New direction – old faithful direction

Reaching out to others is what brings us back to ourselves
Reaching out to others is what brings us back to ourselves

I’ve been excited about different new career directions, over the past years. The only thing is, I found out I wasn’t fully qualified to go in those directions, and I’ve been increasingly “outclassed” by folks with pretty heavy-duty qualifications who have the certifications needed to make it all happen. This system I’m learning really ties together my experience in technology, past experience I’ve had, and it keeps me going in the direction I need to go. It’s a certain way of working with teams, and a certain way of getting projects done, and it really fits me to a “T”.

It’s a system that was invented by people like me, for people like me — and it’s the darling of all those C-level executives who want to tell the world they use this methodology.

So, that’s good. And I really feel as though I’m set with this. My retirement savings all went away after my TBI in 2004, and I’ve been really struggling financially for quite some time. There’s been a huge amount of uncertainty in my financial life, and a big part of that was around job uncertainty. I haven’t been totally clear on the direction I need to go, in part because I haven’t been totally clear about the kind of work I can/should do, and the types of people I can/should work with.

As it turns out, after doing a fair amount of thinking and reading online, I’ve realized that high-high tech is really my “tribe” — and that’s in large part because of the neurodiversity. I’ve always worked with people who could be called “Aspies” — folks on the “high-functioning” end of the autistic spectrum, whose ways of communicating and thinking are quite different from the norm. I’ve got my own set of communication and thinking differences, and there’s something really soothing about working with folks who not only know what it’s like to be out of synch with the rest of the world, but also have a thinking and communication style that’s got pauses and different sorts of pacing all tied together.

Back in the day, when I first worked in high tech, I was surrounded by very strange and wonderful people who were very, very different from the rest of the world. I joined them not long after I’d had a car accident, and my thinking and coordination were pretty screwed up. I wasn’t particularly good at making small talk and following conversations with people, and I kept to myself. They left me alone, and they let me do my programming work, and I did it extremely well. They never pressured me to be super-social, and even when I committed some major social faux-pas because I was overwhelmed and couldn’t handle myself socially, they didn’t hold it against me.

And after about 6 months of working with them, all of a sudden, I got my sense of humor back, I was able to handle the pacing of conversations — and with more than one person — and I became an important part of their little tribe.

They gave me the room to heal and work my way back from the effects of that car accident. I never discussed the accident with anyone — and didn’t even realize was affecting me — all I knew was, I didn’t want to deal with anyone, didn’t want to talk to anyone, wasn’t comfortable navigating the social sphere, and all I wanted to do was sit in front of my computer and code. But after a while of being left to my own devices and gradually and slowly brought into their midst, I healed. I was able to chat again, talk again, interact again, in a much more fluid way than I had, when I first started.

And a lot of those folks could easily be labelled as “Aspies” or on the autistic spectrum. They were an odd crowd, for sure — in the best way possible.

I’ve been struggling in my work situation for a number of years, primarily (now I realize) because I’ve been surrounded by so-called “neurotypical” folks who have been extroverted and really interactive, with average sorts of thinking and communication styles. And that’s been a huge struggle.  It’s been years since I’ve worked with a hard-core gang of Aspie folks in a really high-performance work environment, and I realize now that the problem hasn’t been with me — it’s been with me being in the wrong kind of environment. I need to work with a close-knit group of neurodiverse folks, in a situation that makes the most of everyone’s abilities.

That works for me. It makes the most of my abilities, which include motivating and including people who may feel marginalized and pushed aside. I’ve had some great success doing that, in the past years, at various jobs. But my current situation doesn’t really allow me to do that. I’m too isolated. I’m too blocked off from a real team. And because we’re all battling the same lack of resources,

And the beauty part is, this new system I’m learning will give me the skills and the cred to “slot” right into that sort of role.

So, yeah – it’s becoming a lot clearer to me. I need to work with hard-core technical folks, and I need to do it in a capacity where I can add value. I used to be a damn’ good programmer, but after my accident in 2004, I haven’t been able to work reliably. I’m good for maybe a few weeks, then I crash and can’t function. On the other hand, I’m an excellent team leader and I know how to include and motivate people and bring together disparate types of folks to achieve a common goal.

And that’s worth a lot in this high tech world. It’s not about your plan and vision – it’s about execution and delivery. And that’s where I excel – helping a team to execute and deliver. To be their best. To really rise above and beyond and do amazing things.

I never thought I could do that before, because it didn’t feel like I was being effective. I would be so wiped out after the intense work, I was sure I’d failed. And I didn’t understand my communication and thinking challenges. I didn’t realize that I had problems, and I had to do something about them.

