We want to make an end to strife, to balance the warring factions of our lives, of the demands they make of us, and we of them. Just some peace and quiet, please, for once.
Why is that so difficult, so fraught with fruitless struggle and seemingly endless failure?
Well, one reason is that we tend to focus exclusively on ourselves, on what we want from life. In particular, when we wake up one day to realize we haven’t done very good jobs either of setting worthwhile goals or of accomplishing them, we tend to get a little bitter, hasty, and, well, childish about it.
So we make ever more anxious recourse to gimmicks, secret steps, or magical incantations we can unleash on the world to force it to open its treasures to us at last. We negotiate with ourselves, and then imagine that reality will just slot right in to the role we hallucinate for it. And so we lay the groundwork for more failure, deepening bitterness, and an ever steeper spiral downward.
And that’s really the key: if you want to be a better manager, organize a more productive and successful career, or find a way to draw substantive and meaningful reward from your work, then stop having the conversation with yourself, about yourself. After all, doing that really means that you want to exploit something for your own benefit, and that’s not an especially reasonable or sustainable expectation in the modern world of work (spectacular examples of precisely that over the past few decades notwithstanding).
Instead, review the terrain from where you happen to stand in it. In particular, take a look at all those others struggling mightily away in this landscape along with you. These are your colleagues, your peers – even your seniors and the organizations you work for.
What are their problems? What difficulties do they seem to be encountering? To where do they seem to be trying to make their way? Do any ideas occur to you how you might do that if you were them, or how you might help them do it? Can you, viewing this scenario with the detachment you now feel, see how they might even help each other to collaborate in the pursuit of their various needs in a way that advances all of them? How do you suppose you might be able to help them do that?
Sure you do, because you’re a manager. Peter Drucker described an “executive” in the modern world of work as anyone who has the ability and the instinct to contribute. So, there it is: see if you can – as a hard-nosed general once said, in perhaps one of the less martial but more spot on bits of advice I’ve heard – bloom where you’re planted.
No, don’t sacrifice your wishes or goals to those of your work and career environments, and then just hope you’ll somehow be rewarded. Do, however, examine not only your own ambitions, but also those of the people and institutions you want to help you realize them.
Make it a two-way conversation on a two way street, and you may find the traffic flowing more smoothly in every way, for everyone concerned. It may then be more inclined to help you get to where you want, and ought, to be.
Next, we’re going to assume we’ve recovered from all the feverish introspection, and take a look at this from closer to the action. In the meanwhile, have a great weekend – see you on Monday.
This post is a part of a series. You can learn about and link to the other articles here: Managing life, work, and life at work
Today’s tip: Speaking of the problems with assumptions of entitlement, please see this piece from The Economist about business schools coming to terms with what they have wrought, and what they ought to be doing about it (The second to last paragraph is a gem – but read your way to it).
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