding the stabili-ball, you could use a fit-disc for a while, they're a bit more discreet.