Once I realized that I did have issues with slowed processing, and I realized I could actually do something about those things — and I got the chance to work with people who had communication issues, themselves (as in, the international folks I used to work with) — that really turned things around for me. Thanks to my old neuropsych, I got my head around that, and voila! Magic happened.

Now I need to make more magic happen.

And so I shall.


No, we are definitely not alone

We’re all in the same boat, kind of

My job went well today. I have good days, and I have not-so-good days. But there is always another day to come. I was quite rested from the long weekend, and because I don’t have a short 4-day week, this week, I can work regular hours and not have to “bulk up” on my hours, so I can come close to breaking even.

I also canceled an evening appointment tonight, too, which turned out good, because we had heavy rain storms this evening, and I would have been caught in a nearby city in the pouring rain, if I had gone in. But I didn’t. I took my time getting home, and I saw some very impressive downpours and washouts.

Ah, summer.

Anyway, now I am on hold with the insurance company, because I messed up my coverage election, and I am currently without health coverage. This could be a real problem, but I’m not letting it get to me. I just need to jump through some hoops and deal with it. I can’t get all anxious about what *might* happen. I need to focus on what is and is not happening, and just stick with the details.

I noticed at work today that there are a lot of people in my same boat — we’re new, and we’re figuring things out. Some of my coworkers are ultra-helpful and bend over backwards… while others are more cliquish and don’t want to extend themself to the “newbies”.

At least there are a bunch of us who are in the same boat.

And I think about how many people there are in the same situation as me, hassling with paperwork they do not understand, trying to get help from people who aren’t very interested in helping them on the phone, hassling with devices and whatnot. I hate talking on the phone, because it is hard for me to hear and process things quickly, without seeing the person I’m talking to. It’s very stressful for me, but I have learned how to keep the person on the line until they have answered all my questions at least 2-3 times.

I make them repeat what they said, then I repeat it back to them, and ask them to confirm what I understand.

It’s awkward and difficult, but I get the answers I need that way.

You do what you have to do.

And if I let it get to me, it would make me NUTS at how convoluted and confused everything is. If you don’t have 100% clarity of thought, or if you’re distracted or you have some other cognitive issues, the system is pretty much stacked against you. That means a ton of people aren’t served very well by much of anything we have in place in this country.

I am definitely not alone.

But instead of getting all tweaked about it, I’m going to write up my notes from my call, gather my wits about me, and warm up my supper… and have a nice evening relaxing and reading.

It’s all good. It’s just a real pain in the a$$ sometimes.


Focusing on better things

Lose some... and win some too
Lose some… and WIN some too

This is my last week at the hell job I’ve been stuck in for the past four years. In so many ways, it has tested me. That’s not a bad thing, and maybe I needed to be tested in a lot of those ways.

But I’m done with that particular gauntlet now, and I’m ready to move on.

Before I go, though, I need to do what I can to really remember the good that has happened to me as a result of working there. That job gave me stability and a sense of continuity with the people around me (if not with the company as a whole) that was a good foundation for me.

I did an awful lot of recovering there — getting on my feet logistically… and socially, too. The environment is highly social, so I was really forced to connect with people in ways I had never done before, and on a scale much wider and deeper than I ever needed to before.

There’s something about everyone battling the same obstacles that brings a team together… though I think that it’s more effective to have actual obstacles, rather than artificial ones. Focus on the real enemy — the competition — rather than manufacturing artificial obstacles, such as an inefficient workspace, a long commute, difficult working conditions, inadequate budget, and a “lean” workforce that is so over-taxed, they don’t have time to actually enjoy the goodness of life.

But I’m skewing to the negative again.

Of course I’m doing it because I’m regretting having to leave. Or am I?

I know I’m regretting that I’m leaving my colleagues in a really tough spot. They have to do even more with even less, and it’s bothering me that they’re not getting the help they need. Then again, they’re all free to go as well. Anytime they like. Nobody is keeping them there, and they can leave, as well. It’s their choice. We all make our choices.

And in looking back at the last four years, I need to remember that — it was my choice to stay there, it was my choice to keep making a “go” of it. I could have thrown my full attention into developing the skills and abilities I needed to leave. It would have been slow going, but I could have done that and really made that the focus of my attention and energy.

But I didn’t. I chose to stick around. I chose to stay and make the best of it. And the opportunities that came my way… I said “no” to a lot of them. That was my choice. I had my reasons. I might not remember exactly what those reasons were, on down the line, but I have to trust myself that there really was a reason for staying.

