Archive for the ‘work’ Tag

No Context

Sometimes you just have to vent, even when you’re still committed to positivity. Sometimes it’s just too hard, takes too much energy and effort to excavate the silver lining from the cruddy day. Sometimes the thing that relieves the pressure, lets off the steam, and brings even a small measure of pain relief is a good ol’ fashioned gripe…or cry.

But even then, sometimes indulging that impulse to let it all out can be alarming, even hurtful, to those around you. That’s especially true when you spend so much time being deliberately, intentionally, carefully positive, avoiding this very type of stormy, emotional release of frustration. When you are known for calm, measured, controlled, authoritative responses, blowing off steam can be doubly jarring to witnesses unaccustomed to seeing you in an unguarded state.

Sometimes that extra burden, on top of the drive to remain positive, is too much to bear. A thing I do when this happens is to vent without revealing context or rationale for the thoughts or feelings expressed. That way I can get it out of my head and heart with the best chance of sparing others’ feelings and without having to do a lot of educating others to put it all into an easy frame of reference.

This week has had its highs and lows, but I’m feeling more of the lows than highs and have a need to shake off the darkness. Even wearing my Jedi socks and a daring bow tie/shirt combination didn’t take the edge off today. So here’s my vent, without context and in no particular order. (Don’t take it personally – this post is really just about me.)

  • Gender policing, particularly around use of public bathrooms, is exhausting B.S. Yes, I know how to read. Yes, I know it’s the “ladies room”. No, I’m not in the wrong place. No, it doesn’t hurt you for me to pee in my own stall in the same bathroom as you and your precious little girl. And no, I’m not a predator for needing to pee in peace. Get over yourself!
  • My level of tolerance for just about everything decreases in proportion to your level of ignorance and entitlement. Don’t expect me to indulge your stupidity at the expense of my personal integrity or mental and emotional security.
  • Pain sucks. It drains all my energy and makes me an emotional wreck and intellectually deficient. I’m so over it!
  • Feeling pathetic and without value, especially when I can’t identify what’s causing that irrational emotion to surge and persist, is debilitatingly irritating. Sometimes I wish I had an emotion chip like Commander Data that I could turn off and never turn back on.
  • Despite the evidence of a rough week, I am not broken and I don’t need to be pitied. Just because I am injured and moving more slowly and gingerly doesn’t give you license to touch my body without my consent. Stop with all the hands on my already aching back and limbs. Thanks, but I can walk and stand without you yanking on me! And, yes, if that sounds gruff and ungracious, then I’ll own that. But you need to own the irrationality and privilege of being offended at someone defending their agency and body sovereignty.

Okay, that’s enough venting for a good long while. Thanks for the indulgence, friends. I hope you’re having a pain- and frustration-free week and look forward to a weekend of positivity and relaxation.

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Professional Positive

I try very hard to get my work done during the week so I’ll be free to spend my weekends as I choose. Even if I do nothing but veg out in my pajamas, it’s my time, not my company’s time. That separation is important to me. I have a slight tendency toward being a workaholic and and keeping a clear wall between personal and work time helps me curb that urge to overdo.

Yet there are times, like today, when deadlines can’t be moved and work needs to get done. So I do it. Even on a Sunday. I don’t have to like it, but I do have to get it done.

Fortunately for me, this time, I didn’t have to do it alone. My boss was right there beside me, helping share the burden. That’s a plus and a positive all on it’s own. But what’s really a boost is that he did and said everything necessary to demonstrate that he not only appreciated my efforts, but also respects my opinions and professional insight.

What we had to do today involved outside counsel as well as internal company personnel, preparing submissions to the court in a litigation matter that has taken far too much time and energy already. Everyone is fatigued with the constant stress this thing is inducing and weary of having to answer what seems like an endless, repetitive stream of irrelevant questions from the opposing party. But we have a duty and we’re doing it.

So, when the latest issue was presented while I was out of the office on Friday, my boss had everyone hold off from responding, saying to outside counsel and all of our internal folks that “we need [Sudden Awareness]’s brain on this to get it right”. Then, during the meeting today, he made a point to draw me out on each of the topics of discussion, encouraging me to voice what were obviously contradictory opinions at some points, and calling on outside counsel to address every concern I raised.

