Thursday, September 30, 2010

Being A Wise Guy

It's frightening to suddenly find yourself the resident wise guy.

It's a position that I have not really held before, at least in any degree of regularity. I have always had the benefit of having others around me who were older and wiser, someone that I could turn to - or direct others to - as a reference.

Now more and more, I'm finding that it's myself.

I'm mostly frightened that I will give the wrong advice. Ideally I have enough bad decisions under my belt that I can confidently say "Don't do this; it doesn't work". However, I also have enough experience (in my less well experienced days, to be sure) of giving advice to others which did not work out nearly so well - for example, my track record at matchmaking is about zero.

It's a great incentive to read and study, of course - being a wise guy means you should have pithy statements and good quotes. It's also a good incentive to measure what I do in my own life - am I living the advice I give?

Still, it is a humbling set of shoes to walk in, shoes which I do not nearly fit so well as those who have gone before me in my own life.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


There is nothing worse than realizing that people are ignoring you consciously.

It raises your blood pressure like nothing else. Your rage screams in your ears, demanding to be vented. You (cleverly) walk away, thinking that a short walk around the block or through the building hoping that the action and time will wear it away.

Your fingers strike the keyboard with a particular pressure and snap as you type out the angry e-mail, ranting about the situation and trying to find anyway possible to bring the othe person down with you, any crack in their armor where you can make them feel as ignored as you. Followed, of course, by hitting the "Delete" key all the way back to the beginning of the message.

Yes, it's being ignored that is angering - but also the sense that trying to do the best thing for others is not realized at best, or simply blown off as not important as worst.

Which leaves two choices: change the perception or change the situation.

Or barring that, change the location...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thinking Linearly

A sense of peace about some decisions, not others.

Do we like New Home? Yes. There are a plethora of good things here: good (excellent) school for Na Clann, a reasonable place to live (a rental to be sure, but larger and paying less than we were in Old Home), good church, The Ravishing Mrs. TB is finding her stride, and we are finally able to begin to deal with the wreckage started almost 4 years ago by The Firm and my decisions around it. Other than the heat and humidity, not a lot of complaints.

Do I like my career field? Yes, on most days. It's not my ideal job to be sure, but it is well paying and enables to do lots of other things. Depending on whom I've worked for, it does allow me to have a greater or lesser degree of impact on the lives of others. Certainly it can keep my mind as active as it wants to be.

Do I like my job?

Hmm, much more difficult there. I like some of the people with whom I work. That said, the job itself (or really the company that encompasses the job) is much more problematic. I've alluded to it before: a loss of hope combined with a true sense of powerlessness. It is difficult to the point of wondering "Why?"

But (as I'm trying to do with this exercise) the company is not the career field, and the company is not New Home.

So do the math. If the career field is okay and the location is okay, what I really need to do is....

Monday, September 27, 2010

To For Through

"If you aim at becoming a great ruler, you will be able to become the lord of a province. If you aim at becoming the lord of a province, you'll become nothing." - Mori Shojumaru (later Mori Motonari), Mori Motonari

Aim is an important thing. Misplaced aim in driving will result in swerving to stay on the road. Misplaced aim in archery or hockey will result in missing the target. Misplaced aim in living will result in a wasted life.

However we teach people the wrong thing about aim.

For so much of our instruction, we teach people that they should aim at something: "Look at the road. Aim for the passing grade. Aim for the target." The error with this is that we are teaching people to aim to something, not through something.

In reality, we don't want people to just see the road in front of them, we want them to see the road ahead of them. We don't want our children just to get the passing grade, but to get the knowledge the grade entails - and the eventual place that the knowledge will lead them.

In hunting or hockey, it's not where the target is, it's where the target will be when you hit it that is important.

To aim at becoming something external without grasping that it is the internal that makes the external possible is to set one's self up for eventual failure in the midst of supposed success.

When you're setting your goals today - and every day - what are you aiming for? Are you aiming high enough? Or are you mistaking aiming to for through?

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Week of Work Reflections

A week of work reflections comes down to this: Do I love my job? Do I love my career field?

Do I love my job? - No. Do I dislike this job more than any other I've had, at least in my field? Not sure. In some ways yes, in some ways no. Some of the friends I have made through my coworkers are great - and are the only things making the days bearable. But on the whole? No. If I were rating this job as an outsider rating a marriage, I would wonder that it wasn't a shotgun marriage (which in some ways it was).