Indeed, there was. And up until a month ago, plan as I might, there was not a good exit path open to me. I was actually committed to sticking out the summer with these folks — and possibly beyond — to get those major projects off the ground and to help with the usual summer rush work. The summer is an intense time at that company, because there are huge projects in the works that have a September deadline, and people all over the world have to pull together to make it happen. I have been sacrificing my summers for the past three years, to help make that happen, and I can’t say it’s been all that gratifying. It’s been good experience, which has paved the way to this new job. But it wasn’t much fun when it was happening.

Still, it served its purpose, and that’s what I have to believe about everything I’ve done at this company for the past four years. It’s all served a purpose, teaching me hard lessons, and paving the way to what’s next. For all the difficulties, I’ve become more resilient and resourceful. And for all the challenges, I’ve come to appreciate the good things in life all the more.

Before I started at this company, I just took certain things for granted — like technical expertise, adequate resources for critical positions, executive recognition of What Matters Most. And autonomy. I really took that for granted, because I’d been working in self-directed circumstances for over 20 years.

Seeing the other side of things, and realizing that no, things aren’t always organized in effective, efficient ways, has given me a new appreciation for those things — teamwork amongst team members… everyone pulling together as one. And now I value it so much more. Going on to this next job, I’m incredibly excited to be back in my “natural habitat” again — back amongst my professional peers who aren’t all making the same mistakes I made 15 years ago, and wondering “why did THAT happen?”

Oh, god…

Anyway, that’s rapidly disappearing into my rearview mirror. I’m sure there are things about the company I’m leaving, that I’ll really miss, later on. Or perhaps not at all. Who knows? All I know is, I’m moving on, and I have the whole world ahead of me. I have a new lease on life, and my other projects are picking up steam in a very big way. In another week, I won’t be glancing at the clock, dreading an hour-long commute. I won’t have to juggle my morning to schedule my drive to the office at a time that will strike a balance between minimizing my time in traffic and maximizing my productive time at work.

And I won’t have to hassle with that horrific open space plan.

Holy crap, those two things alone will make it more than worth the change.

Now I’m even more excited… and I’ll start getting ready for work in a few, to make one of my last drives into that office. I’m only going into the office one day this week, so this is #4… 3… 2… 1…

Time to get the game-face on and get into a good mindset. The past four years have seen tremendous growth for me, and I’ve come so far — in no small part because of my coworkers and the pressure they’ve put on me to integrate and socialize and be a real part of their team. They really have been a huge part of my life — my only social life, in fact. And I will miss them.

Well, some of them, anyway…

Regardless, in the next week, my primary purpose is to look for the good, find the good, see the opportunity, buckle down and finalize things that need finalizing. And do my best to tie up whatever loose ends I can, so I can leave my soon-to-be-former teammates with at least a fighting chance.

The day is waiting. Onward.

The most magic 30 minutes of my day

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

Yesterday I had a nap. I stepped away from my desk for about half an hour to recharge my batteries. I walked 5 minutes to my car, which was in underground parking quite a ways from my office, put the seat back, put the headphones on, made myself comfortable, and I did my progressive relaxation.

I even got about 15 minutes of sleep in the process.

And when I woke up (which was 2 minutes before the alarm I’d set), I felt amazing. Refreshed. Alive. Human.

Then I collected myself, walked the 5 minutes back to my office, and I got on with the rest of my day.

I have heard it said that naps can disrupt your sleeping pattern, and it’s better to keep yourself awake and go to bed early. They obviously do not push themselves to perform at the level I do, from the moment I wake up in the morning. From the moment my feet hit the floor, I’m in GO mode. I have to be, because getting myself up in the morning is a monumental task that takes everything I have, some days.

Anybody who thinks I can make it through my day on a night’s worth of sleep has obviously never experienced the kind of exhaustion point I get to, around 2:00 p.m. each and every day. It is pretty brutal. By the time the afternoon rolls around, I’ve been going full-tilt-boogie for 6-8 hours. I can continue push through, sure, but I am good for nothing, the rest of the afternoon. Seriously, good for nothing. Even the things that I love doing — and that I push myself to do — turn out to be a waste of time.

Wheels spin. But they get no traction.

But if I can sleep… that is another story.