In short, my views on substance, strategy, offense and defense were all included in the decision-making process for a critical procedural step in a multi-million dollar litigation matter that has the potential for impacting my company’s plans for years to come. While this is far from the first time I’ve had this experience, the obvious respect for my skill and insight from my boss in front of some really smart, talented and expensive legal practitioners means a lot to me on a personal level.

Few outside of the legal community fully appreciate how big a gulf there is between in-house counsel and law firm attorneys, particularly litigators. In-house attorneys are routinely discounted as lesser professionals, practically as not attorneys at all. Respect automatically advanced from one litigator or firm attorney to another is often missing when it comes to in-house counsel. Working inside a corporation, having only one client and enjoying the benefits of corporate culture that include regular business hours, holidays and reduced pressure to “make it rain”, often is assumed by those in the outside to mean that the work is easy, stress-free and much lower on the scale of what is intellectually and professionally challenging. In other words, the thought goes, in-house lawyers don’t have to be real lawyers, they’re just business people who happen to have law degrees.

So outside counsel often appear to feel superior to in-house attorneys in terms of professional ability and legitimacy, which sometimes manifests in dismissive condescension. Although I am never afraid to challenge this attitude among firms and attorneys that do work for me – after all, I’m the client – I admit that this pervasive belief wears on my psyche on occasion. That’s why it feels good to have an overt, public display of confidence and professional respect from the big boss once in a while.

That’s a long-winded explanation of a simple truth: I’m a really good commercial attorney and my boss respects my professional skill. That’s one very good thing.

Success Costs

….ooOoo…

I want to preface this post by saying that I haven’t given up on positivity, nor my challenge to find something positive to say for every negative thought. This isn’t a pity post and it isn’t even a vent or rage post. It’s just a stream of thought that I feel is important to get out onto (e-)paper. I actually view the realization as a positive – by coming to understand this about myself I have the opportunity to do something about it. It’s an important step to resolving the internal conflict. So, please, don’t view this post as anything other than my musings, my effort to puzzle out the lesson to be learned. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled focus on positivity in our next episode. 😃

….ooOoo…

There is a cost to success.

I suppose I’m including every dimension of success in this concept, professional, personal, monetary, metaphysical, and any other type that might occur. It very likely applies to any and all of them. But when this thought occurred to me, it was really just the generic concept of success, the condition of having succeeded at a given goal, that weighed on my mind.

It strikes me that success at a singular purpose has a high cost: every other possibility is lost in winning the one outcome sought. Not just the negative, even catastrophic outcomes, but all the other equally or exceedingly good outcomes are lost as well.

The cost of achieving success is the loss of the journey, of the purpose for the struggle.

When the goal is sufficiently defined and the desired outcome’s reward sufficiently generous, maybe that’s a reasonable cost. Maybe the unknown or uncertain greater possibility isn’t too difficult to forego. Especially when that possible greater reward isn’t alive to your conscious mind, or isn’t revealed as a reality, not knowing something more is available isn’t a sacrifice and the cost never comes home to you.

But it is particularly bitter when the greater reward is revealed only after you’ve paid out in time and effort and heartache a cost that prohibits further expenditures, foreclosing your opportunity for that now tantalizing and unobtainable gift. More pitiful still is when you realize that your effort was put toward the wrong goal or an unintentional goal.

I suppose that last bit, discovering your success at a goal you didn’t know you were pursuing, is really just unintended consequences and the bitterness that goes with understanding that you must live with them regardless of your intentions. Yet, when that unlooked-for bar is crossed simultaneously with the realization of a long-sought prize that disappoints, the gall is that much more stinging.

I’m coming to terms with this caustic combination in my own life right now. It turns out that when you pour all your heart and soul and energy into your career, along the way building mental and emotional bulwarks against distractions and the risk of painful vulnerability, the cost of success is arriving at the peak of the mountain alone.

Isolation looks very much like desolation when the joyful shouts of achievement echo hollowly from the walls of an empty canyon formed by the battlements built to hold out the stinging arrows of others’ disappointed expectations.

