As I Lose My Job

June 23, 2008

            I used to really love my job.  Monday’s were never a drag and it was never hard to get started.  There was a lot of variety in what I did each day, a lot of flexibility, travel, and the job was very meaningful.  I wasn’t just selling cans of green beans.  What I did made a real difference in people’s lives.

            Not so much any more.  As the organization grew the job has changed.  A lot.  There is a need for much more of a professional salesman in my role.  That’s not who I am, and that’s not who I want to be.  So, I am not so slowly any more losing my job and this part of my life will be over shortly.

            The organization is still great, and I’d even recommend working there.  The job is still very meaningful and makes a real difference.  But, I am no longer good at it.  So, there is a real sense of loss as the change comes about.  There is loss and anxiety as I figure out what comes next.

            All this came on very quickly.  If you’d asked me six months ago I’d have told you I love my job.  But, the company I work for reorganized and now things are very different.  I don’t work for or with any of the same people anymore.  The team I am on is full of good people who are nice enough and they are good at what they do.  So, it’s not that the these people are the cause of the problems.

            But, it is different.  We don’t have the same history.  I have to prove myself all over to them.  And that hasn’t gone well.  Three times in the last three months things have gone wrong.  Not stop the presses, you’re fired wrong.  But bad enough for an “Uh oh” kind of moment.  It wasn’t my fault either.  Probably 30% of any of it was in my control, and the part I could control I did reasonably well.  But it fell in my lap anyway.

            Now I don’t really feel wanted where I am, which sucks.  And I have tremendous doubts about my abilities, which sucks even more.  I think, “Maybe they’re right.  Maybe it is me and I am not capable.”

            Look, I know I am not a superstar at any of this.  I’m just an average guy making his way in the world.  But, I must be good at something, right?  I must be above average somewhere in my life.  Don’t the law of averages say that must be true?  (I’m not good enough at math to know for sure).

            It’s really difficult to start something new when you don’t feel competent at anything.  How do I start a new job, especially in the field where I have experience when I’ve demonstrated to those around me that I am not very good at it?  How do I start something new when I don’t feel capable of impressing anyone?

            There is a need to pull up by the bootstraps.  I have a mortgage and a family to take care of, so I can’t wallow in too much self pity.  And I think I’ll find something at some point that I enjoy again.  I just need to get the confidence to try.  Or come to a place where it is too scary not to.

            In the mean time I’ll suffer through this painful time and look forward to a time when the anxiety is gone and I can tell myself that I may not be the smartest or the best, but I am contributing.

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Prayer about my Job

June 6, 2008

When I wait for God to tell me what to choose or what door to knock on there’s a film playing in my head that overwhelms any voice I might hear.  The film is every possibility, anticipating the worst and hoping for what I think is the best but may not be to the omniscient one.  Sometimes the music swells and panic fills me as I think I’ve missed what He had to say and He’s moved on to something far more important.  Other times I play a game, acting as director of the film, moving the players around the set in an unspoken agreement that if I make end in a certain way then He will make it come true.  Or even worse is the thought that if I turn off the movie and just sit in the empty theater of my mind, my knees bouncing up and down, my fingers tapping on the seat in front of me that He will then join me and bring resolution, manipulation of the one who doesn’t just hold the answers and the future in His hands, but who cares enough about me not to respond so I can see what is truly important.  And, I can’t wait more than a minute anyway before I restart the film, a much darker one than before.

 

I don’t want to see the important or the process.  I don’t want to grow or develop in pain and anxiety.  I don’t want to trust but to have trusted and be beyond this stage and moving into the next.  I just want the final answer.

 

Where are you Lord and the answers that you promised?  I ask the question and before it is even a recognizable thought in my mind He is reminding me of the answers He has given me so many times before, such as Psalm 37 when He told me to trust, delight, commit and wait, but I don’t want to wait.  I want to know.  I want you to shine the light just a little ways ahead.  I want to know that you are handling this problem and that I don’t’ need to worry.  I want to know what you are going to do and what I should be doing.  Please Lord bring me to a place of peace and hope and resolution and do it today  I know that is not the faith you want, but I am stretched far beyond what I can do anymore.

 

I want, I want, I want, cried the child begging for the dream of the last five minutes that he won’t remember five minutes from now.

Knocked Up

May 23, 2008

I just got to the movie Knocked Up.  It was a great picture of the just a guy moving into real life with a woman way over his head.  And, in the mind of every average guy most women are way over his head.  Here was the ultimate just a guy scene that every average guy has thought or felt:

Pete: “Do you ever wonder how someone could even like you?”
Ben: “All the time, man. Like every day. I wonder how you like me.”
Pete: “How can Debbie like me? She likes me. I mean, she loves me. The biggest problem in our marriage is that she wants me around. She loves me so much that she wants me around all the time. That’s our biggest problem. And I can’t even accept that? Like, that upsets me?”

That’s written by someone who has been there.

Confidence

May 20, 2008

One of the most significant personal attributes of the high achiever is confidence.  One of the most significant personal attributes of the average guy is doubt.