Do I love my career field? - Harder to say. Can I make a contribution? Yes, given the right circumstances. Am I good at what I do? Depends on what your asking. I'm skilled, yes - but I could become more so. Given the right circumstances I can be incredibly productive and incredibly useful. But does my pulse quicken at the thought of "getting" to go to this career field in the morning? Nope. Not at all - more to see the people than anything else.

So why do I keep looking here? (Insanity - continuing to do the same thing and expect a different result.) Force of habit - or force of fear? Or is it simply the laziness that says it's easier to lie down and die by the shrinking waterhole because that's what we know rather than risk seeking other waterholes elsewhere?

We will not change until the pain of change is less than the pain of continuing in our current situation.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Work: An Affair of the Heart

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking, and don't settle." - Steve Jobs

As we discussed yesterday, work is one of the most significant amounts of time we will spend on our lives, following hard on sleep and marriage. Steve Jobs above suggests that the only way to do great work is to do what you love - and love is as much as matter of the heart as it is a calculated decision.

Work is a great deal like a marriage - in theory, another affair of the heart. The question is much like finding a good partner, how do we find a work which will engage not only mind but our hearts as well?

On the one hand, we have college graduates coming out of school having followed their hearts to their interests only to find that their interests are not enough to create a job in the outside world (17th Century French Literature is not in and of itself a growing field). On the other hand, we have people who have done the "right" thing by taking the job that was offered to them only to find themselves in a relationship that is enduring but not endurable. It is again like marriage: those who marry the ones that excite them emotionally often find they are not good marriage partners, and those who marry sensibly find that sensibleness can become a long grey twilight.

But that may be where the analogy stops. To reinvent the marriage, you need to take action within the marriage. To reinvent the work is not necessarily to find yourself bound in the same way.

So there's the rub - how do essentially have an "affair" while at your current work, trying to find your true (work) love - (and without angering your current job)? How do you reinvigorate your work life - perhaps even your work search if it's been so long that you've given up hope?

Perhaps it's easier to ask another question: What excites you? What motivates you? What makes you feel like you are truly contributing, truly making a difference? Whatever those things are, that's where to start.

It could be that such things are light years away from what you are doing (They seem to be for me). That's not important. One has to start somewhere. When one is trapped in rainy weather, sometimes one only has the fantasy imagination of a sunlit day to start with. What's important is that 14% of your total life (on average) will be spent at a job. Will you settle only for passion, or will it be enduring the unendurable?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

90,000 Hours

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking and don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking, and don't settle." - Steve Jobs

I have never heard a career described as a matter of the heart before. Yet what Jobs says makes a great deal of sense. If you're an average person, you'll work approximately 45 years (say 22 - 67) - approximately 90,000 hours at 8 hours a day (not including weekends and two weeks vacation). By contrast, other time you spend will rang from approximately 4896 hours in school (K - 4 year college) versus 221,920 hours sleeping (8 hours a night for 76 years- but who gets that). If you make 50 years in a marriage, you'll spend at least 145,600 hours together (not including work and sleep, of course).

Another way to put it: Most likely after sleeping and our relationship with our spouse and family, work is the next major line item we will spend most of our life doing.

Wow. That's a great deal of time to spend doing something you don't really care about - in fact, it's probably a great deal like being in a loveless marriage, enduring more for the sake of the relationship rather than for any sense of joy of being in the relationship.

I wish we taught this to our young people - that choosing a career is no idle thing, a thing which is much less important than things like having fun, a fully rounded growing up experience ("Do every activity so you can get into a good college") or dating. Good heavens - we spend more time instructing our children in how to select a good spouse than a good job, although by my rough calculations we spend 62% of the same amount of time in a career relationship as a marriage relationship.

I'll deal with work as a matter of the heart - a love, if you will - tomorrow. But for today, my closing thought is this: if we spend that much time at work and that much effort, shouldn't we as individuals spend more time preparing? Are we helping others - are we helping ourselves - to find the work that really matters for us? Or do we condemn ourselves to a loveless career marriage?

Loveless marriages generally don't turn out well. Neither do loveless careers.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Selling Myself

I need to work on changing myself.

I am realizing that if I want a new job - good heavens, a new career - I need to gain more skills. Simply put, I am not (apparently) marketable in my current condition.

That said, let's approach this like I am selling something else. How do I market something to sell it?

1) Need: What does the customer need? What are they buying (hiring) my line of work for?