Seems that while I’ve been hard at work, focusing all my effort on building my career, gathering professional respect, accumulating achievements, that I’ve built myself into a box (a cell, really) without realizing it. All those rules I’ve set for myself – keep a separation between work life and personal life, don’t fraternize, stay aloof and don’t get personal, don’t share your feelings, stay at arms length, etc. – have hemmed me in and cut me off from everything but my job and the work-defined trappings of achievement. Anything outside of that narrow view of the world seems to have slipped beyond my reach.

Today I came to the shocking realization that I don’t know how to be a person. I am amazingly good at being a corporate transactional attorney and quite a good boss. I’m quite good at being a provider, too, paying the bills and keeping a roof overhead. I think I’m also a passable sister, aunt and colleague/acquaintance. But being a person without a label, existing as an actualized individual undefined by occupation or relationship to another label, seems to have evaded my skill.

I don’t seem to know how to be, or even what to be, if not “the boss”, or “X’s” sister or “Y’s” aunt, or “Z’s” acquaintance. Every time I try to describe myself without starting with what I do, or what I possess, or who I know, my head fills with fuzzy, static buzzing, like the sound of a billion crickets and cicadas all singing at the same time. There’s just nothing to describe if not placed in context of those attributes. Unless I’m the SVP of Global Legal Operations for the XYZ COMPANY, or the Aunt of ABC ACCOMPLISHED NEPHEW/NIECE, or Sister of LMNOP DISTINGUISHED BROTHER, I’m not anyone or anything.

I’m just filler human, an extra in the scene of someone else’s dramatic production.

That sounds so pitiful. I don’t mean it to be. I’m not fishing for compliments or internet hugs and endearments. It’s just a realization that I’ve come to, a sad recognition that an entire dimension of my existence has been neglected to the point of atrophy.

Two things brought this into sharp focus for me today. First, the second of two work friends in as many days came to say goodbye to me before they left my company. Each of them emphasized that a huge part of their decision to leave was that their job didn’t fit well into their lives, didn’t fit who they were. In other words, they have lives beyond their job descriptions.

The second catalyst of this epiphany was the result of an impromptu afternoon outing. I left work early today. It’s a beautiful summer day, not too hot and with a pleasant breeze and sunny blue skies. I’m just back from a tiring, challenging business trip and I felt the need for a break after spending the day catching up on emails and pending tasks. It started out well, with an uncharacteristic sense of adventure. I was going to go to a bookstore/coffee shop with the intent to be sociable and maybe meet someone new. People watching, chatting idly with friendly strangers, had an unexpected appeal this afternoon. But as each place I thought of came into view, some obstacle was in my way. Construction blocked off every visible entrance to the first shop I wanted to try. An accident and school getting out snarled traffic so badly approaching my next target that I was detoured miles away from where I wanted to go. I finally found another bookstore and went in, but it was so out-of-the-way that it was empty of all but me and an ancient gentleman with his 8 year-old great granddaughter and no books of interest enough to hold me there. Faced with the fact that I didn’t have anyone to call or visit and didn’t know where to find anyone to socialize with, I just went home. Sitting here alone with a shameful feeling of social failure sitting heavy in my chest, I decided to write it out, get it clear in my head.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve drawn: My colleagues going on to new jobs are more than their professions, undefined by their occupations; whereas I am only what I do. That old guy and his grandkid chatting animatedly over various storybooks had a community of interest; I couldn’t find anything in that store or in my imagination to stir interest enough to build community and no one with whom to build it.

I’ve achieved my intended target: professional respect and a position of leadership in a good company in an honest, respectable industry. I’ve also achieved success at the unconscious, secondary goal of eliminating obstacles to achievement of the primary objective: a distraction-free, relationship-free, empty-labeled life.

It’s a lonely place to exist. I don’t know how to change it, or even if it can be changed.

Focus is Hard

I’m at a conference of my company’s senior leadership team. The objective for this week’s work is to clarify plans for closing out this year’s business and strategies for setting next year’s goals. I thought I’d share something I gleaned out of today’s sessions.

In his opening address kicking us off, our COO emphasized that achieving our goals requires fierce focus. He challenged us to define a single tactic or initiative to focus on to move us forward toward the enterprise’ stated goal for this year. His call to action is intriguing, but the idea is not new or unique. It’s a common refrain in most management philosophies and motivational methodologies: concentrating effort on a single, well-defined objective eliminates distraction and simplifies execution.