Knowing that I can sleep later on, and that I’ll be able to recharge my batteries, also makes it possible for me to push harder at the beginning of the day. When I think I’m going to have to pace myself… that my energy stores from a night’s sleep are going to have to last me all day, I hold myself back in the mornings. I’ve just now realized this, actually. When I wake up tired

Today is a completely new day — or so I keep telling myself. I’m a little tired this morning, to be honest. It’s been a long week, and I’m tired already at 7:00 a.m. I will pick up speed later today, when I am working. I’m not going into the office, so I have more time to focus on working, and less to spend driving. I also have more time to spend thinking about my own projects and making some good progress on them — without the pressure of daily performance of way too much work in way too little time.

So, there is hope for me today. I don’t have to be subjected to the upset and uncertainties of all the people around me (I came back from my nap yesterday to find my teammates huddled in a corner bitching and complaining about working conditions.) I can set my own pace and do my own work, without others interfering with their emotional incontinence.

It’s a relief not to be at the office, because the environment there is pretty depressing. It’s just a constant pressure cooker of uncertainty and chaos. When I say “chaos”, I mean there is a total lack of recognizable patterns to anything that happens. That is to say, there is no regular cadence, no regular pace, not much that’s predictable at all, from a day-to-day standpoint. It’s constant interruption and constant uncertainty. It’s not like I need any guarantees in life. But it would be nice to be able to not have everyone around me intent on interrupting my train of thought to ask me questions they can answer themselves.

It’s almost as though they are just stopping by to feel a little relief from their uncertainty.

As a matter of fact, I think that’s exactly what they’re doing — just stopping by to get a little boost to their self-confidence and sense of belonging. Because that’s what I bring to the table — respect for others, the ability to calm people down when they are all worked up, and a certain sense of calm in the center of the storm.

On the bright side, it’s great that I’m able to do this for people. On the downside, it doesn’t help me get my work done… and it’s actually keeping me from making progress in my own workload. Other people not being able to manage their own internal state, is probably the biggest hurdle to my own productivity. It’s not that their frame of mind is upsetting me. They are literally keeping me from doing my work, because they keep running to me and interrupting me and hijacking my workflow, to answer questions they never should have had to ask.


Anyway, in another 13 weeks, this is going to cease to be my problem. Oh, hell — if I can get things wrapped up before then, I’ll be free to go even earlier. I don’t have to be locked into a specific timeframe. I have had this July deadline in my mind, because that’s when I’m scheduled to be done with my big-ass project. But I might get things done even before that.

So, there’s some leeway there. And I’ve just thought of a way I can speed things up — some of the stuff I’m depending on others to do for me, I can do myself. They’re not experienced (or actually smart) enough to figure it out. Plus, they friggin’ hate my guts for reasons that are all about their crappy self-regulation, their incompetence, their jealousy, their brown-nosed politicking (which cannot stand the glare of objective scrutiny), and their sad work ethic (or lack thereof — I actually expect them to do their jobs, ogre that I am)… as well as shoddy management which just lets them get away with anything they damn’ well please.

So, the inmates are running the asylum. In a very big way.

And I have less than no confidence in them.

But the happy and sane part is, it doesn’t matter. They can be all pissy and pitch their hissy fits from their corner of the corporate cosmos. I can just work around everyone, and actually get sh*t done. I don’t have to be dependent on them to get their acts together, in order to move forward. And on top of that, I can be sharpening some excellent skills of my own in the meantime.

This task is a huge opportunity, but those idiots are not seeing it. I can see it plain as day, and I can hear the trumpets from heaven loud and clear. Their ineptitude is opening a door for me to step through, and that makes me incredibly happy, now that I think about it. For that matter, I can spend my weekend working on this, and actually get it all done in time for Monday — AND have it be an excellent investment in my future.

So, that’s good. And it’s giving me a big boost. It’s not all a waste of my time. It’s not all an exercise in futility. Far from it. It’s actually a positive thing, and turning it around in my mind to see the opportunity and the door opening a little more to my fantastic future is the first step in the right direction.

As long as my head is clear about this, and I’m rested and energized and keeping my batteries charged, it’s all good.

Later today I will have my nap. My magical 30 minutes to recharge my batteries. But for now, it’s…



Getting connected again

isolationPeople are funny. We’re so social. And when we feel like we’ve been cut off from our social group, it can make us crazy.

I’ve been having that sort of experience this week. My team members have either been traveling, or they’ve been in a lot of meetings, and there is a lot of discussion and politicking going on behind the scenes that affects me, but I don’t know about.

I’ve also been slammed with everyday busy-work that’s been consuming all my time and energy – I’ve been ‘in the weeds’ and it’s been making me nuts.  I’ve been very productive and I’ve gotten a lot done, but it’s been really tiring. And when I get tired, I isolate, which is not good.