2) Features: Why are they buying the product (me)? What do they expect from the product (me)? What features is missing that they are looking for?

3) Marketing: From an unbiased view, how do I appear as a marketed product? Is how I am presented representative of the product I am? Does how I am presented match their need? Am I the "New Coke" of my industry?

4) Failure Why haven't you succeeded in your efforts up to now? What has gone wrong in all your communications and presentation to this point?

Interestingly, I think the failure aspect is the one most interesting to me at this point. Things have occurred in the last year, but nothing has come to fruition. Why? Is it the company's situation? (Yes, in some cases) Is it that I was not appropriately skilled? (Yes, in some cases) Is it that I had an opportunity and threw it away? (Unfortunately, yes in at least one case)

Would I like to do something else? Sure. Could my current line of work fund that something else? Absolutely.

If I am selling me (which I am), would I purchase me? Would you purchase you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Inner and Outer Change

What am I working towards?

It occurred to me yesterday afternoon as we sat through Week Five of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University as he discussed his financial story (in brief, millionaire by 26, lost it all [and I mean ALL], rebuilt it all) - not the money part, but the part about what he had to become through the entire process.

If I want more, am I working like I want more - more responsibility, more time, more money? Or am I mired in the belief that I can be exactly like I am and somehow this things will accrue to me? Do people look at me as I work from day to day and say "This is a man who is intent on succeeding" or do they say "This is a man who is intent on staying where he is"?

A long time ago, a very wise man (my manager at the time) told me "I'm not telling you not to be yourself - look at me (and he was his own independent person) - but I might suggest that management might have a hard time promoting someone who jumps up and down and waves at people in the manufacturing suite through the window." I took what I understood to be his advice at the time by attempting to bolt on a series of "adult" behaviors, but only now (12 years later) do I see it in all of it's fruition.

It's not about changing your essence, your inner person - although that can happen, I suppose. It's not about performing a series of rituals - dress better, be serious, never laugh - as an outer coating of responsibility. It's about becoming a person of more value in whatever field of work you are in by becoming more skilled, more competent, more responsible.

If you're low on the totem pole and poor, people think you are crazy and not responsible. If you're high on the totem pole with a history of success, people think you are eccentric - good at what you do, but eccentric.

I want to be eccentric.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Word To The Young

So this is a message this morning for the young. You older people can eavesdrop if you want.

Be very careful what you do growing up.

Here's the thing: your past follows you around forever. Sometimes in ways and places you cannot possibly imagine.

We all do stupid things. We all go a little temporarily insane. It's okay, it's just part of growing up. The question you have to ask yourself - before you actually go anywhere to do these things - is "What is this going to mean 20 years from now?" Temporarily insane - like, let's say, dressing up and travelling to your local shopping metropolis looking like a rock group from the sixties may be okay. Drinking yourself under the table because it feels good and "Lord knows, you're incredibly funny when you drink" while a camera is in the vicinity is probably not.

Trust me on this - 40 year old you will not think as charitably on the stupid things as 20 year old you did. And, it undercuts a lot of what you might hope to do later in life. That image you carefully try to craft can be completely undone by something that happened one brief moment in time, 20 years ago.

Be smart. Plan. What do you really want to do with your life, not just how do you want to enjoy your life right now?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Truck

The Truck will be going soon.

We got The Truck in 2005 from my great aunt, a gift from my father for something I could not afford but wanted. It was a 1987 Ford F-250 with only 55,000 miles on it and camper shell, originally a boat towing truck for them. The price was right, and so it came to live with us in Old Home.

I loved The Truck. It was big, it was high, it rattled as I drove it . I could haul all kinds of things in it. It had good air conditioning, a tape player for my older cassettes, and an actual CB. It was a thing of beauty. Smaller cars or more expensive vehicles sheered away in fear as I drove by.

But then life happened. The layoff came, followed by the move. I couldn't justify flying back a third time to drive another item out, nor the cost of the gas to get here. But I hung onto it, sort of the last toehold in Old Home of the life we had, not wanting to get rid of it.

And then I got the revised insurance bill. Suddenly, having the revised toehold became less important than not paying the insurance.

So The Truck will be up for sale soon. But more importantly, the last bit of Old Home will be going up for sale as well.