But there are some gotchas in there. First, “well-defined” is it’s own challenge. Articulating an actionable scope of work is trickier than you’d think, especially when you’re limited to a single task among many competing priorities. The parameters of the objective are everything and selecting the details can make or break the outcome.

Second, is the reality that no company has a single goal, so choosing only one item to focus on puts other goals at risk. It takes insight and careful consideration to select the one with the greatest potential for yielding the largest return for the effort. The resultant pressure can easily result in analysis paralysis.

And the ‘X’ factor, as is so often the case, is that everyone involved has a personal agenda in addition to the corporate objective. It’s a huge temptation to choose relatively easy, low-hanging fruit that let you show immediate results, over more lofty goals that usually take more time and effort and yield results more slowly.

So, truly focusing is hard.

Frustratingly, there’s no answer, yet. We haven’t chosen that single thing, yet. We haven’t even chosen a method for whittling the list of options. But the open, lively debate and sharing of ideas is valuable in its own right. I’m looking forward to continuing the exercise tomorrow.

I hope you are finding ways to challenge yourself and experience wildly successful results.

Something Good

I don’t know which commercial, tv or radio, that has planted the ear worm in my head, but I’ve been hearing a bouncy, catchy clip of “tell me something good!” in my head for days. Every time I go to write an email or talk to someone, I have to catch myself before I sing it out loud and hopelessly embarrass myself. But it occurred to me that it’s a good mind-setting entreaty – it perfectly frames thoughts to focus on positivity.

So, let me tell you something good…well, three somethings:

  1. Today is my annual summer team building event for my local staff. We’re going to a local AAA baseball game. We get great seats in the shade behind home plate, snacks and a fun day out with no shop-talk. It’s always a hit and I am really glad to have the freedom and resources to give them this treat.
  2. I’m almost back to 100% with my dental issues. I’ve been able to eat real food for almost two weeks and I only have one more, relatively painless, procedure left to go. Can’t wait until the last vestiges of hot/cold sensitivity is gone and I don’t have to worry about which side if my mouth to use. 🙄
  3. I was pleasantly surprised to find truly laugh-out-loud comedy in a new book I read recently. Stumbled on two authors that I had never read before and took a chance. If you like romantic comedy (not a lot of heavily explicit descriptions, just enough to tell the story) lesfic, do yourself a favor and read something by Robin Alexander and Clare Ashton. I’ve binged half a dozen of their books and have seriously guffawed more than once in every book. Some of them had me laughing so hard I nearly didn’t make it the bathroom in time! Especially enjoyed “Just Jorie” by Alexander and “The Goodman’s” by Ashton. Hilarious, truly.

Enjoy something good today and be sure to tell somebody about it.

Humility or Insecurity?

A thought occurred to me today as I was thinking about my job, my role as a leader, and my professional aspirations. It seems to me that there is sometimes very little difference, to the observer, between humility and insecurity and I wonder if demonstrating either trait is ever truly beneficial to career advancement?

Probably not a question I’m ever likely to definitively resolve for myself or anyone else. But it’s something I ponder. Not out of fear, really, but genuine curiosity. Because I’ve resigned myself to the knowledge that I’m always going to have a certain level of doubt or insecurity about myself. The instinct to question if I’m good enough, doing the best I’m capable of, smart enough, etc. is deeply ingrained in my psyche. Those questions have served to propel me into greater effort, igniting my senses of competition and duty, spurring me strive in academic, personal and professional endeavors. They also can be detractors, internal critics that erode confidence and self worth, inhibiting courage.

Like so many things in life, taken to either extreme, this instinct to question myself can be harmful, a weapon against self growth. But, given its proper place, monitored and employed carefully, it can be beneficial, a useful tool for self improvement and advancement.

That’s how I distinguish between humility and insecurity for myself: humility is constructive, insecurity is destructive.