I’m confident that high achievers feel doubt.  But, I also know that they follow their instincts and thoroughly think through their decisions, and once a decision has been made the doubt disappears.  And, usually they are right to do so as their instincts and their abilities to make decisions are so often right.

Confidence oozes from the high achiever.  Sometimes it crosses the line into arrogance, but more often it is just perceived as arrogance by the average person because they don’t get how someone can be so sure of themselves.

For the average person though instincts often lead us astray and too many times my decisions have been flat out wrong.  That makes the doubt creep in quicker and linger longer each time I’m faced with a new situation.  High achievers have very little time or patience to deal with someone stuck in a mud hole of doubt, which further erodes the confidence of the average.

Over the last couple months I’ve had some significant set backs in my work.  They didn’t knock out my confidence, but my confidence did need a standing eight count.  Since then I’ve been pretty frozen in my performance; no real failures, but not much success and not much progress.

What I’d love is for someone to come along side and walk me through this.  The recommendation of so many of those books written by high achievers is to find a mentor.  But, the average person, if they can find someone to mentor them at all, usually finds an average mentor.  That can be beneficial if the mentor has some solid experience, but often it becomes a complaining session or fellowship about the trivial.

So, how do you generate confidence when things have gone badly?  Here are some thoughts:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others.  I’ll probably never be the highest achiever in my workplace.  Does that mean I’m not successful at all?  No.  This isn’t a car race where second place is the loser.  Learn to compete against yourself so that you are always improving.

2.  Set confidence goals.  Keep them small and very achievable at first and make sure you pursue them seriously.  For some it may be the goal to talk to one new person a day for a week.  For another it may to to talk to his or her boss or spouse about a problem you’ve been having.  Or, it might be to conquer a project that has been nagging at you and causing stress.  As your confidence builds set bigger goals.

3.  Look to past successes.  Remind yourself that you’ve been successful in the past, no matter how small the success.  Find it and focus on it to let yourself know that the fear and doubt you have now are temporary.

4. Recognize and admit to your insecurity.  Voice it to yourself.  “I am worried that if I don’t impress my boss on this project I will be fired.” Or, “I am afraid to talk to that person because they will think I am boring.”

5. Take time to prepare.  Whenever I speak in public I am most confident when I have thoroughly prepared.  If I try to wing it, forget it.  I’m a wreck.  So for that sales call, make sure you know about the person and company you are calling and make sure you thoroughly know your product.  For small talk in a room full of strangers make sure you have a list of questions in your mind that you can ask others about themselves.

6. Ask for honest feedback.  If your lack of confidence comes from a lack of ability make sure you know it.  Ask your supervisor or someone you trust for truthful feedback about your abilities and personality.  It may help if you ask them to write it down so they don’t have to say negative things to your face.  And, approach the feedback as a positive and not a negative.  You might say, “I’m trying to get better in this area.  Can you tell me some things you think I could work on?”  Instead of “I know how bad I am at this.  What should I do?”

7. Admit your mistakes and correct them if you can, but don’t dwell on them.  Nothing is more boring than someone who is constantly berating themselves for mistake or poor performance.

8. Exhibit true humility.  Often those of us who are insecure will expect great praises when things go well, and if we don’t get them we’ll be resentful.  Instead, accept praise graciously, but seek to perform well for your own sake and not to impress others.  And, no false humility either.  A simple thank you is enough.

 

Ghosts of the Past

May 13, 2008

My father grew up in the rural Southwest US with what were called ‘regular folk’.  When he was a baby they lived in the mountains and got to town twice a year.  As he got older he lived in a small town where everyone knew each other.  He was the first person in his family to ever go to college, and most of the others were ranchers or blue collar workers.

He was also born in the 1930’s, and combining the two he grew up in an environment where medical care was not a regular thing.  I remember hearing one of my great-uncles saying, “Hospitals are where you go to die.”  I also remember a cousin who must have been middle aged with barely a tooth in her head.

As such my dad wasn’t one for visiting the doctor unless it was an extreme situation.  He has been widowed twice, so he’ll tell you that he doesn’t like doctors because of all the bad associations in his mind.  I’m sure that’s a factor but I think it’s more of an issue of habit and pride.  It puts him in a situation where he is not in control or the smartest one in the room, and he doesn’t like that.

As I was growing up I inherited his attitude.  The doctor was where you went when you couldn’t stand it any more.  And, being who I am, an average guy, I was much older than I should have been before I started questioning the wisdom of the authorities around me.

One of the results is that I’ve had five knee surgeries after a high school football injury.  I tore my ACL and told everyone that I was fine.  No one made me care for it, so it wasn’t.  I wonder what the condition of my knee would be now if someone had stepped in.

The other result was that I never learned good dental care growing up.  I do a good job now, but to a certain extent it is too late.  I just learned today that I am going to have to have two teeth extracted.

I pretty pissed about it.  I get really resentful of my father for this.  Is one of the things that makes me an average person the history that he imposed on me as a child; a history that I had no control over.  He was always very focused on himself and spent little or no time doing any self-examination.  I wonder if he has ever considered what legacy he was giving to others.

