“Delegate your work. Properly allocate resources. Trust your team. Budget your time. Ask questions. Challenge objectives. Diversify creative perspective. Communicate bandwidth honestly. Escalate conflict appropriately. Be yourself. Support others.”
These are phrases we hear, and principals we abide by on a daily basis in our professional lives as twenty-somethings. Many of us are near the bottom or middle of the totem pole in our careers, and we are eyes-open, ears perked, brains overloaded at all times. We are trying to do everything right, be impressive, and get people’s attention. It’s exhausting. It’s exciting. It upsets us, it over joys us. We are sponges; and we are bright eyed and bushy tailed, trying to navigate this murky territory that is “adulthood.”
But take a second and re-read that first paragraph. Think about it for a second. Do those key and buzzwords feel like they might be applicable elsewhere in our lives? Do they sound or feel familiar? Hmmmm? Uh, yeah, they sure do. The principals we worship and practice day in and day out at work, might just be the most basic pillars of every relationship we have in our lives, particularly the one we have with ourselves. So, my question is, how is it that we so clearly understand that that is what is expected of us professionally? Why is it that in our personal lives we are much more willing to be selfish, bite off more than we can chew, skip deadlines, sleep through alarms, and not challenge our own objectives? Are we all just too exhausted or heartbroken to expect the best from ourselves when we clock out of our cubes and clock in to our own lives?
Our twenties are fucking miserable. But they’re also fucking awesome. Everything is harder than it needs to be because we have no idea what we’re doing. Everyone wants to be in love and have a dream job and have 10 million friends all over the globe. We want to be skinny and attractive and dressed to the nines. We want to live in the best neighborhoods and be involved with the trendiest scenes. We want to brag on the Internet about how cool and adventurous our lives are. But, if we really look around, almost none of us are actually doing that. Not genuinely, anyway. Because is all of that what we even want? Whose definitions are we prescribing to to determine what is cool and brag-worthy? What is “being in love“, anyway? Also, WTF is a “dream career”?
I don’t mean to sound like a skeptic. I also don’t want it to sound like I believe every single human between the age of 21 and 29 is a train wreck. Cheers to those of us who are not, you are wise beyond your years. I am just starting to really realize that I don’t have a lot of answers; I am at the bottom of the totem pole in my own life. I have a million questions. I am learning to form my own opinion about a million issues. I am wrong about things most of the time. Am I actively delegating, or surrounding myself with a top notch team to set myself up for success? Am I supporting people I love the way they want to be supported? Are my actions and words something that a boss would deem promotion-worthy in the grand scheme of life?
The same conversation repeats itself daily. My friends all around the world…Portland, Oregon, New York City, or the South of France, even…we all say it 100 times: “I’m a little lost and I just wish I knew the right way to fix the unfixable.” The right way to “fix” the unfixable is time but the over-feelers don’t like time. We just like feeling good. We are all like a mini start-up company: blood, sweat, and tears goes into nearly every aspect of our lives but underneath the passion is an innate, and very powerful fear of failure. Will we survive?
We are all very hard on ourselves. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m a complete asshole to myself. I am an excessive feeler and worry wart and a historically under-thinker. And my emotions often stagger my workflow, my opportunities, and my ability to see a chance to make strategic change. We rush, in our twenties. We rush through things because who likes being uncomfortable? Maybe that’s our biggest problem, the rushing. My most consistent feedback in my professional life has been, “Slow down. Be more careful. Deadlines do not outweigh quality work.” And tada, there you have it. I do the same exact thing in my personal life because I feel too much and think too little and I don’t take the time to ensure that things are as good as they can be. If I don’t like how things are going right that very second, I scramble. My tolerance for tough times is low.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe I, or we, or whoever thinks I’m on to something, needs to step back and observe our personal lives like they are a living, breathing business. Who are our clients? Why do they matter to us? What is the product or service that we offer the world and why is it the best? What is our mantra? What is our growth strategy? How do we reward our employees for good work? What are the benefits for working here, anyway?
Like I said, I always lead with my emotions, rarely do I lead with my brain. And lately, it’s been getting me in trouble. It hasn’t helped me move forward to a place I am particularly pleased with. I blow up. I overwhelm myself to a point where I freeze. My progress and passion pursuits become slabs of rock-solid concrete because of fear. Perhaps this will be a good exercise for those of us who react with fire and never with logic and patience. Maybe this will help us “diversify our creative perspective” and see things through a different lens; encourage us to stop rushing. Quality work only. Work that we’ve nurtured and crafted as our own – whether it’s healing a relationship, starting a project we’ve been avoiding, or cleaning our damn room… as long as it is something that is so uniquely ours.
At the end of the day, we all strive for personal fulfillment, in whatever form that presents itself. Maybe, just this one time, I will seek to recognize the most efficient, productive, and spiritually profitable way to manage that fulfillment instead of trying rush it, force it, or expect it to magically present itself overnight. We’ll get there. Rome, Google, and every profitable business ever weren’t built in a day. That’s the saying, right?