The Shadow Side of "Assets" (Details)
If someone told you that your greatest asset could also be your greatest blind spot or obstacle, what would you think? Logically, I “knew” this could be true. In reality, I never attempted to see what this would mean for little old me, how it might show up in my life…until recently…
I have an exercise I do with my clients and potential clients, where we work together to uncover their true, best being; who they are when their best self is shining through and they are not coming from a place of nervousness, fear, anxiety, insecurity, etc. Recently, I’ve been diving deeper into my own core being, initially interested in flexing it a bit more. I thought if I understood more about these qualities and how they show up for me, I would be able to embody them “better” or more often. The introspection has actually led me to see how my “assets” have and have not served me over the years.
The first one I’ve been looking into is “joy”. I noticed in high school that I had two personality traits that not everyone did: 1)the life-long learning desire, always curious and interested to know more, 2)the ability to experience enjoyment in almost any situation, regardless of the severity and not in a dismissive or disrespectful way. Honestly, when I realized this, I thought I had hit the quality jackpot. I found most of school and a lot of other experiences interesting, because of this love of learning. Additionally, not only could I enable myself to experience a more enjoyment, but I was able to lighten other people’s loads. It seemed like life would be full of fun & enjoyment, regardless of what I chose! How great, right?
I definitely believe I have had a great ride and that these helped. In school, it meant that me and my best friend could sit in one of our rooms, not necessarily saving the world or doing anything in particular, and still have a great time. It meant that I was easily able to get a job in high school, because I found most options enjoyable- working with my colleagues and learning how to work! It has meant that if a friend or significant other wants to do something, they know I’m typically game, because I’m not worried if I’ll enjoy it or not, I know I will. I’ve grown and developed myself faster than others, because I loved reading about best presentation practices or how to be a good leader or VBA programming or SQL. Overall, I said “yes” much more than I said “no” and I think that created a ton of fun.
Recently though, as mentioned, I’ve been diving deeper into myself and investigating these traits in more detail. I started looking at them through the lens of “because of these qualities, what was I most reliable to create in my life, or experience? What is it not surprising that I created or experienced?”
The initial thing that comes to mind is in my personal life and it’s my so-called inability to choose what to have for dinner, what movie to watch or sometimes even what activity to do with newfound free time. It drives people bananas. Most people, especially those that don’t know me well, believe I won’t voice an opinion because I don’t want the other person to agree to something they don’t want to do, or the people on the receiving end won’t like my opinion. In reality, I know in myself, unless I’m allergic or have a real distaste for something, it does not matter what we eat, what movie we watch or how we spend our free time; I will walk away having enjoyed the experience. 100%, no doubt about it. I know that. I also know that not everyone is like that. I know who around me has strong opinions, standards or expectations for things that impact whether or not they end up viewing something as enjoyable. I know who is pickier about food quality or the experience, who doesn’t like or really won’t enjoy certain types of movies, etc. I recognize that the
decision made will impact how much enjoyment they get from the experience, and I know it won’t impact my enjoyment nearly as much, if at all. So, I default to not voicing an opinion from a place of love and heart. It comes from a place of wanting that person to get what they need so they can enjoy it. It’s not laziness or fear or lack of self-confidence. It comes from a place of love.
Of course, over the years, I have also learned that my indecisiveness is not always helpful or what the other person wants. It was caused lots of arguments with my brother over the years. I believe it probably is the reason some relationships ended over the years; it may have been seen as a sign that I didn’t trust that person with my opinion or didn’t care enough to fully show up and participate. I also believe I have lost out on time with people I love because I didn’t help make the decision about how to spend the time or whatever, in time to actually spend it together and so the time went spent alone.
Sometimes, all they want is for someone else to make the decision. Their desire could stem from not wanting the responsibility for the outcome or something else. Either way, at these times, even though I’m coming from a place of love, it’s not what the other person wants; they would actually prefer a decision or opinion versus guaranteed enjoyment for them. In these situations, I’m trying, and have gotten better at, voicing my opinion and helping to make the decision. It’s not perfect, but I spent almost 30 years being one way, so it’s a work in progress getting comfortable being a different way.
This, my friends, is my first example of how this quality, this ability to find enjoyment in the most miniscule or traumatic experiences, which has been such an asset in so many situations, can and has actually NOT served me well, when left unchecked and as a default behavior.
Ready for more? Probably not, but let’s dive again, anyway!
