If you want my blood pressure to go up, just tell me that I need to push my work (or someone else's). The creative process may be hard at times, but does it have to be so adversarial? Does it have to be a fight?
I don't think so. Yet it often is because of ego run amok or a fear of being irrelevant. Someone doesn't see enough of themselves in the work, so they feel the need to shove things in their preferred direction. Or they don't think they're doing their job if they agree too much with what they see.
The best teachers, mentors and managers I've known have displayed the confidence to use the opposite approach. Instead of applying external force, they dug deeper into the work. They would find (or help me find) the little sparkles that suggested a gem yet to be uncovered. There was still work to be done, but I had a hand reaching to pull me up rather than push me down. It was a tug rather than a war.
Now I try to use that approach when I whenever I'm reviewing work. Getting to a sketch or first draft is hard enough. I want to honor that by making sure people know that with me, they're not going into battle. They're going on an adventure of discovery.
The word challenge seems like it's become a buzzword. You're supposed to seek out new challenges and make sure you stay challenged in your professional and personal life. If you're not being challenged, if you're not somehow toiling to overcome a new obstacle or master a new skill, you're going to be bored and won't grow.
I can see the logic of that and agree with it. Just not entirely.
Because I can also see how a person could glorify challenges to the point that they're no longer stopping to celebrate and enjoy where they're at and what they've achieved. That they need a little fight, a little grit to feel what they're doing is valid. That they need the adrenaline of a challenge to feel alive.
That seems a bit manic and not very mindful to me.
I wonder what would happen if we were better at embracing the inherent flow of life. What if recognized that the rhythm of work and rest isn't established only by the calendar? There will be times in our jobs and in our lives that will be busier and harder than others, just as there will be times that are slower and easier. Often, when we forget that (or don't recognize it in the first place), we work against the rhythm by trying to manufacture one state when we're in the other one.
Of course, if it feels like you've been in one of these states for an extended period of time, you might need to adjust your vision. Perhaps you haven't been observant or curious enough to recognize opportunities to climb up the next hill or coast down it. I don't think flow means dropping out. I think it means being actively aware while also being accepting. Being content without being stagnant. Desiring more, yet still loving with what you have.
Achieving that balance isn't simple, for sure, but I see it as a much more worthy challenge than those we'd drum up just to prove we're still relevant.
It’s usually mentioned with a certain amount of guilt. We feel that we should endeavor to escape it, and that doing so is good for us. What is this place that’s apparently not good for us?
Our comfort zones.
I’ve been thinking about our aversion to them and wondering if we’ve been looking at them the wrong way. What if instead of of trying move beyond them, we moved deeper into them?
No, I’m not talking about remaining in your PJs and never leaving your house.
I’m saying that maybe, just maybe, there’s a key buried within the things that make us feel the most at ease that could unlock our potential. Better than trying to abandon them and trying something completely new for the sake of newness. Although we might find new, fruitful experiences by more fully exploring the things that make us feel at home and relaxed. Diving below the surface of these comforts might end up stretching us in a more sincere way than jumping out of the pool and into a lake halfway around the world.
This is also not to say that getting a different perspective on a regular basis isn’t important or shouldn’t be done. We need that to keep our thinking and creativity fresh. But why be dramatic about it?
That’s what I’m weary of—the belief that change has to be big and overt. There’s no need to abandon the best, most natural parts of who you are—or fight with them—in order to grow.
As the conversation about equality in the workplace continues to unfold, I’ve been particularly interested in the examples of behavior that’s deemed acceptable (or praiseworthy) in men but not in women. What’s curious to me isn’t just that this is happening. It’s that often women, as well as men, are perpetuating this.
I was blind to this for a long time—probably because I didn’t want to believe it. When one of my grandparents was relieved upon hearing that mostly men worked at my first job after college, I was inwardly dismissive. It was 1996. Women were now supportive of each other, weren’t they? They weren’t the backstabbing and catty caricatures I’d seen in 1940s movies, were they?
Recently, as I reflected on my twenty years in the workforce, I realized that not all my female coworkers had been helpful or fair to other women. I remembered example after example of women applying a double standard when reviewing the performance of other women. While male coworkers were applauded for their conviction, passion and dedication in stating their opinions—especially in the face of opposing viewpoints—these women complained that their female coworkers who did the same things as the men were defensive, emotional and inflexible.
Men were allowed to disagree and stir up debate. Women were not.
Perhaps because there’s still an unwritten rule that women are still expected to be compliant and accommodating, pleasing and amiable. Even Gen X girls grew up learning that rule to some extent. Many of us continue to follow it and perpetuate it. We think we have to be the nurturers and the caretakers women have always been—above all else.
There’s nothing wrong with being nurturing and caring, of course. But shouldn’t we allow ourselves and each other to be more than that (and, by the way, encourage men to share in the responsibilities of caring and nurturing)?
Shouldn’t the freedom to speak one’s mind without fear of reproach, be extended to both genders?
We should all be in this together, right?
I certainly hope so. And I believe that continuing to discuss the subtle ways gender inequality still exists brings us one major step closer to living in that kind of world.
P.S. You probably know what the title of this blog is riffing off of, but if you don’t, go here.
Opinions shared here are my own. They should not be seen as a representation of my employer's views.