Yesterday I managed to reconnect with a coworker who has been a little nuts, lately. They’ve pissed me off, and I have been keeping them at arm’s length. But that’s not making me feel any better, so I put aside my aggravation and I’m not pushing them away anymore.

It’s made things easier at work. And it’s also saved me a ton of time and energy that I was using up being pissed off at them and keeping them at arm’s distance.

Forgiveness and generosity of spirit are so much less work, actually. So, I’m letting those set the tone for my work with people. And that seems to be helping a lot.

I’ve also been taking breaks during my day — first thing in the morning after I get up, I sit and just breathe for a few minutes… during the day I’ll stop and step away to also just sit and breathe… and in the evening before I go to sleep, I’ll spend a few minutes just sitting and breathing. It calms me down and it settles my mind.

Which is exactly what I want and need.

And now the day is waiting.


Finding what I love most

What gives life?

This job search is proving quite enlightening. As painful as all the insecurity is…

Will I be able to learn what I need to know? Will I be able to impress the people I need to impress? Will I be able to earn what I need to earn? Will I be making a bad decision? Will the company I go with be able to stay afloat? Will I be able to have insurance? Will I be able to have a life? What will become of me?

I am learning a lot about myself and my limits. It is incredibly difficult to stay cool at work, while I’m working on my exit. Everything feels like it’s in limbo, and the whole situation seems surreal. I don’t have a lot of margin for error, and it’s incredibly stressful to be in this situation. On top of it, I’ve been pretty hard on myself for “getting myself into this situation” because I feel like I’ve gotten myself into this tight spot, and it’s all my fault that I can’t make a success out of this situation, the way I’m expected to.

What an impossible scenario I’ve created for myself. I’m being way too hard on myself, and my ego has completely taken over with thinking that I’m the sole creator of this situation, when nothing could be farther from the truth. The real truth is that I’ve been making the best of a wretched situation for a long, long time — about a year longer than I expected to be able to. And I’ve accomplished things that nobody thought could be accomplished, despite outright sabotage by my bosses for the past two years.

Ha ha. I’ve succeeded anyway.

So there.

Yeah, it’s not all that bad, and I need to get over myself and stop telling myself that it’s all “my bad” that things suck bilgewater. Things suck bilgewater all across the board, without any help on my part. I’m free to go anytime, and so is everyone else. If they choose to stay in the situation where they are, that’s their choice… and there you go. It’s all a matter of choice. It always has been, and it always will be.

I’m a big believer in taking responsibility for your circumstances, and doing everything in your power to direct your own life in ways that are true to you and your vision and your talents. I stepped into this job, a little over two years ago, hoping to bring my talents and vision to the job. I succeeded to some extent, and the changes I’ve effected have permanently altered the organization. There are higher expectations now, and higher standards in some respects. We have a better infrastructure in place than ever before, and long-standing problems have gotten solved.

Yet at the same time, that improvement has gone completely unnoticed by the folks in charge, despite my drawing attention to it and documenting it and educating folks about it. The folks in charge are all about short-term quarterly results and being able to show “growth” in small increments, which is directly opposed by own point of view, which takes a longer view of things — when you take some extra time to fix things that are broken (and have been broken for a long time), you will speed things up for the future. The best part of it all, is that you’ll never realize that there is a whole system behind what you’re doing — it will work silently and invisibly, as it should.

But then the people who make their livings off fixing things won’t be able to log any progress.

And we can’t have that.

So clearly, if the organization doesn’t share my outlook there’s not much point in me staying there. And I have to remember that there are other places that do share my beliefs. I’ve worked in some in the past. This current place is an anomaly for me — probably because I am not working in a predominantly technical division. They do the sales and marketing and customer relationship stuff, not the technology stuff. And I’m definitely a fish out of water, flopping around on the bank of the stream, gasping for air.

Time to go…  time to go…

And look up from my little workspace to see what else is out there, what else is available that really moves me. The simple fact of my life is that, in order to excel at things, I need to focus in on it so intently that it becomes a transcendent experience for me. And I haven’t had that for over a year. I need to be able to completely immerse myself in my work, and the present environment prohibits that – in fact, it’s designed to prohibit it. In order to build up skill in anything, you have to put in a lot of hours and a lot of hard work. You have to try things and fail and look for workarounds. You have to really kick it, and be able to sustain your passion for what you do, day in and day out.