It is, I suppose, an admittance of something which has already been self evident to almost everyone else at this point: we are here for a longer haul than I had either anticipated or initially wished. That's not a bad thing I suppose, nor is it particularly unwelcome; it's just a case of reality smacking me across the face with "Deal with where you are, not the idealization of where you were."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Work and Relationships

I am starting to have a change in my life. We'll see if it sticks.

It happened on Monday, and interestingly it may have been Fear Mor who initiated it. As I was rushing out the door (obviously a bit frustrated by the start of events on Monday) he said "Why don't you just quit?" He probably meant it in jest, but my response was somewhat more "enthusiastic" than I had anticipated: "I don't have another option at this point. I need this job."

I didn't think much about it as I ran through my day, and then ran through yesterday as well - except that at the end of the day as I went home, I suddenly realized I had developed an edge. I was leaving at a time I chose (not a time I wanted, but we're working on that), having accomplished a fair amount at work, on my terms. In other words, I had actually been proactive.

Proactivity, as you may recall, is the first of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey. As part of my retrenchment and reconsideration, I have begun rereading his book and listening to the CD I have of him.

One thing that I have realized that being proactive means (at least to me) is that I actually accomplish something, rather than mark time being somewhere. Yes, it's important to maintain good relationships (more important in my line of work than most); at the same time, I can have great relationships and get nothing accomplished.

The other thought this provoked was around the future direction of my life. I really enjoy those with whom I work, but the reality is that I will not work with these good folks forever. If I sacrifice my future to make my present livable I've not really gained anything either now or in the future.

Relationships are important - indeed, some of my greatest friends now (Bogha Frois, Songbird) came out of work relationships. But they were relationships founded through work and built on common interests, not founded to the exclusion of work in favor of catering to the individual.

Work and good relationships are not mutually exclusive - but both must be managed actively so that one does not overcome the other.

"Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done." - James Ling, American Businessman

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Work and Boundaries II

So how did I do yesterday, you might ask? Did I start to set the boundaries between work and home?

Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that I got to work, worked with purpose most of the day, and was able to focus.

No in the sense that I almost got sucked back in.

Sure enough, the project I spent the the morning working on had a meeting called in the afternoon. More appropriately, there was a meeting called about the project I worked on yesterday. I was not invited.

I lingered after my predetermined departure time. Would I be called in? How would it look if my boss came looking for me and I was gone?

And then I realized that the non-invitation was the choice of the meeting organizer, not myself. I was going to linger based on an impression that may or may not happen? I was going to assume the mantle of a project which had not been given to me?

And so, 45 minutes (but not the usual hour or hour and a half) after the fact, I headed home. Not great, but earlier than I had left in a long time.

The morale of the story: don't assume the mantle of responsibility for those things that you are not responsible for.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Work and Boundaries

I have got to draw boundaries at work.

Work is rapidly coming to consume my daily existence. Without trying, I spend 9-10 hours day there - plus commute (and the longer I work, the longer I the commute).

This is the first job I've had this issue with. Before, I set my boundaries clearly: 8 hours, 30 minutes for lunch then out the door. But at this job, I seem to have created my own issue. Initially I worked longer because I wanted to make a good impression and I was living here on my own. Then, we got issued the order that someone would stay until 6; rather than switch out, I just started staying 12 hours every 6 weeks. Then things started coming at the last minute which those in power above me demanded be done "now".

What happens? One loses their incentive to hold to the 8 hour day, since it really doesn't matter anyway.

But it does matter. I've realized that my productivity has gone down a great deal. Why? There's no incentive to accomplish in 8 what you're expected to do in 10. Suddenly time is not a currency, it's a commodity, something which seems beyond your power to control.

The results? More time at work, more time commuting, less happiness, less family time, greater sense of job frustration and most ironically of all, lesser ability to do my job. By time not being a currency, it becomes much more difficult to discern and complete the most important tasks.

So that has to change.

Starting today, it's time to change. Time to reclaim my life (and maybe my sanity?). Time to tell work "I do 8 hours of work a day - real work, not time serving on premises. I will work on the most critical tasks. I will meet my timelines. But my life is not yours."

It's time to start making time a currency once more.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Unseen World

"An Australian business leader once told me when he shared his faith with a Japanese CEO the response was dismissive: 'Whenever I meet a Buddhist leader, I meet a holy man in touch with another world. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager at home only this world like I am.'" - Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life

Nighean Gheal has recently discovered the joys of Japanese Anime, especially that of Hayao Miyazaki, creator of Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away. I have found them extremely enjoyable myself as well: they are well written, have fantastic artwork, and have storylines with good messages, especially for young girls (of which I am extremely interested.

