I can be a bit of stick in the mud. I like my shoes where I put them. I like my coffee strong, and milky, with just the right amount of sugar. I am very much in support of finding my wallet exactly where I left it. I like to get up in the morning, go to work, accomplish something during the day and come home to dinner, a few cats and some brain numbing reality TV. I am the poster child of routine.
Recent events outside my control have seriously dented my routine. There’s no need to get up in the morning to go to work. There’s no money to do anything else. It’s all wake up, look for a job, and then fill in the remaining daily hours with “stuff”.
When I got my first management job years ago I read a book called Who Moved My Cheese, a business fable about embracing change and growing your business through innovation. I liked it. It was cute. It had mice in it. And cheese. Who doesn’t love cheese.
I even attempted to employ some of the concepts into my team, although I came to learn quickly that the Chairman of the Board had very definite views on change – i.e. change is bad, don’t do it – and so stuffed the book and the thoughts into a cupboard somewhere and did what I was told.
Creatively the job wasn’t great. It was on par with Data Entry. Type in the numbers, get the results. It was suffocating and I don’t do well with suffocating. I lasted exactly six months in that role before I left. I wasn’t unemployed long. A week actually before I began work at my most recent job.
Working for a start up company there is a need to prove yourself. There is also a need for staff to buy into the believe structure of the founder. I bought the belief of innovation, of change, of getting new and exciting products into the market. For a while that worked. But as all companies do, eventually it became bogged down in “procedure” and “policy” and shoved innovation into a cupboard.
In the first year we grew, in the second we shrank. There were a variety of reasons for this, but one that I consistently tried to overcome was what I perceived – and I could be wrong – was fear. Fear of the success we had achieved mixed with a desire to grow faster than the company could support.
During the last few months there was nothing new. It was the same hamster wheel we’d been on before, and we were getting the same results. My throat grew hoarse during conversations about “blazing our own trails” and “stop following the competitors dust, we’ve got to find out our own voice.” Eventually, it became untenable, and I was made redundant.
I have a forceful personality. I didn’t always have one. I used to be the mouse. Quiet, shy to the point of mute. I didn’t make friends easily and I didn’t keep them for long when I did make them. My greatest fear was to be noticed. To be successful. That was a throw back to my school days, and the torture I endured every day. It left me with an emptiness inside that screamed for fulfilment and a fear of trying anything new.
Over the years I may have gone from one side to the other a bit too far. I went from mute and weak to being determined to be heard. I became confrontational, probably overly aggressive. One thing I sort of think I have in my favour is if I believe in something I’ll fight to the death for it. The problem there arises from others with a tighter hold on whatever I believe in not really understanding what I’m doing.
Since I ended up unemployed this time around, I’ve been at a loss. I spent the first week sleeping in, relaxing, and generally enjoying the annual leave I had put in to work that was due a fortnight after I got made redundant anyway. Once I decided to get a job I instead got floored that no one would give me an interview.
Instead of fighting for myself I gave up – another trait I exhibit on a more than regular basis. My belief in the abilities of those around me is not something that translates well in to self-belief. I can talk a lemming off a cliff top, but I can’t even get myself out of bed most mornings. For all that I’ve got a quick wit, and a mouth that could sear paint of a brick wall, when it comes to talking myself up I am pathologically incapable of finding the positive.
I’m not good with change when it comes to myself. I’ll take risks and I’ll walk on fire when I’m working, but when it comes to my personal life, the excitement of a hamster in a running wheel is all I can cope with.
If money was no problem I could well enjoy this break. I needed it. The term “burn out” is not new age speak for pathetic. It’s real. By the time I left my last job, I no longer believed in myself or my ability to make a decision. Lack of trust of others had worked a hole in my own confidence until I reached the point where I was too fearful to make a decision at all. Not a bonus in a manager, but an inevitability in someone who worked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week and who was taking the fall for all the bad decisions in the office, not just his own.
I believe that life is about choices. I can continue to choose to sit at home, feel sorry for myself and stare at the wall, or I can choose instead to take this opportunity to rebuild my life into a more even, balanced one.
I believe that change can be either the best disaster movie ever made, or the best chance at happiness you’re likely to find. I believe that all of it, of life, boils down in its essence to a choice. Do I choose to be happy or not? Do I choose to lie on the bed in the middle of the day watching re-runs on TV or do I chose instead to go for a walk, draw a picture, sing a song off-key?
I guess the point to this post is quite simply. As I read once a long time ago the “Past is not an indicator of your future“. The past is the past, those decisions can not be undone. However, those choices can not be allowed to dictate what comes next. Every life is a series of choices. Every achievement comes through steps and through choices.
I have absolutely no idea what tomorrow will bring me, and given how much of a control freak I am, that frightens me. I have no idea when I’ll next get a job, and given how much of my own life was merged with that of “Career Mike” that also scares the life out of me. What I do know is that tomorrow I will wake up and get on with my day. As I’ll do the next one, and the one after that, and what I end up with at the end of my days will be based on the choices and decisions I make from this day forth.
I don’t know if change is good or bad, but I do know that before I was made redundant I had reached the position in my life where change was inevitable. Whatever you focus on you attract and manifest. I knew my time at my past company was done several months before I left. I knew it because I felt it. I chose to ignore those feelings, and write them off as fear.
Now I find myself at a point where I can choose to explore change, or I can choose to explore fear. There’s really no choice there at all.