The Problem of being Good at “Everything”

In my last post, I stated that I had some exciting news. By that, I meant exciting and nerve-wracking.

I quit my day job.

Curls gone wrong...

There. Now it’s out and not so bad. But honestly, I am a little anxious about the immediate future. Why?

I’ve decided to freelance and work for myself.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m excited to be working for myself. But those of you who share in my entrepreneurial spirit can empathize with just how challenging working for yourself can be. However, I will reiterate that I am thrilled and can’t wait for the next chapter of my life to unfold.

This was the first week that I had all to myself. It’s been a week in which I rested, took time to get lots of “busy work” done, crossed off several things on my to-do list, and began to draft what my life will now look like in this new structure. And, as always, there are so many things you learn about yourself whenever a big change occurs. For me, I’ve been learning about the importance of limiting my focus.

You see: I’m the classic overachiever. I am unsatisfied if the job done is less than 110% and have high expectations of myself and those with whom I work—i.e. if you’re on my team, you better be ready to kick some ass. There’s nothing wrong with having that kind of work ethic, but when your ego intermixes with achievement and grows en masse, the “intimidation monster” may rear its ugly head in the process. This is what I call “the problem of being good at everything.”

GC FineImage via Meme Generator.

In the past, several people have told me that I am intimidating. Those who know me very well wouldn’t describe me as such, but would agree that because I’m demanding of myself, it may come across as intimidating to others. When I was younger and just in the blossoming stages my career, I honestly had no idea why I was labeled in that way. In fact, being the sensitive flower that I am (ha!), I would actually become offended at said label. But now that I’ve finished a ten-year run in the education field, I can actually appreciate those perspectives because I understand where they were coming from.

When you’re a know-it-all and try to take on every task under the sun, you WILL come off as Hermione Granger—and not in a good way. One of the most important things I’ve learned about myself while growing in my career is that my number one strength is strategy. (According to Clifton Strengths Finder.) That means that I can see solutions where many people see puzzles. I can mentally rearrange the “pieces” of a problem and see the whole picture. It’s nothing over which I have control—I was made this way. I am not responsible for this gift. It’s how my brain works. Though it sounds like an amazing skill to possess, it also has its curse. The curse of: the temptation to rescue everyone and solve the problem before they can even attempt to work out a solution for themselves. This is what Liz Wiseman would call an “accidental diminisher.”

People only want to be rescued if they’re drowning. And guess what? Many people in the workforce aren’t drowning; they’re simply looking at different ways to solve problems and may not come to an answer as fast as a strategist. But those of us who rush in too quickly diminish the genius of others. Particularly those of us who have four page résumés. *Guiltily raising my hand.*

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I began to realize this especially when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia last year. When I became physically limited, my eagerness to jump in and do everything and save the day was limited as well. Though Fibro is very painful and not something I would wish upon anyone, it has been a good thing. It taught me that I simply cannot do everything for everyone—I am NOT superwoman and that’s okay!

While I learned this lesson, old habits still crept in. I am nowhere near perfect, after all. Taking too much on my “job plate” was a problem and I’d become so overwhelmed that the huge progress I had made in lessening Fibro symptoms would be interrupted by a painful flare up. It sucked.

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Finally, I started focusing on myself more—specifically during this year. I was tired of feeling pain, tired of being overwhelmed, and tired of appearing intimidating. I just wanted to be me, enjoy my life, and pursue my passions. This caused me to initiate a mental dialogue with myself that eventually became external dialogues with some of my mentors. One mentor, in particular, said something so simple yet so riveting that it solidified my decision to change my life: “Tamar, you can either spend the rest of your life being good at everything…OR, you can spend the rest of your life being great at that one thing you’re passionate about.” Wow. Talk about conviction!

That conversation sparked events that eventually led to this blog post. Today, my office is a coffee shop and I’ll get to work out with all the retirees at the gym later—before most everyone is out of school and work. And if I want, I can squeeze in a nap, just because I can. But those are not the reasons why I’ve abandoned the intimidating overachiever. It’s much bigger than those perks.

Paid for Being FabImage via Some eCards.

 I’m finally pursuing my passion. The one thing at which I’m going to be great: writing.

Funny thing is, I liked writing when I was younger, hated it while in high school and college, and sort of rediscovered it as a means of mental freedom while penning my first novel, Feast Island, about five years ago. I had such a narrow perspective on writing until it became my liberator from the busyness of life. When it was the thing on which I spent all of my free time. When it evolved into more than just a portion of my job—it developed into my passion.

Now, the plan is to be a freelancer, specializing in copywriting, copyediting, content creation, and other writing services. Hopefully I will be able to have more time to focus on my fiction writing while not engaged in non-fiction writing. (Fiction doesn’t pay the bills quite yet, but here’s hoping!) I’m just about done with my NEW brand and website: helawrite.com. I will loudly announce when it’s ready for reveal, meaning I’ll be available for hire! 🙂 This is scary, new, exciting…all emotions mixed into one ball of anxiety-stricken and joy-filled energy. I’m optimistic about the future and expect failures, successes, and everything in between.

I don’t feel like I’m “finally on the right path”; rather, I feel like I’m on the right path for right now.

All that I experienced in my prior career shaped me to become the ME I am today. It helped me to learn very valuable lessons that I’ve since applied to my life to become better. I’m learning how to let go of things I can’t control. I’m perfectly happy being imperfect.  Every day, I come closer to truly understanding that this life isn’t about me, but rather about how I can be used to change the world through my vocation.