I — and everyone else in this world — cannot truly succeed without sustained effort, and sustained effort requires a ton of passion. Not just the kind of passion that comes up in the moment, but passion that lasts through it all — through the boring times and the exciting times… the kind of passion that keeps you up at night, that wakes you up early in the morning, and fuels you when all seems lost. I love the work I do, when I’m allowed to do it, and it’s that love that keeps me going, that keeps me learning, that keeps me sharp and engaged. It’s not the trophies and the prizes and the recognition. It’s not the outside-in rewards that drive me. It’s the inside-out passion that makes it all worth it, day in and day out.

In looking around at all my job options, I’ve come across a lot of jobs that offer external trappings — prestigious positions at top corporations who are leaders in their field. I’ve come across a lot of opportunities that look great on the outside. The companies that offer them promise rewards, benefits, and the chance to associate yourself with leading-edge industry powerhouses. And then I look at the company reviews on places like Glassdoor and Hallway, and I find different stories being told by people actually inside the companies.

And I have to stop and take a step back. I have to reconsider my orientation. Because it is so easy for me to be seduced into thinking that those powerhouses are the key to my future — prestige being the biggest draw. The only thing is, the things I look for are not mainly the external trappings. It’s the conditions that people work in, the technical focus, the infrastructure, the quality of staff. It’s the innermost working of the company that I need to look at and value — far above the outside reputation that’s made by sales and marketing and branding folks.

Frankly, it worries me when a company is so focused on it “brand” and there are serious holes in the internal infrastructure. It’s classic smoke and mirrors stuff, and I have to be really careful that I don’t fall for that, because it is so seductive and so attractive.

So, what do I really love, above all else?

  • Working with passionate people who love their work and want to make the right decisions for the right reasons, not because it’s politically expedient, or because everybody else is doing it.
  • Working at a company with a solid technical foundation and that values and understands the importance of its infrastructure enough to invest significant resources in building and maintaining it.
  • Working with people who understand and value technical standards and make the effort to stick by ’em.
  • Being able to immerse myself so profoundly in my work, that everything else ceases to exist for a few hours each day.
  • Having a good balance between what I love to do, what I have to do, and what I can’t help doing… and making room for my whole life, not just grinding out the hours because it’s the cool and tough thing to do, and losing my whole life to a single employer, doing a single thing that is only for that employer. I have so many other interests in my life – why would I sacrifice them all for a paycheck? There are other ways to do this, people. Many other ways.

There are other things, of course, but these are the Big Five that I look for. These are the things that Really Matter Most to me. They are the things I’m just not going to compromise on. I’m just not. They’re also the things that I tend to get seduced away from, by things like prestige and power and what-not. Ultimately, the only power we really have is over our own lives, and the illusion that we can have power over the rest of life or the rest of the world… well, that’s just an illusion.

So, as painful as the insecurity can be, as awkward and difficult as it is, to be in limbo, this is good work for me to be doing — to be taking a long, hard look at my life and being forced to consider what it is I want to do with my life. I need balance and the energy to pursue other activities and interests outside the 9-to-5. I need to find work I love with all my heart, that I can be continuously challenged with. And I need to work in a group that is all on the same page, not just flailing around, covering their asses and not being responsive or responsible to others. I need to find other people who love their work with all their hearts and who are willing to dive deep into a mutual effort to build things that make a difference in the world.

It’s not too much to ask, right? 😉

Actually, I think it’s not. It can happen. I just need to keep looking and keep holding out for what I am looking for, and not cave in the face of professional seduction.

What I want is what I need, and I simply can’t settle for anything less.

So, onward.

Tired and dizzy and running late

Well, this is great… not. Our big deadline is today – what we’ve been working towards for many months, now. I was awake early, thinking that I could get to the office early. I will get there a few hours before I usually do, but after getting some exercise and eating my breakfast, I find that the clock has moved more quickly than I thought it was. I’m running a little late.

Part of the issue is that I’m pretty dizzy. So, I’ve had to be more careful and cautious about how I move, this morning. I can’t rush around, I have to pay attention to where I put each foot, how I move each part of my body. And that takes  more time than usual. I have to be very deliberate, very mindful, as I move around. And as I slowly navigated my way down the stairs and into the kitchen this morning, I thought about the times years ago when I could just move… without thinking about it and coordinating every move.

Oh, well.

Did I have sugar yesterday? Dairy? This feels like dairy vertigo — when I have dairy, I get mucus-y and my ears fill up, and I become very dizzy. I don’t think I had any milk or milk products. I must just be tired. Very tired, in fact. Yep, that’s it. I could use about 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, right now. Not gonna happen till much later today, but a person can dream…

I’ve been pushing hard for weeks, and I’m feeling it for sure. I worked most of the day at home, yesterday, starting around 4:30 a.m. getting things together and all organized. I worked till about 2, then lay down and rested for an hour, then got back up and took care of errands. It’s nuts, and I probably should have gotten more sleep than that hour nap in the afternoon, but again, this is the big deadline. The end of this project. And a bunch of us were online, sorting out last-minute things all day. I was not the only one.

