I don't have to be 100%

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 15, 2018, 2:30 PM | comments: 0

I've told the story many times about how I started to actively manage my career, instead of letting it happen to me, around the time I was working at Microsoft. I happened to have a child at the same time, which may have driven the career decision, and collectively, I would say that I changed into something of a more purposeful and deliberate person.

That was about the time I started to see something of a transformation in my overall drive, and in recent months I've been exploring that outcome and what it means. The short version of the story is that I have built an expectation of myself to always be switched on, giving everything I have, but feeling like I'm often falling short. No one likes to feel like they're failing.

The expectation to be switched on, all of the time, is not realistic. We all have limits, and it's just physics that you can't give more than you get. I've spent a lot of time feeling spent, and that's not sustainable. It came to a head in my last job, and I'm being super diligent about it in the new gig. Same for my personal life, and especially for parenting. I love my child dearly, but I can't be everything to him at all times without building resentment. As such, I'm getting better, sometimes, at letting his challenges toward me go if I can't constructively respond to them.

Where does this come from? I'm not a Type-A overachieving box-checking type of person. There is certainly a cultural pressure to keep up, I think, to anyone who must act in a leading capacity, whether it's in your personal or professional life. But I think my pressure is more deeply rooted in my life experience. I have a long history of exposure to people who have failed me, personally and professionally, in non-trivial ways. That grinds you a bit, because you obviously don't want to be those people. What kind of person would you be if you failed similarly?

Real life, however, requires that you give yourself a pass now and then. You can't be everything to everyone at all times. It's a fool's pursuit. You've gotta hold on to some of your time for yourself. The world most certainly could function without you entirely. It'll be OK to let it function without you intermittently.


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