Making progress – for all the right reasons

We generally reap what we sow

Yesterday was somewhat of a success for me. I got 8 hours of sleep the night before, and I had a pretty good day.

I got up feeling a little sick — a bit woozy and out of it — because despite getting 8 hours of sleep (well, not continuously, but still 2 hours and then 6 hours) I am still overly fatigued and I have a long way to go till I get back to balance (if I ever do).

The morning was pretty good. I had company for the weekend — a friend who was helping me with some yard work and landscaping cleanup, as well as helping my spouse with an event they were putting on last night. So, I hung out and talked… and I noticed that the way I do things and the way this friend does things are completely different. I tend to be pretty focused on what I’m doing, and I try to laser in and do it. That is my general orientation and yesterday it was especially true.

My friend, on the other hand, was much more laid back, not in the least bit focused, and instead of just getting up and getting to work and getting things done, they sat around chatting, smoking cigarettes, and talking on the phone for most of the day till it was getting late and they had to get crackin’ or the work wasn’t going to get done. It got done — most of it, anyway. The most important things were taken care of, and they did a good job. But there were other things they said they were going to do that didn’t get done.

That was a little annoying, but at least the most important things got taken care of. That’s what I tried to keep in mind, because — being tired — I was a little touchy and irritable.

I had intended to get a nap in the afternoon to catch up on my sleep, but I had to help my spouse and friend get ready for their event, so I helped them load supplies into the van, and got them on the road. They were running late, which meant that I ran late, and then I wasn’t set for my nap till about 5 p.m. — when I discovered I was out of toilet paper. That’s not the sort of thing you can let go, so I ran out to the store, picked up a few items I needed, and then headed home.

By the time I got back it was about 6:30, and I needed to eat supper before it got late. So, I made some supper and watched a little t.v.  It was nice to kick back and relax by myself, after all the conversation and activity of the day. I managed to eat before 8:00 p.m. which is huge for me — I’ve been struggling with that for many months, now. I did have a little peach pie, when I probably should have passed, but oh well. Summer will be over soon, and what’s summer without peach pie?

After watching people fall, fail, and get seriously messed up on America’s Funniest Home Videos, I turned off the t.v. and tried get some work-work done. I have a bunch of things hanging over my head, and the more I thought about it, the more overwhelmed I got. The things I have to do are part of a multi-step process that’s pretty massive, when I think about it. I have to do everything precisely — just so — and if I screw up along the way, then I’ll have to wade back into the proverbial jungle underbrush and hack my way out again. Not fun. So I have to do it right the first time — and last night when I was tired, it was about the last thing I wanted to do.

It was pretty disheartening, actually.

So, I decided to table that idea and focus on it tomorrow (which is today) when I’d be more rested. I decided to do some writing instead. But I was tired, and I ended up reading blogs for a while, which actually did me a lot of good. I tend to get so focused on work-work, and so focused on what I need to DO, that I don’t feed my creativity. And everything becomes a massive slog.

I spent a fair amount of time last night at So Far From Heaven, Old Jules’s blog that comes to us from the hillcountry of Texas. It was a real breath of fresh air, after wading through the glut of “professionals” who all have their blogs out there to promote their own personal brand and convince the world that they know what they’re talking about.

<rant>
Now,  don’t have any problem with people who know things and who use the web to promote the things they know. What I do have a problem with is the people who fill the web with all sorts of lingo and insider-speak pablum that’s written for the sake of impressing the living shit out of everyone and proving to everyone what an ever-loving expert they are. It’s typically all talk and no action, and a whole lot of it doesn’t get backed up with any kind of tangible proof that they do in fact know what they’re talking about. They just seem to be repeating the same crap they heard some other expert spout, once up on a time. What a friggin’ waste of my time.
</rant>

Okay, enough of that. I’m just cranky because I’m feeling pressured by some internal drive to DO what needs to be done before I have to go back to the office and face that crazy boss who is lashing us all to pull harder on our oars, so the galley we’re propelling can go in circles even faster. Faster! Faster! As long as it’s going fast, it feels like we’re going somewhere…

But we’re not. See, here’s the thing — and this just occurred to me over the past couple of weeks — the management (they call themselves “leadership”, but that’s in name only) where I work is so focused on what’s happened this quarter, that they completely lose sight of the long-term. They are so intently focused on how they’re doing in three-month increments, that they make all sorts of decisions — and push us to take action — that won’t actually help us in the long run. They want everything NOW, but what they don’t realize, is that the crap they once insisted that we do NOW, never got completely done, so while we’re trying to make something new, we need to back up and fix the crap that didn’t get finished before, essentially bailing out a leaky vessel at the same time we’re trying to row and steer, etc.

The proverbial galley we’re in hasn’t been put in dry dock for years, and now we’ve got a ton of barnacles weighing down the hull, there are all sorts of leaks, there’s crap that’s broken — and breaking — and all the while we’re being told we need to work harder, work smarter, etc.

*&#%$^@&^%*()*&%$

This sh*t gets old really quick. And here I was wondering why people generally don’t stay longer than 2 years in the place — I guess two years is about as long as it takes for all the crap you finished 85% at the start (because everyone was pushing for it to be done NOW!!!!), to come around and start breaking and making you not only feel crazy, but look inept. And all the while, they’re asking you — “What are your top accomplishments for the past quarter/6 months, and what are the upcoming opportunities/challenges for the next 6 months?”

