Learning for its own sake – and everything else, too

So, I’ve got this new perspective on things, and I’ve got this new role at work, which is expanded and far better than what I was doing before… and all the while I know that it is not what I truly want to be doing, over the long term. I also know that it actually puts me at a disadvantage to focus 100% on this role and make it my long-term choice, because I do not have a college degree (I attended for four years, but ran out of money and hit a rough patch, and I could never afford to carve out the time to go back to school. I had too many health / TBI / learning issues, and I was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants, from the time I hit the workaday world. So, no college degree — and there’s probably never going to be one, unless I become magically independently wealthy and can take time out of my life to do the coursework.

Yeah, not much likelihood of that happening anytime soon. I’m pushing 50. Maybe after I retire — at age 85 — I’ll have the time.

Anyway, what this means, realistically speaking, is that for the type of leadership work I am going to be going into (that is, being in charge of getting people on board and ensuring they deliver on what they’ve promised), if you want to progress in any organization — especially a global one — you must have a degree — if not several. You can’t just get by with “equivalent experience” — in order to play at the top levels, you have to possess that piece of paper… preferably several, most of them advanced degrees… in order to move up.

So, while it’s all very well and good that I’m in this high profile leadership position in the new organization, I have to be realistic and expect that it will not be long-lived. So, I have to stay fresh and current in the cutting-edge areas that don’t yet have a lot of coursework associated with them. And I have to keep building my portfolio of products I’ve helped create, so that I have something to show for all my work.

That is the one area where I am well-appointed — an actual track record of things I’ve produced and helped to build.

Now I just need to get them all together.

And I shall — especially because the most beautiful part of this whole portfolio building process is that I will be using the technologies I am seeking to perfect — so I will get more bang for the buck — a double-whammy of “how you like me now?” that speaks for itself, even where my educational background falls down.

Yes, this is good. I am in a good position at work… and I am in full possession of the realization that this will not last forever, and the bubble will eventually burst. Heck, it could burst in a year, when they re-org us again. Or it could happen sooner.

Bottom line is, I can’t waste time and rest on my laurels. That would be a terrible mistake.

So, I’m getting inventive and taking initiative. I’m training myself and using what I’m learning, not only in my daily job, but also in my side activities. And it’s good. It’s really, really good. For three reasons:

  1. It is keeping me current with emerging and highly popular and in-demand (and lucrative) technological skills.
  2. It is giving me a safety net of skills I can fall back on, if/when the current managerial/leadership position ceases to pan out.
  3. It is helping me get my brain back to where I want it to be, learning-wise, so I can not only know how best to learn, but I can also know that I can trust my brain again.

These are three incredibly important aspects of my life that — more than any amount of money — are the true “safety net” of my life.

  1. Proficiency
  2. Fund of marketable knowledge and skills
  3. Confidence in my ability to learn and adapt

I let these things slide before, when I got comfortable and over-confident… and never imagined that a fall down some stairs would derail me this severely. I made that mistake repeatedly over the past years, when I figured I was “good” where I was, and if I just kept doing what I was doing, everything would be fine. I was wrong – so very, very wrong. And I have a lot of ground to make up.

I’m not making that same mistake again. This is a new day for me, a new world. A new life.

So, that being said, I’m going to get on with my day, learn some things, and make the most of this day off, before I go back into the fray.

On the up-swing

Up, up and away…

I’m gearing up for the coming week. I’ve gotta get my game face on, because my boss’es boss is gunning for bear. They took a look at the work I’ve been helping to oversee, and they’re not pleased. “Dismayed” is the word they used, I believe. Ah, well, I’m working on this not-getting-my-knickers-in-a-twist-when-others-are-pissed-off-at-me thing. We’ll see how it works out tomorrow.

The thing about this situation is, I’ve been warning folks about the problems that caused this “dismaying” condition for well over 18 months. I’ve been warning folks that the things they’re doing here (technically speaking) are harming things over there (logistically speaking). And I’ve been trying to convey the importance of staying engaged with certain (remiss) team members who are technically in charge of the screw-up (under my careful eye, of course), but are not technically proficient enough to do what needs to be done.

Not sure if that makes any sense to you, but it has to do with a mess of a content management system that is so convoluted, nobody can remember how to use it if they don’t use it every single day… combined with short-staffed people in distant lands who literally don’t have the permissions or the ability to fix the things they’re supposed to be fixing, let alone the time to hunt down all the problems.

So, where does that leave us?

In spin-land! Yes, indeed, I’m going to be spinning this in a positive light, focusing on the pro-active possibilities and thanking my boss’es boss for taking the time to even notice that stuff which they have — time and again — told me to not spend too much time on.

Seriously, I’ve been told to back off from helping folks out and I’ve been told I’ve “given them enough love – now pay attention to this other stuff” and as a result, things have gone to pot. I’ve tried to be clear about the downsides of neglect, but until the past month or so, nobody was paying much attention, nor did they think it mattered.

Until the home office (which is not in the USA, by the way) started paying closer attention to us… and now all hell is breaking loose.

Pity. Oh, well. It does make me intensely uncomfortable to not excel at every single thing I undertake, but this battle is not one that I’ve had much hope of winning, for oh about 2 years running, now. It’s been a political hot-potato, this piece of the corporate puzzle, and now the heat’s getting turned up.

How I would love to say “I told you so” — but instead, I’m going to be ultra-smooth and play it cool and work on the solution, rather than the problem. I have a feeling that my boss’es boss is going to be looking for a scapegoat, someone to assign blame to, and I have a big target on me, right now. But that’s not where I’m going to put my attention and energy.