The career or professional life. If I look there, at what experience did I have or what did I create that is not surprising, given my love for learning and ability to find enjoyment in most experiences? Let’s start with near the beginning: picking a major. I knew people who LOVED teaching or kids, so they were totally going to be teachers or something else to do with education. I knew people who LOVED computers or programming and so they clearly went into software, website or something else cool and new.
When I was picking a major I knew I didn’t want to be either a:
In my mind that basically left a corporate career. What options were there? Marketing – Nope! Not nearly as creative as the people in these classes. Advertising – Nope! Don’t like selling. Human Resources – Probably not. Not interested in policies or procedures. Don’t like the idea of interviewing and recruiting, or training 24/7. Finance – Hmm. Well, I’m pretty good with numbers, I’m better at math than a lot of people I know. There’s problem solving? I like that. Ok, Finance it is! And I’ll throw some of this “Management” stuff in as a double-major for fun! And…I’ll get this minor in Public Relations because I have enjoyed my writing and it could be useful. Done!
Major picked, check! Next up, the actual career. In my sophomore year of college, I got a temp retail job. It paid better than other retail jobs and it was for the cooler, more impressive Verizon. About a year later, I got brought on as an actual Verizon employee in customer service. I worked in retail for 6 years (if you count my temp experience) before I jumped into finance and headquarters work. I’m an introvert. I love individuals, find them really exciting and intriguing; I love getting to know them. But I am NOT the person that goes from party to party to party to party all night long. Even though I love them, I find them, especially strangers, exhausting. If I go to a party, I need to go home and decompress for two hours with a book, the dogs or Jonathan. I don’t get energized by people or groups of people the way others do. And yet, I worked in a people-facing job for six years. Additionally, a fair amount of that time was spent in customer service, so a little like the complaint department. Why and how did I do it?
Those jackpot qualities: I was able to find enjoyment in most situations. When I looked around, early on while in retail, I was making more money, had better vacation time and benefits than a lot of the people around me. Have you worked with sales or marketing folks? They are typically really fun people. Who wants to buy from an unhappy salesperson? No one. And the people I worked with were marketing and sales rockstars, so they were really fun. I didn’t love my actual job, my responsibilities, but I found enjoyment in my colleagues, helping people and the benefits I received. Because of this, I never even thought to look at what else I could do, I just settled for mediocre enjoyment.
From retail I got into finance and found people who were much more like me. I found a ton more introverts and people who geeked off on solving problems. I still wasn’t sure I loved finance, but I liked most of my colleagues and bosses. I also moved myself or got moved around, every two or three years. This didn’t provide me with too much time on the down-side or flat part of learning curves. I basically got through a learning curve and then jumped or got pulled into a new experience. That constant learning kept the enjoyment fire going. Again, because I found enjoyment in what I was doing and who I was doing it with, I didn’t even think to pause to consider something else.
I had a wonderful ride. I got the benefit of great training programs and to live as an expat in Ireland. I got to receive mentorship from senior leaders and I got to help people connect with their loved ones. It wasn’t until my responsibility included doing something I realized I loved, that there was really a problem. It was through moving up the ladder and earning the privilege of direct reports. While developing and training them, I realized what had been missing.
I loved helping them find their way and then seeing how much further they went. I only had two to start, but then someone asked me to move to take on a much larger team and I agreed. I had 4 or 5 direct reports, some of whom had a layer below them and I ended up with some indirect reports due to organizational changes. I loved it! The more time I was able to spend one-on-one with each of these interesting and unique people, to help them deliver more than they thought was possible, the happier I was.
This is what led to my eventual struggle and departure from corporate life. I wanted to spend more time with these amazing individuals and my responsibility included much more than that; in fact, my key responsibilities were entirely outside of this passion. Once I realized what I loved to do I had a hard time not doing it. I got a life coach and did the work to get clear about what would make me really happy. But that is a separate story!
After all this introspection, I’m curious what, if anything, comes up for you? Do you have similar qualities and can see how you ended up somewhere that you don’t necessarily love, because you also settled for mediocre enjoyment? Do you have different qualities that have served you well, but now you can see how perhaps they also were a hindrance?
Perhaps you are a really patient person, which is AMAZING as a human being, but maybe it has enabled you to enjoy the present, wait things out or let them take longer to get to you, versus more actively going after what you wanted?
If any of this has come up for you, what does it mean for you going forward? I have to watch my indecisiveness and make sure to check in with myself to confirm if I really love something or simply find enjoyment in it. I still appreciate these abilities, it’s just more clear to me that, like most other things in life, they can’t go unchecked for too long. How will this knowledge and awareness impact your future path?