Oh, please. It is really, truly maddening. And to make matters even worse, I’ve been reading up on emotion and motivation, and reading about all sorts of scientific research that demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that just about everything they’re doing to make us work better, is actually harming us and our motivation and our ability to make real progress. I probably never should have started reading these books by Dan Pink, Alfie Kohn, John Marshall Reeve, Susan Cain, and others. It’s enlightening and hugely validating and reassuring  (that I’m actually not crazy, after all). But it’s also maddening, to think that the people running things are so devoid of common sense AND 21st century knowledge about how people like me work — and how we work best.

It’s ruining me for my current situation even more than before. But at the same time, it’s also arming me with some real questions for the next people I interview with. I can now see what I don’t want. So, I can start seeking out what I do want.

Here’s what does NOT work:

  • Herding us all into an open work area where no one has any privacy or quiet.
  • Taking away our side chairs so people can sit and work with us.
  • Offering us quarterly recognitions and incentivizing us with electronic doo-dads and awards, rather than inspiring us to want to do and be our best because, well, we want to do and be our best.
  • “Measuring our success” with specific goals that we’re supposed to adhere to despite the highly dynamic, rapidly changing and maddeningly mutable nature of our work.
  • Rewarding us with compensation for adhering specifically to those goals and punishing us when we think outside the box and come up with long-term solutions that will definitely make life easier for everyone later on — just not in the immediate quarter.
  • Piling on so much work, that it’s impossible to catch your breath and rethink what you’re doing.
  • Having no clue what anyone else is doing — paying attention only to your little corner of the world for the present three months, and continuing to make the same idiot mistakes over and over again, each quarter.
  • Creating bone-headed working conditions, then telling your staff that “the experience is what you make it” — essentially offloading any sort of responsibility for the conditions to the people who have no control over the creation of the conditions in the first place.

There are more things that don’t work that I can think of, but the bottom line is, it’s giving me a lot of ideas about how I want to work in the future — what do I want to do, and with what sorts of people? This is really important, because in the past, I have been so intent on just getting a job, that I didn’t think much about the type of environment I was in. Then again, I had the good fortune of working in some pretty good environments (well, better than the one I’m in right now), so I guess maybe I got spoiled. And there were a lot of things I took for granted. I need to keep my focus on what I DO want, not what I want to get away from.

It’s not only much more positive for my own attitude and outlook, but it will also play much better when I go out and start interviewing. There’s no sense in coming across like a whiner and a fault-finder. What people want are colleagues who are focused on solutions, not problems. So, when I frame my job search as a pursuit of solutions and positive creations, that will put me in a much better light.

I need to do this for the right reasons — because of what I want to create for myself and my life, not because of what I’m fleeing with every last ounce of strength.

And I need to find my next work situation based on my new criteria — deeper criteria, than just getting a job. It’s interesting — before I started my neuropsych rehab in 2008, I was fine with having a job that didn’t fit all the criteria for my life. I just needed a paycheck, and I didn’t think much about. I just showed up to do my work, and that was that. I was happy to have a paycheck, and I didn’t sweat it. I was content to be operating at a certain level, and my motivation was just to get through the day and not invest a lot of time in a career or anything like that.

In retrospect, I think it had a lot to do with my long history of failures and false starts — and having this perception of myself as essentially a loser who managed to get lucky, now and then. The skill of being able to think things through from beginning to end, and follow through, step by step, was not a part of my everyday life, and I didn’t have much hope for a bright future. (I also have deep reservations about how things operate in the world, so that’s another element of this, but I won’t get into that right now.)

Basically, I was holding back — a lot — because I didn’t know how to get my life in order and go about things in a steady fashion. For certain things, I could do it, but it wasn’t a thoroughgoing experience in my life. I lived my life surrounded by victims and people who told themselves all sorts of things about themselves — how limited they were, how damaged, how messed up — and I ingested those ideas and made them my own, as well. I was surrounded by people who had no ambition to do anything more than break even – including my spouse, who has one of the biggest complexes about being victimized and marginalized of just about anyone I know. A lot of the people around me, ironically enough, have had major ADD issues that they never dealt directly with. They just took on that diagnosis as the definition of who they were and what they could/could not do in life. Instead of taking that diagnosis and using it as a way to learn to function despite their issues, they took the other way and decided, “Well, that’s it — I can’t read, I can’t concentrate, I can’t function, I’m not good for much of anything – the best I can hope for is to enjoy myself.”

And my outlook got a bit tainted by it. No, it got REALLY tainted by it. Because I didn’t understand what was going on with me, I fell into that line of reasoning, because, well, it made sense. And I couldn’t see any other way. But when I started my rehab, everything just opened up. Because I could see a way to sort through things, I learned how to be more steady and deliberate, and I found a reason to do it — because I could.

See, that’s the thing — and I’m realizing this now, that this is really what drives me. It’s not punishment, it’s not reward, it’s not threats or pep talks or anything like that that keeps me going. It’s the intrinsic reward that comes from doing things because I can. When I do things that work, when I figure out how to do what I set out to do, it’s a reward it itself, and when I am able to do better and be better, that is the greatest reward of all.

I’m not sure that’s something that the people in charge at my employer understand. For them, it seems to be all about the extrinsic reward — how they look in front of others, how many items they can tick off on their to-do list, how much they can impress the people around them (who also seem very intent on outside rewards). When I say, “I love my work!” they look at me like there’s something wrong with me, as though I really shouldn’t love what I do — it might cloud my judgment or something.

But that can’t stop me. Like they say, the experience is what you make it, so I’m making it about having a good experience in as many ways as possible. Of course, reason should prevail, and if I’m in a situation that is overtly hostile (like I am now), it’s best that I move on. At the same time, however, I can make the most of things and focus on what I’m getting out of the situation — concentrate on that, at the same time that I’m readying myself for what’s next.

I am making progress – and it’s for all the right reasons.

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Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

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