I’ve tried very hard to build my professional skill and expertise, to achieve professional success and earn the respect and confidence of my colleagues and clients. I’m proud to say that I’ve done that and enjoy the results of that achievement and respect in the form of a trusted leadership role in my organization. Although I have consciously worked to inhibit arrogance along the way, it is not always easy to detect when confidence and pride in accomplishments slips into conceit. I hope that my recounting in this blog of my thoughts and the accolades I’ve received don’t spill into that category. But I do know that, despite having achieved much in my career, I still get a giddy kick out of unexpected compliments on my skill and work product.

That happened twice today and it’s a pretty great feeling having my colleagues’ trust and confidence confirmed. The instance I’ll share arises from something small and ordinary, but it illustrates my point, I think.

My boss is out of town on a well-deserved vacation, and one of the senior leaders who usually relies on my boss to provide review and approval of certain public releases was frantic at not being able to reach him. The issue is not one I normally address and providing a response would take me out of my comfort zone a bit. But there was no call for me to interrupt my boss’s vacation for this – I’d just have to carefully examine the task, review applicable statutes and case law, and apply good judgment. After all, that’s the core of an attorney’s job, right? Nevertheless, I felt compelled (out of both humility and insecurity) to warn him that this isn’t my area of expertise and practice, and give him the chance to ask outside counsel or consider waiting for my boss to return. He said waiting wasn’t an option and that he had confidence in my judgment. So, I took on the task, even though I was a little nervous.

When I was able to provide the necessary answers and approval in a short turnaround time, with a high degree of confidence in the accuracy and appropriateness of my conclusion, I thought the guy might actually cry in relief. When he thanked me for my help he said it was a great relief to know that my boss had such a reliable “right hand” to keep the business going while he’s away.

That was a big ego boost and a compliment I’ll keep in my pocket for those days when the doubts turn toxic and loud.

Have a great rest of your week and I hope you find reason to celebrate your own victory over insecurity.

Mundane Things Still Count

It has oft been said, including by me on this blog, that “it’s the little things in life” that make all the difference. I believe this aphorism is true, and I also think that there are variations in what counts as meaningful ‘little things ‘ for each of us. But even if you and I disagree that any given detail does or doesn’t fall into the bucket of what matters to quality of life, I think we can agree that some things are so run-of-the-mill that the presence or absence on any given day won’t make or break anyone’s positivity permanently.

I think that’s ok. Some stuff is just the background filler of life. It’s there, it’s necessary in a way, but it is unlikely to ever become critical or noteworthy unless something extreme happens.

Yet there is value in the ordinary things. Sometimes it’s a relief to have a so-so day, a merely adequate experience because you’ve had to deal with intensity of one kind or another for a prolonged time. Or, after a particularly bad experience with something, especially a food experience, it can be soothing to have something relatively bland or plain. You know what I mean?

That’s what I focused on today: the unexpected happiness I’ve derived from some mild, ordinary, mundane details.

First, I was dreading the first half of my day today because my schedule had me in back-to-back conference calls from 6-10:30am. And all of them were on topics that were either extremely tedious or unpleasant. But it didn’t go as badly as expected. The 6am call got canceled at the last minute, so I had time to drive into the office for the 7-9am call, instead of having to take it from the car. Then the next call went more smoothly than it ever has before and provided meaningful information and actions, rather than mindless droning. The last call, while frustrating, actually ended in a positive with people other than me having take-away actions. All told, it was more ‘meh’ than ‘aaaarrrrrrgggggghhh’ and I didn’t strangle anyone, so I’m putting it in the win column.

Next, my boss gave me a compliment today that probably won’t mean much to anyone but me, and probably wasn’t intended to have the depth of meaning that it immediately assumed in my mind. But the meaning is there for me, anyway. All he said was: “you’re the king on this; you make the call and I’ll support whatever ever decision you make”. It’s an everyday management issue and nothing someone of my rank and position doesn’t do routinely. Indeed, I’ve made similar calls at least a dozen times since taking on executive-level responsibility. That’s not what put the spring in my step. What he said, and what I choose to regard as both recognition and validation of my identity, is “king”. He could so easily have said “queen” or something equally feminine. He didn’t and it was deliberate. I’m a woman, yes, but I’m Butch and proud and much more “king” than anything. He chose to see me and that matters.