These last minute things have been completely and totally needless, in my estimation. If I think too much about it, I rapidly become irate… even livid… that certain folks on the project dicked around while a number of us were voicing concerns about not having enough time to get everything done in a systematic fashion. But no, certain individuals were busy jacking around, fiddling with this and that and the other thing, rather than staying on point and being focused on what was important.

Like I said, if I think about it too much, it makes me nuts. So, I’m using my noggin and not wasting time getting all tweaked over stupid sh*t I can’t change at this point. We have time to change later. After the obnoxious SOBs who carried on like they knew what the hell they were doing, have paid the dear price and have let these lesson sink in.

That’s assuming, of course, that the lessons will sink in. From what I’ve seen, that might never happen.

Oh, what-ever. I can’t let this experience define me. I can’t let it shade my perception of myself and let it get me down. There are things I did wrong, that have contributed to the last-minute mess. Things I did wrong many months ago, and didn’t fix. Part of this is my own damned fault. And I accept that. I’ll take full responsibility for that. But my name isn’t Patsy, and I’m not taking the fall for this. Not gonna happen.

But all this internal haggling isn’t going to get me anywhere. I’ve got to keep my head above water and keep my spirit and soul intact. I’ve got to focus on the positives and carry myself in the best way possible. People are people, and I’ve been in this business long enough to know that this sort of crap happens all the time. There’s always something. And in response to what’s gone down, I have a multi-point plan that we can follow as a team and as a division, that will not only help prevent these sorts of things from happening, but also make us even better in the long run.

I read recently that sometimes people learn best from hard lessons. Trial and Error Learning (TEL) can work better for some than Errorless Learning (EL). My neuropsych tells me that for some people, EL is the only way they can really learn, and TEL is a recipe for disaster.

We’ll find out today — and in the coming weeks and months — how that’s going to shake out.

For now, I just need to get a move on. The day is waiting.

So, where *does* the time go?

Who the hell has time for this stuff?

Holy crap, I just looked at the calendar, and lo and behold, I have just a little over two weeks before my massive deadline comes due. It’s just as well. This project has been a lot more massive than just about anybody has realized – if others haven’t figured it out, that’s my doing, really. I’ve made extra effort to shield them from the complexity. Of course, now I have only myself to thank/blame, if I’m not getting ample backing. But sometimes it’s easier just to put my head down and keep going, not spend a lot of time trying to get people’s heads around stuff that’s gotta get done.

I woke up at 3:33 this morning, and I haven’t been able to get back to sleep. So, here I am, finally just giving up and spending some time doing things other than going crazy in my head about all the stuff that still needs to get done. I haven’t done much writing here in the past day or two, and I miss it, when I don’t do it. Regardless of how many people read this, the act of writing it is the thing that saves me from my own silliness.

Maybe I’ll look at Facebook for a while…

No, cancel that. I can’t deal with Facebook this early in the morning. Or other “social media” either. Somehow, it always seems to leave me cold and hungry, after I do it. They’re great drugs, if you consider our ‘Thirst For Knowledge’ May Be Opium Craving – I wrote about that back in March of 2009, and it still rings true. The constant stream of information (meaningful or not) is like a drug for us. And like a drug, it ends up leaving me feeling cold and metallic and empty, once the initial rush is gone. It’s so pointless, really… all that time and energy I’ve spent “following” other people… who are leading nowhere. It’s one thing, if they have meaningful information to pass along, but when all they “tweet” about is their public transit adventures, I have to question my sanity at following them.

I’ve un-followed and un-friended a number of people because their chatter was a time-sink I could no longer afford. Seriously – do we really need to know your every move and thought, burp and fart?

Now, I will draw the line at what I consider “essential” information – the kind of information that gives me insight into really important issues, like healthcare and how people deal with daily challenges and crises. Maybe it’s a good sign, when people are consumed by all sorts of fluff. It means that they have extra time on their hands, and life must be going really well for them. Or it could mean that they’re embarked on a very elaborate escape scheme that has them so totally consumed that they can’t possibly think about all the other crap in their lives.

Either way… whatever. What other people choose to do with their lives is their business. But for me, life is precious and often all too short. I need to make the most of what I’ve got, when I’ve got it.