I think I’ll make up my own interpretation about all this.

Everybody else is, so why not me, too?

Stop. Then go.

Ready, set...

I’m taking some more time tonight to step back and take stock of my situation with work. This is important. I get so caught up in my doing-doing-doing, that I tend to lose sight of the larger picture. I took the day yesterday to do this, and it was good. It gave me some much-needed perspective, and that was good.

I know it’s not in my job description to step away, now and then, to take stock, but I feel like I’ve got to, nearly a year into this job.

Actually, maybe it is in my job description to do this – not explicitly, but it’s implied that I’ll do what I need to do, to ensure I’m doing the best I possibly can. And if that means taking some time to step away, then so be it. I just can’t get stuck in taking breaks, that I don’t actually come back online.

Like yesterday – I stepped away for half an hour, mid-day, to rest and relax. It was pretty good. I need to remember to take some extra clothes to change into when I lie down, because I got up looking a bit rumpled, and that’s no good. This mid-day nap business is going to take some getting used to. But I know I need to do it, because my sleeping schedule is shifting, and I need to get enough rest to keep going all day long, without having to pump myself with caffeine from morning till night. I get too wired, and my stomach hurts me.

Anyway, after my nap, I was feeling pretty good. Relaxed. Then I had a meeting with my boss’es boss, and they (in their usual form) were ON. They seem to have this as their new persona at work — being Way On — bad-ass, tough, pushy, aggressive. It’s ironic, because at the start, they were anything but… but I think their boss has been putting pressure on them to become a bad-ass, for whatever reason. Maybe they think it delivers better results?

Nah. It just puts everyone on edge and makes us all more prone to mistakes and oversights… which is what’s been happening. I don’t think they see it, though. They think there’s something wrong with us, that we’re not performing properly. Hm. Certain gaps in knowledge, there…

Anyway, the point is not that management is a misguided pain in everyone’s ass, but that when I got up from my nap, I needed to get back in the game… not languish in that sense of feeling solid and centered and grounded. It’s one thing to be solid and centered and grounded. But when the expectation is that you’ll be ON, and that’s part of your job, well, I have to figure out a way to do that. Even though it seems counter-productive. Even though it seems more like people are trying to prove something and put on a good face, than actually get something done, you know?

Regardless of what I think of the nature of the situation, I still need to adapt to it and rise to the occasion, which means coming back online when the situation calls for it.

It’s the coming back online that’s problematic for me. I do tend to get “stuck” in the sense I had of being relaxed and mellow and calm and centered.

I get caught up in a loop, and it feels comfortable for me, and I don’t want to get out of it. I take time off, but then I have a hell of a time coming back online. And then I get all turned around and bent out of shape, because things aren’t going as smoothly as they might.

I would like to stay in that place where I’m chill, but in the environment I work in, that’s a huge problem. Because we’re not supposed to be that way or do things that way. We’re supposed to be always-on, always pushing, always moving forward, never looking back, finishing off jobs and moving on to the next thing. And never, ever let your guard down and let people see your vulnerabilities. That’s not allowed. Showing any sort of vulnerability in the workplace… it’s heresy.

Occupational hazard? Probably.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, first thing is to realize that this is the situation, and be prepared for it. Not be surprised when people expect me to be ON and refuse to interact with me as regular people who share common goals, common dreams, common interests, common space.

And not be surprised when people come gunning for me, looking for vulnerabilities they can exploit to make themselves feel better about themselves. Ironic, how I seem to have landed in the midst of a group that just loves to do that. My boss, my boss’es boss, and my boss’es boss’es boss are all that way – and in this situation, the trickle-down theory does work.

The thing is, I have the distinct impression that they are really very unhappy in this way of doing things. They can’t see their way out. They are all tired and overworked and exhausted, and they are falling back on old patterns that play to their most base aspects. They are pandering to their “lower selves” and that’s familiar and comfortable for them. They may not be happy with it, but they are comfortable with that familiarity. They may have never worked in environments where another option was open to them, where they were able to let their guard down. They may also be pushed against the wall in life in general, and they may have too much to lose by letting their guard down.

Anyway, they’re kind of stuck and caught. And misery loves company. The thing is, I have no intention of being miserable. And I have no intention of staying in this situation where I succumb to the unhappiness of people around me. People make their choices, and I make mine. I choose to make other choices. I choose to promote some change in the workplace, in the corporate world. I choose to create the kind of world I want to live in, and get some work done, and have a good time, too.

I choose to take up with people who are as aware as I am of the issues that the workplace is creating for people, the illness it is fostering, the unhealthy relationships it’s instigating, the stresses it’s building… all for the supposed purpose of “success”. There are a number of thinkers at work in the world who are working towards changing the corporate landscape to be more… human. And I need to align myself with those folks.

Stop. Just stop the participation in the bad habits, the bullying, the pressure tactics, the undermining, the playing along with that way of doing and being.

And go. Go into the midst of the storm, stake out my place and say, “You know what? I’m not going to do things that way. You can choose to behave that way and do those things, but I’m not gonna. You can try to screw me over, throw me under the bus… whatever. I really don’t care. I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to do it. And I’m going to do it in a way that respects the dignity of everyone involved and doesn’t treat others like objects to do my bidding, or threats to my ultimate goals.”

I’m going to build up my strength, add to my endurance, take good care of my physical health. I’m going to work my ass off to get to a place where I can support my own body weight and move through the world with fluidity and ease.

And I’m going to rest. Because the body and the brain and the spirit all need that. I’m going to stop. So I can really go.

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