It’s not the specific fact that I am losing a couple of teeth.  That can happen to someone of excellence.  It’s the reason why.  It’s simply because I didn’t care for myself the way I should have and that no one cared enough to make me when I was young.

At the same time, I’m in my 40’s now.  How long can I blame him.  It’s not his fault that it took me until I was in my 20’s until I started questioning things that he told me or implied were truth.  Being an average person, it took me too long to think for my self.  That’s not his fault.

He could have mentored me, which he didn’t.  I could have took charge of my own life earlier than I did, but I didn’t.  I’ll have to live with both.

Honor Your Parents

May 12, 2008

My dad loves multi-level marketing.  He’s never made much money and despite all the talk of “residual income” I’ve never seen him make any.  In fact I don’t know a single person living on it.

He knows the difference between multi-level and a pyramid scheme.  And, he’s smart enough to never get taken in a scam.  Still, he’s never seen a multi-level company he doesn’t like and over the last 25 years he’s probably been involved in 50 different “opportunities”.

In my early twenties I got involved in a couple of them.  Despite some significant efforts I never made much money either.  Now, I am pretty confident in telling the multi-level marketer, “That’s sounds like a great opportunity, but I’m just not interested in doing what it would take to be successful at it.  Thanks anyway.”

It’s harder when it is your dad.  He thinks I crazy for not seeing the obvious and I have to tell him that despite how obvious it is I’m not doing it without implying he’s an idiot and hurting his feelings.

He’s found another one and I have to go over to his house today to hear about it.  Sigh…

Change Your Paradigm Change Your Life?

May 12, 2008

Is the difference between a mediocre, negative, or pessimistic attitude and lifestyle and a life of excellence or a positive and optimistic attitude that makes a difference in the world as simple as a change in perspective?

A change of perspective is not enough to change a life; it takes action and natural gifts to do that.  Someone who is average is not going to perform with excellence simply through positive thinking, and I am never going to hit a major league home run because I want to bad enough.

However, a change in life will not even begin without a change in perspective.

Here’s a short but well done video that creatively shows the difference a new paradigm can make.

 

Mediocre or Great?

May 8, 2008

Pastor Steve Furtick shared this in his blog:

Great leaders always seem to be on the lookout.  What mediocre people consider everyday experiences, they approach as a sort of safari:
Can they spot a new idea to implement while waiting in line at Starbucks?  A good title for that sermon in a series that’s coming up in 3 months while browsing in Borders?  They’ll have a sub-par experience with a waitress at Chili’s, and rather than letting it ruin their day, they take notes and come back and revamp 4 things to improve their own business or ministry based on that bad encounter.

This implies that the difference between mediocre and great is partly an attitude and a mindset.  If that’s true then it is something that can be changed, and if it can be changed then it says that great leaders are made not born.

What do you think?  Is that true? 

I’m just an average guy

May 8, 2008

 

As a part of my job I frequently present information about individual children to others.  One of the pieces of information is to describe what kind of student the child is.  Most of the form says the student is average.  As people are scanning the information about the kids I will regularly get the question, “Why are most of the kids listed as average?”

Logic tells us that most of us are average.  If you chart a bell curve of almost anything to do with your life the vast majority of the time we’ll fall in that big hump that groups us with almost everyone else.

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as average.  Unless something requires special education or ability most of us highly overrate ourselves.  If you ask me what kind of basketball player I am or what I know about neurosurgery I’m going to rate myself as below average.  Ask me what kind of driver I am though and I’ll tell you I am well above average.  So, will the vast majority of people.  Yet, in all these categories I am probably right in the middle of the bell.

Yet, when I go to a bookstore and look at business how-to or self-improvement books the authors are encouraging me to be special.  I can become a great leader, great in relationships, a great salesman, and a great investor.  And I read all those books because I want to be all those things.  I want to understand the philosophy of human thinking, business trends, and my place in the world.  I want to live a special life.  I want to be special.

But if I am going to be honest with myself, and lately I’ve been in a place where I was forced to look deeply and candidly at who I am, I must realize I’m not a great thinker, I’m not a great leader, I’m not especially charismatic.  I’m probably not going to build anything spectacular.  I’m probably not going to leave a huge legacy of thought or relationships, or create an organization that changes things for people.

I’m not really bad at any of these things.  In fact I think I’m pretty smart.  But, I realize I am only smart enough to realize how brilliant some others are.  I am somewhat creative, and can tell when something is particularly good or bad.  But I can’t necessarily tell you why or what it is missing.  I have good ideas, and sometimes great ideas.  But, that doesn’t mean I can implement them greatly.

Yes, I know I am doing a lot of comparison.  I am not as smart and creative as Bill Gates.  Does that mean I’m not smart and creative at all?  No.  But, what it does mean, since I don’t even come close is that I am probably average.

As an average person can I still lead a special life?  Does being average mean that I am condemned to mediocrity?  I think the answer is yes and the answer is no.  That’s what I’m going to be exploring here.  I hope others who are also average are interested in joining me.