To the overachievers and those who “need” to control: guess what? You cannot control everything in life; the more you try to control, the more battles you will fight and lose. LET GO. It’s not about you. Become GREAT by relinquishing control, sharing the spotlight, and being a “multiplier” of talents around you.

To the underachievers: GRAB ON. Find your passion and begin to focus your energies on becoming better and better at that one thing. Become GREAT by being passionate, focused, and intentional. Bring others along side you for the journey.

I’ll leave you with the challenge to “dare greatly” as Brené Brown would say, and go forth in faith to do what you were meant to do. As the great Theodore Roosevelt said in the Citizen in a Republic speech,

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

Have a great weekend!

Life’s Too Short to Hate your Job

Today and tomorrow, I am attending an amazing (satellite) conference called The Global Leadership Summit, hosted by the Willow Creek Association. This is my fourth time attending and personally, I believe the conference gets better each year. Today, for example, I was able to hear the tried and true wisdom of General Colin Powell, Bill Hybels, Bob Goff, and Mark Burnett–to name a few. However, my favorite speaker is and shall remain Patrick Lencioni.

If you don’t know about Mr. Lencioni, he is the founder and president of The Table Group, as well as a best-selling author of business/leadership books. Earlier this year, I finished his amazing book The Advantage, which is about what it takes to build and run a healthy organization. And health is just the beginning of a great organization. In this post, I’d specifically like to share what Lencioni spoke about at this year’s conference.

You see…healthy organizations go deeper than the operations of any company and the satisfaction of any customer. Yes, the leader shapes and drives a business culture, but the employees are at the heart of the cause. They help sustain the vision. And sadly, many Americans and other people around the world today are disengaged in their work, don’t know what the vision of their company is, and would describe their job as mundane or perhaps miserable. Too often leaders are not engaging with their employees, and on a larger scale, many companies are not engaging with their followers/customers. It’s a disease in business that needs to be wiped out.

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Job misery is exactly what Lencioni spoke about. He said there are three things that cause job misery: Anonymity, Irrelevance, and a term he made up–“Immeasurement“.

As he stated about anonymity, “No one likes to be anonymous”, especially employees. Perhaps you may feel that way about your job–or maybe, as a manager, you have yet to take interest in your employees. Sure, we all need to pay our bills and make rent, but wouldn’t it be much more pleasant to make your paycheck while enjoying the work? Wouldn’t it be nice to work at a place that cares about your well being just as much as your productivity?

So his takeaway from avoiding anonymity: “Take interest in your employees [or even your followers] and [remember] good people don’t leave jobs where they’re known.”

In regards to irrelevance: A good leader will “help people figure out what their relevance is.” People need to know that they matter–that what they do matters.

The takeaway from this lesson: “Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment.”

Finally, “immeasurement“: “People need feedback.” As a manager, do you allow your employees to assess themselves? Do you give them tools that empower them and help them become better? Are you helping them see both the quantitative AND qualitative results? As an employee, how do you measure that you’re doing a good job?

Takeaway: “Money is a satisfier.” Money, as I stated before, plays a role in our jobs, but it’s not enough to make us completely fulfilled. How, then, can you measure your success and satisfaction in your vocation? Being known, having reason and purpose in your work, and being able to measure appropriate results, are all driving factors for job satisfaction.

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I recently read an article from Gallup Business Journal about job disengagement. The argument was that disengagement in one’s job is worse than having no job. They did a study on Germans, who still uphold their impeccable and historical work ethic, and found that though 7 out of 10 Germans would still work even if they didn’t have to, most Germans would rather be without a job than work for a horrible manager. Click HERE to read the full article. They would rather turn away from their inherent culture of working hard–no matter what–and be happily jobless than hopeless in employment. I don’t know about you, but that speaks VOLUMES to me.

Another article I read from The Gallup Blog about “10 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience” lists items that are centered around employees first. Click HERE to read. 10 out of 10 (!) suggestions for improving the customer experience are ALL focused on the employees BEFORE looking outward to clientele and the general masses. That says something. Gallup gets it, just like Patrick Lencioni does: If you have happily engaged employees who know what they’re doing and feel good about it, your business is going to thrive, your customers will be happy and likely to recommend you, and you’ll become a better leader. Not a micro-manager, not a dictator, and not some idiot boss.

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So here’s my challenge to both sides of the coin: Leaders, are you helping your employees and/or subordinates engage in their work–in the organization? And employees, are you happy with where you’re at–do you enjoy going in to work every day? Do you know what you’re doing, what’s expected of you? Do you feel valued?

As leaders, it’s our job to not waste time by having unhappy, unproductive employees. And we need to take responsibility for job engagement trickling downward into our organization. Employees learn from us–from our example. Are we engaged in the work? Are we happy? Are we able to measure success and help our people do the same?

As employees, it’s our job to help further the vision and growth of our company. And if we just can’t picture ourselves doing that, or we dread the work, our boss, our peers…why stay? Why live with a miserable job, day in and day out? Is there something that you feel compelled to do, to lead, to begin, to change?

Let me put it this way: What if you woke up tomorrow and found out you only had 30 days left to live? Would you change the life you’re now living–would you continue to go in to work–or would you do something else?

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That very question is something I’ve been asking myself lately–not just about my job, but about everything in general. What would I change if I knew my final days were upon me? I know it can be overwhelming, but like the title of this post states: Life is too short to hate [insert applicable phrase here]. So as we seek to become better leaders, workers, spouses, friends, parents, sisters, brothers, etc., may we be bold enough to have the courage to leap into something greater, if that’s where we are being pushed.

In my next post, I have some exciting news, so stay tuned!