Anyway, back to the calendar, which is right in front of me, as I sit downstairs at the desk that’s the common work/surf/research station in my house, listening to the crickets and other insects outside playing their high-pitched songs… This summer has flown by at an alarming rate. June was a good month, then July picked up speed and trucked on through, and August is 2/3 gone, by now, with me shaking my head, wondering — what happened? It’s been a really, really busy summer with work, and I’m just now starting to be able to get my head above water. On the bright side, as the dust starts to settle and I am able to catch my breath, I find that I have a better attitude about many of the projects that I have been working on over the past year. Now that I’ve been super-compressed with time, getting some of these things off my plate is de-compressing me, and I’m coming back to the work with fresh eyes and a new attitude. I’ve done things one way, then another, then another, tried a bunch of different approaches, found out what didn’t work, and eventually I’m coming out to the other side with better time management skills, a better sense of my work, and a more mature perception at work – both from me and about me.

A lot of the people I work with have kind of disdained me and my “intensity” at work. To me, they appear to have been skating along for a number of years, doing this’n’that, doing just enough to get by, without a really intense sense of pressure or urgency to what they do or a deep commitment to the little details that set the pros apart from the rest of the crowd. This is entirely different from my approach, which is all about paying very close attention to those details, seeing where things can be improved, and keeping vigilant about possibilities for continual improvement. It’s how I’ve worked for many years. I can’t help it if I work with people who don’t have that same focus. But I can help not falling into that same trap. It’s a lot of work and it’s a bit nerve-wracking at times, but I have to resist. I must.

One of the big challenges of the past year has been the constant negotiation I’ve had to do with a boss who is big into just doing enough to get by, and who has been pressuring me to not put those finishing touches on things because they’re “not my job”. On top of that, I have another indirect boss, who is on the opposite end of the spectrum, and wants all those perfect details incorporated. The only problem is, they think that everyone should be able to come up with perfection on their own, without any sort of collaborative effort or input. It’s fine if you’re exactly like them and you have the same sort of personality and sensibilities. But when you have a different perspective, they’re not much help at all.

So, the past year has been an extended process of balancing between these two individuals, while keeping steady, myself, with how I think the job should be done.

Fortunately, history is in my favor, as are the results. Granted, I haven’t hit the due dates for every single project I’ve been on, but I have managed to raise the bar on the quality and detail of the work my group has been doing. And these details take time. So I’m less worried about the exact timetable, than I am about the fundamental quality and value of what we are creating and doing.

Because it’s the details that will get you over the long run. They’re the ones that trip you up when you least expect them. And if you spend a little extra time thinking things through and heading problems off at the pass, then you’ll have more time later to really focus in on the stuff that matters, instead of chasing down every little problem that comes up.

Anyway, I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that it’s been a whirlwind tour, and it’s paying off at last. People are seeing the sense in what I’m doing, and why. They’re starting to get it. And they’re starting to realize that there’s a method to my “madness” — and it’s not madness at all. It’s experience. It’s commitment to quality. It’s determination to stick to my own values and goals and bring ’em on home. They’re not laughing at me nearly as much anymore.

I’ve really needed them to get this. For everyone’s good. And it’s been slow going, showing them how and why I do the things I do. But I’ve had to do that. I guess I’ve instinctively known from the start that I couldn’t just show up and start telling people how to do things. I had to show them. I had to demonstrate what works, so they can get it themselves. And it works. I’m glad I stuck with it.

Now I’ve got to keep sticking with it.

I feel like I’m finally at a place where I can just settle in and relax into my work — not slack off and do nothing, but have a level of ease and proficiency with it that lets me do my work to the best of my ability and really take things to the next level. I also feel like I am more at a place where I am not flying blind anymore, and I don’t have to sweat and hassle over how to get things done. Now I can let the intense, bone-breaking pressure off, and I can turn my attention away from my anxiety… to reduce my extended work days, or at the very least have a better integrated workday, so I have room and time for everything. I’ve been so focused on this job, and turning things around for myself and my team, that I have blocked out a lot of other things that bring more texture and depth to my life — like relaxing. I don’t need to do that anymore. Now I can relax. I can turn my attention to other things and get back to enjoying my life more fully.

This is good.

And I know where the time has gone – into the nooks and crannies of my life, like so much hot asphalt being poured into potholes in a road. I’ve been smoothing things out and fixing things up, despite all attempts by people around me to prevent that. I’m getting to a place where I no longer have to stop at each pothole and fill it up. The holes are being patched, and the work is getting done. One way or another.


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