Sunday, April 1, 2012

Command Swagger v. Murphy-style Smack-down

I'm on the fence again about whether I still have anything to say in this forum. A lot of what I want to talk about, I can't for any number of reasons. Sensitive budget information, easily identifiable characteristics of involved individuals, predecisional (I didn't even know what that word *meant* until two months ago!) discussions about specific programs...all are making it kinda tough to tell stories and figure out how it all fits into the bigger, grander picture. 

But what good is a challenge without a little bit of something to overcome? The blogging will continue until morale improves? (snicker)

I am a firm believer in balance. Whether it's work-play, sweet-salty, tree pose or light-dark, both sides of the coin are needed to make a whole piece. The balance that has me stymied right now is the one between self-confidence and humility. My reflex reaction to this spectrum is that I have a lot more experience with humility than self-confidence. Gawd knows, it feels like anytime I get a bit too cocky about something -- my driving skills (cussing another driver for doing something stupid), my professional abilities (thinking I know the whole story), my interpersonal suavity (haha, I actually typed that with a straight face) -- karma, life, Murphy, call it what you will, comes along and smacks some humility back into my little pea brain, usually with, well...humiliating force. So I feel like I'm well-versed in the modesty side of the equation.

But in the last month or so, I've had some conversations with a couple of people who knew me "back in the day." Like, seriously, back in the day...high school and undergrad days. I feel like I was a *mess* then; no sense of who I was, fumbling through each day hoping the next one would get a little easier, second-guessing every word out of my mouth and every gesture, conscious and unconscious. You know, the usual teenage shit. What's funny though is in these conversations both people said they noticed my self-confidence. "One thing that struck me immediately all [those] moons ago in the [Berea College] library - u have a lot more self-confidence 'than other girls.'" (obviously a text conversation) and (thank goodness for FB message archives):

Fellow Farm Worker: "That means you know what you are doing! You always did too back in the day."
Me: "Lynn was a good teacher."
FFW: "I know you to be a hard worker. A plus."
Me: "There is that...but there's also a lot of faking it. At least when it comes to looking like I know what I'm doing."
FFW: "Well, you fooled me."
Me: "Fooled lotsa people, that's what makes me laugh about it."
FFW: "But you always seemed to know what the heck you were doing..."

Really?!? Seriously?! BahahaHAHAahahaa!!

It is reinforced to me nearly every day how much that farm taught me about, hell, damn near everything...self-confidence, customer service, work ethic, follow through, attention to detail, so many of the things that I count as a core skill. Off-topic, but I don't think I say thank you enough to the people there, never mind tell them how grateful I am that I have gotten to re-experience the farm as a growed-up (or at least as close a proximity of a growed-up as I will ever be). It is *so cool* to go back there and see the basics I learned nearly 25 years ago are still taught and still work.

I remember going to PCO (Prospective Commanding Officers) School as a PCO for the first time before I went to Bahrain...so early 2008...and having one of the other students in the class comment on my "command swagger." I think that too had to do with acting like I knew what I was doing. 

Now that we've established that I really don't know what I'm doing, and most times it's all an act (which I've written about before), what does all that have to do with my situation now? Well, most all the other Reviewers and Budget Coordinators I've talked to about our job say basically the same thing...none of us know exactly how this job is supposed to go, what we're supposed to be doing or the best way to get it done. In a way that's very comforting, to know I'm not the only one who is just kind of stumbling through each day, hoping I'm getting it right. 

One part of this not-knowing-exactly-what's-going-on feeling that is finally starting to sink in with me is that if I think something needs to be done -- it probably *does* and I should just go ahead and do it before a) someone else tells me to do it or b) it doesn't get done because no one else notices it needs attention. But that's not the only part that's kind of weird. It's also that it's part of my job to be proactive. Shoot, no, that's not right...Is it that I have enough of a sense of things (from experience, smarts, or just common sense?) to recognize when something is going to be an issue? Maybe so, and maybe that's weird because the knowing it needs attention, combined with the autonomy to do what needs to be done without having to ask for permission every time...wow, that's just a different kind of job. And it requires a certain amount of ego-based self-possession and motivation to be that kind of proactive.

Yeah, so that's where the balance comes in. I saw a former CO at HQ a few weeks ago for the first time in a while. He knows what office I'm in and cautioned me to "not get caught up in the mystique of the job." Fantastically excellent advice. Because the self-confidence the job absolutely demands must be tempered with the humility to keep it all in perspective...lest Murphy (likely in the guise of an ADM or CAPT or XO) come along with a powerful smack-down.

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