One of the themes that Miyazaki deals with is the concept of natural spirits that dwell alongside the human world. This themes may not be surprising, as Miyazaki is Japanese and has been at the very least surrounded by the religion of Shinto, the native religion of Japan which concerns itself with man's relationship with the kami, essences or deities which may be human like or natural forces which inhabit the world with us.

As I went to bed last night thinking of how much I enjoyed My Neighbor Totoro, I was struck by the fact that these films - and indeed the Shinto religion - posits the fact that there is a supernatural world that exists around us and that we participate it. The thought then sprung to my mind of the quote from Os Guinness' book listed above, where a Japanese business reflects that most of the Christian leaders he had met were men that only reflected this world.

This, it occurs to me, is a challenge for Christians.

No, I'm not calling for some kind of sudden realization of seeing Angels in my yard and Demons in my car in the morning ("Out Out, ye Demons of The Dysfunctional Air Conditioner"). At the same time, we proclaim that there is a world beyond this one, that there are presences among us - indeed a God among us - that intervenes in our lives.

The comparison I can make is that of telling my daughters that we are driving through an area with deer. They will strain and seek under every clump of darkness looking for the deer - and then the excitement when they find one! Compare that with just driving through a forest going "Look kids, trees". There is no anticipation, no excitement - just acceptance that things are as they appear to be.

Guinness postulates that secularism of Western Culture has done this to us. I suppose so, but it occurs to me that Christians have done this to ourselves. We have so carefully stripped any way of God coming to us except intellectually and perhaps emotionally (occasionally, it depends on the circumstance) that when we read as in Psalm 19:1 "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork" or in Psalm 96: 11-12:

"Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
Let the field be joyful and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord."

that we cannot see either God at work or God's handiwork rejoicing in Him by doing what He created them to do.

Again, I'm not calling for dryads in the oaks or wood spirits living in my bamboo. But do we as Christians reflect that there is another realm among us by how we live? Or are we convincing the world that we are just like they are, except we have a frosting layer of religion on top?

Friday, September 10, 2010


Apathy: 1) Lack of feeling or emotion, impassiveness; 2) Lack of interest or concern, indifference.

I realized yesterday as I left work that I am suffering from a frightening, almost toxic level of apathy about my job. It's not to the point of making a serious error, but it is to the point of impacting my ability to do my job effectively on a daily basis.

Why is this?

I'd like to say that it is something that is being forced on my by circumstances beyond my control, by individuals and movements and events which I am a victim of. That in fact no matter how hard I can try, it's like walking uphill against an avalanche.

I'd like to say that. The reality is, while it all may very well be true, they're only excuses, not reasons. The reason that I don't care is that I choose to not care.


Why do I work? This was the question that confronted me as I walked through this exercise. Obviously it's not because I am deeply impacted by what I do - I should want to do a good job, but there is not sense that what I do impacts my life. I attempted to walk through this exercise by doing a Logic Tree - an exercise where one asks "Why?", then lists possible answers, then asks "Why?" again and lists more answers, and so on. This exercise, also known as "The Five Whys" will eventually lead to the root cause of an event or action.

Or should. My Logic Tree was not very persuasive. Moving from why I work is to get money, I then went to "Why do I need to get money?". My eventual answers - Because I'm the dad and it's my job, because it allows me to be a good Christian witness by supporting, tithing, and being and good employee, and that it allows me to pay for things for Na Clann - were not the sort of answers that made me excited when I looked at them.

The bottom line why I don't care: I choose not to. Why do I choose not to? Therein lies the rub. All the answers that come to my mind - it doesn't matter, it's not important, it's not relevant, you benefit others who would cast you aside in a moment if needed - all in the end condemn me. They may be true, but they are things that happen outside of me. The apathy is within me.

Why don't I care? Because overwhelmed with the sheer number of tasks to be accomplished and an atmosphere of indifference, I have made the conscious decision that I would rather do little than do a lot because me feeling like I am doing meaningful work is more important to me than me being one of the few that cares, even if it gets me nothing. I would rather wallow in indifference and failure than expend effort on something which benefits my life no more than allowing me to make a salary. I have chosen to accept that my emotional fulfillment is more important than doing the right thing, even if it means I will not do the things I think I should do.

