Two day ago I posted about the fact that in hiring for an open position, I try to emphasize that the job involves a great deal of ensuring that the work of other people can get done by creating an environment to make that possible - both the physical environment (plant/facilities), the operational environment (IT, amenities), and the laboratory environment (supplies) - in my words, "Creating an environment where science can happen". It is an important role, although arguably one which is sometimes difficult to accept on the terms that at best you become invisible, at worst noticed only when things go awry.
I have been mulling it over since then - not just because I still have to fill the position but because of the implications that it has on my own career and the growing realization that at work, I am much more the servant (see above) than I am the one being served.
I was mulling it over so much that today it overflowed into my home life.
For years I have struggled with create that elusive "Mission Statement", the statement which virtually every book on leadership or accomplishment tells you that you need to have in order to succeed. Oh, I have wrestled with creating such a statement. I had created one some years ago that I had clung to almost bitterly - clung to because it was the sort of statement that (if I am honest) gratified my inner pride and hubris. It was a grandiose statement constructed in 2008, appealing to my big plans for the Ranch and writing and taking the world by storm.
None of which came to pass of course, when everything fell apart in January of 2009 and never really recovered - although I clung to that mission statement for another 6 years in my vanity before finally admitting that my mission - what I felt "called" to do - was more about my own wants than any sort of real calling.
And so, mulling over the thoughts of work and my life as it is, the thought suddenly occurred: "What if your mission statement for your home and marriage is the same as the one for work?"
Whoa. Let us not get ahead of ourselves.
It was too late, of course - my brain was already coursing through the possibilities. "What if your mission statement for home and marriage was 'Create an environment where your family can grow and accomplish their meaning in life?' What if your life's mission statement was 'Create an environment where everyone you are contact with can grow and accomplish their meaning in life?'" my brain spit out faster than an old-school dot-matrix print rolling through the sheets on the draft setting.
I grasp what this means at my home, of course. It is doing the things that need doing - be they maintenance or keeping up with care or raking and mowing or the chores that come up day after day - not for reward or recognition (and certainly not only when being prompted) but to allow the other members of my family to have an environment where they do not have to concern themselves with those kind of things. It would be the acceptance that these are things that I would be doing - perhaps (said the brain) need to be doing - as long as I am able to do them. Extend that to my circle of influence at large and there you have a life's mission statement.
Be assured that this looks not at all - even remotely - like the previous mission statement at all. It had bold action words to lead it off, but "serve" was not present. Because this sort of statement would be everything that is opposed to the world being about me. It is taking that great big spotlight of life and turning it not towards myself (which I subtly tell myself is the right thing to do) but towards others and being okay with that. And not just for a day or two, not a one time charitable act, but having it becoming the core of one's life and one's actions. Ultimately it is the confession that you consciously putting off whatever you believe will make you "successful" to help others do the same.
I would be less than honest to say that my initially reaction was not that quiet, gentle zephyr thought of "Ah, that is it. That is the thing I have been searching for". It rankles. It screams every bad experience of customer service I was ever exposed to, multiplied in my feverish imagination to an endless stream of doing not only without visible advancement but with the happy experience of having the boot heel of those you are helping ground in your face as they climb over you - an over-exaggeration of how things actually are, but hubris and pride never die easily.
So what will I do? I would say think and ponder but if I am honest those are merely ways to put off what I now understand to be true. Far better to take such a thing at face value and act on it - after all, if we ask the questions we have to be responsible for acting on the answers we are given.
It strikes me as ironic that the pride that lead me to question my definition of my role at work has led me to the very place pride least wanted me to go. It is the unexpected answer to the question we asked thinking we knew the answer - only to hear it and find that in the mere seconds those words came to be, everything has changed.