Sunday, September 25, 2016

The NeverEnding Story & Why I Don't Always Do What I'm Told

I'm not typical rebel. I don't purposefully set out to piss people off. However, I've lived most of my life with people telling me or commenting to me in one form or another that I can't do this, or I'm not capable of doing that because of something they see, or perceive, that I refuse to acknowledge as a limitation.

We all have an inner strength that can propel us forward to do some pretty amazing things if we can wade through an amazing amount of bullshit first.

Swamp of Eternal Sadness
It's the equivalent of trudging through the Swamp of Eternal Sadness. The first 100 or a 1000 steps can be OK, but there is some point that one of those steps breaks you down where you nearly give up until a version of your Luck Dragon saves your ass.

Going to work everyday can turn into your own Swamp of Eternal Sadness, or worse, the Nothing, with the wolf chasing you. I've lived through different managers from different careers telling me I'm too opinionated, too loud, too angry, too something-that-annoys-someone and I immediately try to modify my behavior, only to have things become worse, because I'm not true to myself and people instinctively know that. They don't know what the manager told me, but they know something is up. 'She's acting different', their eyes seem to say. They don't like the difference, and they are not sure what it is. Often, it translates into a lack of confidence and a loss of trust with my coworkers.

Some of my best managers have taken those traits and steered them into more productive endeavors. "What are you upset about, is there a solution we can work on?" "Learn about public speaking!"  "I get that you are angry, how can we work on this to make it better for everyone?" "Keep speaking up, everyone else is too quiet in meetings, maybe they can emulate you." "Have you practiced listening skills lately?" "What could we change going forward that would be a positive impact for everyone?"

I'll be the first to admit that I'm an extremely passionate person about several topics. It's those topics specifically which can result in wonderful discourse and learning or disastrous heated arguments in which neither side feels validated but rather violated. Some people call them triggers, which is true, they can be. I like to call them learning moments. Whether positive or negative, I take something away from that exchange. I learn from it.
The Last Grain of Fantasia

What I try my very hardest to avoid now is muting what I see as a valuable part of myself.

I was given advice recently on how to dress and act during an interview. It was from another professional and friend that meant well, but the more I listened, the more I realized that the advice she was giving me, wasn't me.

I talked to other friends and professionals, and I found, it wasn't just her giving me this advice, it was a large majority of people who were telling me similar things.
  • Don't wear bright colors
  • Don't be emotional 
  • Be pleasant and don't speak first.
  • Don't talk about failures honestly
  • Don't be completely honest
  • Play the power game
  • Make eye contact but not too much
  • Don't be yourself. 
I hadn't asked for advice on interviewing before. I generally do fairly well, but this was an important one, and I was pretty nervous and excited about it. I wanted to put my best self forward. Other advice I received was more positive.
  • Don't lie
  • Be exactly who you are
  • Be comfortable
  • Be engaging
  • Talk about the best and worst things in your career honestly
Fear can be a healthy or unhealthy motivator to do something or to change something. I, thankfully, have developed a better sense of self over the last few years. I perceive I understand what my own personal positive and negatives are. I also think I can use those to my advantage and challenge myself with my own flaws. The first list speaks of fear and not being true to who I am. The second list, the list I followed, spoke to me. It was confidence, experience and trusting the people that were interviewing me. I realized that I couldn't work in a place that would want me to act like that first list in an interview. I don't know that I've ever followed the first list of rules either. It just doesn't put the best version of myself forward, emotions, characteristics, flaws and all.

My mistakes, my personal flaws, my imperfections are exactly what I use to make leaps forward in my life, in my career, in my own personal goals. Lest you think my ego is getting in the way, and I'll admit, it might be, I take these things very seriously. I don't immediately or automatically convert these flaws and mistakes into 'wins'. Over time, I think, and study, and I seek help in some cases. I work through issues using them as challenges to overcome, discover, and reinvent myself. Allowing space for something new. Allowing that, yes, I have some limitations, but what can I do to work past them? Should I work past them? Can I use them as they are? Are they limitations, or what other people have told me are limitations and I've accepted them as such?

In Ken Norton's newsletter, he writes about Jazz musicians and provocative competence. He states over and over that musicians, at the top of their game, were constantly looking for that mistake that wasn't being explored or exploited. They were always pushing themselves to do something new, barely structured and fairly off-script. The biggest motivator I see from these examples is self-reliance and self-confidence. They understand what their own strengths are and use those, and even sometimes they use their weaknesses to bring something new to the table, and to their profession. They also use this to help others around them, allowing others to follow or even lead from that opening they created. It's willingness to throw the routine out the window and become uncomfortable with what might happen next.

To have the willingness to walk into the Swamp of Eternal Sadness with confidence, trusting that somehow, you can make it through to the next challenge. Hell, you might even save the day.