And that constant note of me, mine and I does nothing to present either a good witness for Christ nor a good example to my family of how one works even if one doesn't care for what one is doing.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Two People, One Body

There are two personalities that seem to coexist somewhat uncomfortably in my skin.

The first is that of the Entertainer - a rather happy go lucky fellow that cracks jokes, gently mocks others, and tries to ensure that he gets along with everyone around him. He seems to go out of his way to make sure that things go as smoothly as possibly both for himself and everyone around him. In a lot of ways he's a "Hail, Well Met" fellow who seems to throw many of the typical aspects of relationships on their head.

The second is that of the Warrior - a somewhat grim, serious fellow that seeks to lead a life of purpose and honor. He wants to do great things, and sees that the path to do them is through dedication and action. He can become quite motivated and aggressive in pushing things forward; however he places relationships on a lesser plane than purpose.

How long have they been with me? If I sit and think about it, as long as I can remember. I have always craved attention, people liking, the sound of a laugh I produced just I have always craved a life of passion, honor, and purpose.

My problem is that the two of them often seem to work at counter purposes: the Entertainer wants to be liked, the Warrior wants to accomplish (and not care about being liked per se); the Entertainer wants to be happy, the Warrior wants to do; the Entertainer wants to create a laugh, the Warrior wants to move through life making an impact.

So here's the question: are these really two different people, or just two sides of the same coin? What are the common themes in them? How can I mesh them together so that there is no disconnect between the one and the other, no tacking back and forth, such that the energy wasted in being one or the other is transformed into the working of a fully integrated personality?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Blustery Wednesday

Who am I?
Not who I am, the persona I put before the world,
the image that walks with me as I get up in the morning
and goes to bed every night;
But the person that I am under all this,
the one who was here before years of schooling
and work and life itself was poured over it.

If being truly great is tied to truly being yourself,
Who am I?
Surely it is not the man that stumbles out the door every day,
immersed all day in a tsunami of paper and regulations
which will someday be packed into a box?
Surely it is not the man who so often has to "settle"
rather than do the right and correct?
Surely it is not the man to whom honor
is made to mean no more than taking the responsibility
others will not take?

Who am I?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Slight Veer

As I thought through my objectives for the end of the year yesterday, I realized that there was one slight adjustment I needed to make to my plans: that of agreeing to put off any job search until the end of the year.

One of the key elements in my life which is creating stress for me at this time is my job - both from an "I don't really fit in this pigeonhole" category as well as the concept of "toxic work environment." The thought of abandoning any action on this front - to merely agree to continue to exist for a period of time without action - will in reality do nothing for my ongoing issues. In an attempt to bypass dealing with the problem, I will merely create an environment which will exacerbate the problem.

So I will continue to work on my goals (7 categories as suggested by Brian Tracy; one is already down) but I will equally attempt to move forward on my career search. To stop all action is to settle into mediocrity, and to become mediocre is to abandon all hope.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Becoming Myself

It's Labor Day, so I am celebrating (somewhat ironically, I suppose) by not laboring.

I spent part of the afternoon engaged in Radical Careering by Sally Hogshead (to add the fun, it was a free e-book!) which is a reasonably straightforward, in-your-face book about managing your career (versus managing your job) - the actual layout of the book is probably as much of a joy to read as is the book itself.

The best quote I got from the book from the first reading (out of a plethora of great quotes) is "You can be truly great only when you can truly be yourself".

If I had to point to a disconnect now, that would be it. I am not truly "myself" in the positions I've held, both from the point of view of what I do and the point of view of who I am at work. To be sure, I've bent the rules wherever I can, creating this sort "reasonable crazy person" image that follows me around - but at the core there is still a sense of having to kowtow to a greater corporate culture, a sort of bureaucracy that stifles any innovation or creativity except in prescribed channels. And that doesn't address the core matter of what I deal with from day to day: important to be sure, but incredibly boring minutiae that so often has to be fought over to garner attention.

So here's the question: Who am I? And how do I become myself at work?

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Book of Depression

Maybe I'll write a book called "The Anatomy of Depression". It could be a sort of user's guide, a daily recording of depression, what sparks them, and when they seem to blow over and when the return.

It's the one thing I could probably write better than anything else, having lived with it for so many years now. I'm minded of it as I go through the ebb and flow of it this week: depressed Monday and Tuesday, happy for half of Wednesday, then sliding back into it on Thursday to (probably) end Friday on it.

