There are two big things that happened in 2018: 1) I quit my job and moved, and 2) midway through the year, I fell into a slump. This post will discuss both, but I have turned them on their head and am focusing on what I learned from those experiences, rather than dwell on them. Hopefully I am more positive than negative. :)
Situation One: the JOB
This time last year, I was in a bad situation at work. I LOVE what I do, but had been very unhappy for multiple years, due to the people around me. I had stayed because of two main things: 1) I didn't want my resume to show job-hopping, and 2) my youngest daughter finally, really liked her middle school. Here are the top few things of what the whole encounter taught me:
- I really LOVE what I do!!
I read this article recently. I really love how Mark presents the information in a different way than others have. Within the article, one of the things he says is, "Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days." To me, that hits the nail on the head. I learned that I was willing to put up with all of the following, just to keep doing what I loved:
- I worked with IT and a few other departments, but had only 1 person I was friends with for 6 years
- I was surrounded by people who had a negative image of me
- I was being constantly judged, and having that turn negative more than not
- I felt drained at the end of most days
- I was on my guard all the time, knowing that more often that not, what I said would be interpreted negatively or would cause a nasty email chain
With all of that, when I look back, I really only think about happy memories and the achievements I performed. I can still remember how excited I was about taking a cursor which ran for almost an hour, and changing it to a set-based query which ran in under 5 minutes. I remember how in awe I was when I was introduced to SQL Saturday in Baton Rouge, which was my introduction to the SQL community as a whole. I remember realizing that I could think beyond just the task at hand, and focus on the entire solution - basically changing from just a worker mentality to an engineering/manager type of mentality.
I wrote a blog post earlier about a couple of people at a previous job who helped me realize my path (read it here). I have been very fortunate enough to find something that I understand fundamentally, and that really excites me! Realizing how much I dealt with and yet, I can still see the positive side of things, I know I have found what I really love.
- Failure can be VERY good
I knew I would be fired, so I did something about it before they did. Those words are kind of hard to admit out loud, but when I look back now, I am VERY glad for the opportunity for a change.
I was good at what I did, but was very enthusiastic and over-pleasing, which led to overworked, which caused me to be alienated and defensive, which caused others to believe negative things about me, which got me caught up in a loop which ultimately spiraled. Just because you have oil and water mixing together, doesn't mean either is bad. The people I worked with were good people (even the people against me), but the situation wasn't good for me. I tried so many things to make it better, but nothing really helped.
I felt stuck, and was stuck. As part of my personality, I have this over-whelming desire to be loyal, to a fault. I felt like leaving for a new job would be a betrayal to the company. I really believed in the mission of the company and didn't want to let them down. I knew I was in a difficult position, but I felt like I needed to grin and bear it. I knew I had other options, but it was a choice not to exercise any of them. My company had a merger with another company, and it is a common part of the process to lay-off redundant staff. I just instinctively knew that it would be a chance for the department to get rid of me. That forced a change and I decided to look for new employment.
Even though the whole experience wasn't a failure, I can honestly say that I failed at that company. I don't know what I would have done differently, though. I believe (and I am not the only one), that the bad stuff started because I was doing a great job and that sparked a bit of jealousy which started the negativity. If I had known that earlier, my instinctive reaction would have been to cower down, do less quality work, or help showcase the other people's work, etc.. That would have been the wrong thing to do, so I am glad I didn't discover that until wayyy later.
My takeaway from this is: 1) I should work on my the boundaries of my sense of loyalty and handle things better in the future, 2) I need to find a better balance of whats bad but good to stay at, and whats bad enough that I should get out of, and 3) I really need to work on my confidence enough to be ok with a situation where my doing a good job shouldn't make me feel uncomfortable just because someone else does. For the moment, all of these are abstract concepts for me, rather than things with measurable outcomes. That is something I will have to make more tangible in the upcoming year.
- People like to complain - but even when asked, they don't necessarily want to offer feedback
Earlier this month I wrote a blog post about asking for feedback from others. This was specifically related to my experience at my previous employer. I wrote a heart-felt request for feedback, but didn't get any response from my immediate team, even though they were the ones who had issues with me.
I had already known that you can't change others, you can only change yourself. This event, though, really solidified that lesson for me. When I wrote the email, it brought up many angry and hurt feelings, but I made sure to still come from a position of self-improvement. I couldn't change the past, but if there was something I could do better, and make the situation better, I wanted to know and even make that change. In all of my interactions, I was very particular about not blaming others or pointing the finger anywhere but at me. It was the hard thing to do, and there were times when others didn't get it, but I knew I was doing the right thing. I even had the guy who was my manager for the last year compliment me for always taking the high road in difficult situations. I like knowing that I have been in tough situations and I didn't lose my sense of self.
- I need to be able to rock the boat
I don't like rocking the boat. Don't get me wrong, I know that rules shouldn't be followed JUST because they always have been. Also - I love being on the water, and have rocked the canoe several times just for fun! :)
That isn't what I am talking about though. I like making sure everyone is happy and content, and if they like me, that is a plus! I recognize my part in wanting people to like me enough to make me buy the book (and re-read regularly): The Disease To Please: Curing the People Pleasing Syndrome. It has helped me in many ways, some of which I hadn't even thought of before. I feel like some of the communications that were taken negatively were partly due to my lack of self-confidence and wanting everyone to be happy. I feel like if I had been a bit more direct or firm, that things might have come across differently. That is only my opinion, but I can see where a lack of confidence added to the downward spiral. I know that my learning goals in 2019 will help make me feel more secure in my abilities, which should help this area. I am listing it here, though, to be transparent (and as a reminder for future me).
Situation Two: the SLUMP
This isn't the first slump that I have been in, but I thought it was something to mention because of how I got out of it. Mid-year, I realized I was in a pretty big slump. I was doing what I needed to at work, but not really thinking out of the box, or doing anything extra. I was living day to day, not enjoying things and not challenging myself at all. I also was starting to not keep up with things.
The difference that I wanted to point out this time is this: I was able to get out of this situation because I had set things up in advance.
I have written about getting an accountability partner, and that is what saved me. The solution itself was fairly simple - I re-evaluated my goals and got myself back on track. The kicker is: I hadn't given myself permission to do that ~ my accountability partner did.
Doug and I made goals for the entire year. Midway, I was feeling like I would never reach them and was very overwhelmed. By giving me permission to re-evaluate, I felt free to do so. The over-arching ideas of what I wanted to accomplish haven't changed, but I realized that I needed to scale back a bit to allow myself to move forward. Let me make something clear: I didn't make my goals too big at the start, but because of outside things, I wasn't reaching them and that led to me feeling overwhelmed. I know I was my own problem. But, by having a partner in my journey, it made a huge difference in me not derailing completely. I was able to get back on track and move forward again.
Doug and I are going to continue the accountability partnership again in 2019. I know I will be making overall goals for the year, but only making plans for a rolling 3-6 month timeframe. I think that will help allow myself a little wiggle room as life happens, but still keep me on track overall.
Overall, I am very glad I had the experiences I had. I wish there was a pill to take to make your brain think you went through the experience, rather than actually having to, but it wouldn't be as important to us if we didn't live to tell the tale, right? My hope with this blog post is that everyone reading this has a good, deep, self-reflection that helps them see the good portions within the bad stuff that happens to them. We can always learn more from mistakes than from when everything is going well.