Lastly, I had my 2-week post-op check after my last oral surgery. Since this one was so much more painful, and because I’ve been very gingerly with my mouth since then, I fully expected to get a poor evaluation and a bit of a lecture. Instead, my surgeon complimented me on the very good care I’ve taken of all the work she did, praised me for being smart about self-care, and was all-around pleased with my progress. The “good job!” pat on the head was more of an ego boost than I even knew I needed. Plus, she released me to chew again and drink from a straw again! I don’t have the vocabulary to describe precisely how big a deal that last bit is after a month’s worth of slurping and gumming and chipmunk-chewing with my front teeth.

Freedom to chew and drink from a straw on the same day as being called “the king” and avoiding murdalizing any sales guys!?! That’s a good day, people! *jazz hands*

Random and also late

So why not compound a weekly goal miss with another plus a list-y cop-out post? I’m going to get this posting goal back on track if it kills me. But for now, here are some random things from my week that I thought you should know:

  1. it is 173 steps from my desk to the bathroom at my work. That’s a long way when you’re having to do the pee-pee dance!
  2. Watching Ewoks drop rocks on Storm Troopers’ heads from hang gliders never gets old.
  3. Converging court filing deadlines in three litigation matters in a single week totally blows. But getting to be the hero by re-writing outside counsel’s interrogatory response at the last minute in one case while also managing a settlement offer in another is totally awesome. Especially so when your boss publicly thanks you for making his job easy.
  4. Getting a head and neck massage with a haircut makes me happy.
  5. Chewing anything with only your front four teeth is really weird and makes having dinner an extremely long and tedious experience. But on the plus side, chewing anything at all after a month’s worth of mushy glop feels great despite the weird chipmunk-chewing.

Have a great week, my friends!

Dang it!

Well, crap! Missed my posting goal by one day. Ugh.

I’ve had a busy 8 days since my last post. Work and house-cleaning ahead of a post-holiday visit from family took up a chunk of energy. Then a great few days spent with my family, resting and visiting and swimming and dining and watching movies. It was a blast.

Then, on Monday afternoon, I had my second oral surgery. OMG that was painful! Way worse than the first. And sooooo much drool! Yuck!

I spent Tuesday resting and taking medicine. Went back to work on Wednesday, only to find that I’m not invincible. Even though all I do is read and think and type and talk to people, it was more than I could manage. I went home and slept for 5 straight hours.

Now, I’ve worked two full days and am still farther behind in my work than if I’d been out of the office for two weeks. I haven’t been this far behind in years. I hate it! So I’ll be spending time on my laptop this weekend trying to catch up.

Well, maybe after a good night’s rest and a little quiet work tomorrow, I’ll feel caught up enough to enjoy Sunday off. And maybe the recovery will advance enough that I won’t forget to post on time next week. 🙄

I hope you have a restful weekend, friends.

Beginning Again

Well, I made it through the second quarter and didn’t strangle any sales guys, so that counts as a big positive. Also, I have started July off on a good foot by doing chores with a good attitude and without grumbling (though no one but me would have heard). Finally, I’m up and going at normal time for a work day, even though my boss bid me to take today and tomorrow ahead of the holiday break easy and work from home, doing only essential tasks because I deserve a break. I will do so, but sticking to routine helps me avoid temptation to turn “work from home” into an unrecorded day off.

All of this and the train of thought that leads me to record it all form another start on my goals of positivity and personal growth. I’ve learned that progress in such things, for me, is actually a series of efforts rather than one long pull to the goal line. I’m not sure why that is. But I’m not unhappy about it. Growth still happens and it’s mostly conscious and intentional. That I seem to need to start out toward the same goal a lot doesn’t diminish the progress I make each time. And because I do start again, rather than give it up, is a meta-win. Not quitting is as important to me as starting in the first place.

So, I’m beginning again. Focusing on the good things, consciously avoiding negativity, and trying to bring substance into my writing. This quarter, when I take stock at the end, I want to have the ability to judge myself as having accomplished all of my primary goals and improved performance on the stretch goals I set for myself last week. But more importantly, I want to be able to say that I’ve stayed the course from this new beginning and head into the next beginning with momentum.

Have a great week, my friends, and may you have many successes on your own new beginnings.

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