If you had to ask me for an impression I'd say a tunnel, a long tunnel with no outlets, no sense of an end. Life almost becomes a series of motions you go through, things you have to do rather than things you participate in and enjoy.

For example: it is 0600 and I have one more day of work until a three day weekend. I can honestly say that right now I have no sense of any excitement or anticipation of anything I will do at work, just things I have to do as I wander through my day. And afterwards? Again, no sense of anything but three days not being at work.

And so it goes: every day a duty, a thing to be moved through rather than a thing to be anticipated and enjoyed. What would it be to anticipate a day? I can barely imagine it - if there is a sense of future and optimism it is generally far from me.

It is so easy for me to hope in others, to see the best in them and their possibilities and their eventual successes yet almost impossible for me to see the same in myself. Why is that?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

How Do I Work?

"Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things." - Titus 2: 9-10

How does my work measure up to this standard? This was the thought that tugged at my mind as I got up this morning to start getting ready for my job. How good of an employee am I?

Am I obedient to my own bosses? Am I well pleasing in everything I do at work? Do I not answer back? Do I not pilfer? Do I show all good fidelity (e.g. loyalty)? Do I adorn the doctrine of God in all things?

These are questions that make me squirm and squiggle away as I look at them - both because of my inability to respond to them as I should and the fact that I would consider myself a "good" worker, although not by the standards.

Note the focus (yet again for the slow in the audience like me): the point is not about my or my work (note that the words "self actualization" or "enjoy what you do" are not in there), it's about adorning the doctrine of God, to make it real for all those I work with.

As I consider these, I wonder where I changed. I've this sense that I used to be a much more diligent employee than I am now. I can't pin down in my mind where "the change" occurred, but as I think about it it may have been a combination of two factors: 1) The realization in my industry that any company will take all the effort you give it but will lay you off without a second thought ( and the secondary realization that all my effort is wasted and put into a cardboard box to be stored off site); and 2) The Firm, where we punctuated times of extreme labor with periods of less extreme labor.

The image I get from Paul's writing is that of someone who is active and busy the whole time they are at work, not sitting around and conversing (pilfering time counts) or complaining about the direction of the company or people in the company, loyally serving those in the structure above them instead of picking apart every flaw and overanalysing every action.

The part that then rears up inside of me is "Yes, but that's pretty much slavery (interestingly, that's who Paul was writing this to). If I do that, I put myself completely at the mercy of everyone around me. With no sense of what's occurring in the company I'll be the last one surprised by a drastic change that leave me over the side or gasping for air as I'm thrown under the bus. And advancement? Forget that. My career will become marooned in a small corner of the work universe as others go on to greater things because I 'worked' rather than playing the game."

That, of course, discounts the intervention of God. If I am adorning the doctrine of God in my work by how I work and leaving the results up to Him, it is a form of exercising faith by being obedient and leaving the rest to Him. The Bible is pretty clear that in these circumstances God will move - but He gets the glory, not me.

So how am I going to work today? Will I adorn the doctrine of God by my actions and attitudes of work (Dear Lord, can I go 24 hours without one negative comment?) or will I spend another day stripping the doctrine of God by my actions and attitudes?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Never Underestimate The Power of A Good Deed

Yesterday started out to be the same as the day before, a dreary walk through reality to be concluded by the darkness of sleep. I meandered through the day, occasionally seeing glimpses of sunlight but then watching them flicker and die like embers into a fire.

Until I wandered past Silverline's desk (probably with the intent of getting something signed). I caught her in the midst of eating half a sandwich. She turned from the computer, looked at me, and said "Do you want half a sandwich?"

"No" I replied. "I'm good.

"Really. Take it. It's good."

"I'm good. I already at lunch.

Then she fixed me in her gaze and said "You had spinach for lunch, didn't you?" When my failure to meet her eyes indicated assent, she said "Here. Take it."

So I did. And it was good - some yummy teriyaki chicken thing with fresh vegetables and fresh bread. But the thing that was really good about it was the way I felt about it - not that the sandwich had any magical "sandwich power" (although food always makes me happy), but the kindness of the offer.

My day almost instantly improved.

I think we underestimate the good that we can do in the lives of others. We (or at least I) often think we need to do some great and noble thing. In reality, it is the simple kindnesses - rendered when someone is truly in need - that go farther towards making a difference in the life of another than all the great deeds and public actions combined.

Never underestimate the power of a good deed, and never fail to do them when the opportunity presents itself. You never know how badly the other person may need it.