Stuck in a Moment

November 19, 2008 at 3:10 am (change, Introspection, Musings) (, , , , )

It can be a terrible thing growing up thinking you’re invincible.  Annointed with the destiny of greatness and tasked with unwavering determination; isn’t that the American Spirit?  The problem lies in seeking to acheive great things in a mediocre world.  The zeal for excellence can overwhelm all but the most secure individuals and leave one labeled an arrogant jerk.

It wasn’t that long ago that I realized that there are many definitions of excellence.  Having sought excellence in a results-oriented schema, it occured to me a few years ago to seek excellence in relationships first.  Not that this is easy for me.  In fact I’m more comfortable in my cave than in the social fray.  So, even considering excellence in relationships is a giant step forward.

I recently attended a board meeting that gives new meaning to boring.  In fact, from what I could tell, there really was no purpose to the meeting other than the fact that we’re required to have one every month.  It’s gotten so bad that I get grouchy just thinking about attending.  It’s all I can do to be civil at these monthly inquisitions.  I think I’d rather be waterboarded.

In processing this meeting later, I remembered my journey to put relationships above tasks – it’s been a long road.  But then it hit me, even if I tried to acheive exellence in these relationships, that would be impossible without cooperation from the others.  Sometimes, as people go through life, they’ve just learned to settle.  So, even if I tried to put my relationship with them ahead of results, I would probably just scare them away.

Somehow I got this crazy notion in my head that excellence was a value to be prized.  But it seems like in order to survive in this day-to-day world, I’m going to have to learn to tone it down a bit.  However, that goes against everything that I am.

Recently a post about mixed priorities caught my eye.  @Chrisbrogan wrote a great post about “Bob” and it really struck a chord with me.  Among the miriad of comments, replies, and discussions, one in particular caught my eye.  @katybeth wrote this comment

Companies are afraid. I was an extremely successful mystery shoppers about 10 years ago. I learned very quickly to never say anything negative about the companies employees, and if I had to say something negative–like the time the employee threw a shake at a customer–to make sure that I said it in away that kept responsibility away from the company–the customer was being unreasonable–she changed her order once after already ordering. I was paid, to tell the company what they wanted to believe. Mystery shoppers that believed differently were constantly challenged, and did not last very long. The threat is the customer will tell you something you don’t want to hear, and then you may have to change. Nobody appreciates having to change…even if it makes them more money.

In one paragragh, she articulated the illusive abstraction that hadn’t yet found a home in my brain – or my heart.  For some reason, in my quest towards excellence, I believed everyone cared about doing their best.  I thought everyone was willing to do whatever it takes to “make it happen.”  I was wrong.

I remember working in an administrative/managerial role a decade or so back.  I had piles upon piles of paperwork.  I had a to-do list three pages long.  I was working 60-80 hour weeks (and getting paid for 40).  Because I believed in what we were doing, I was driven to excell.  However, thinking back on that experience, I realize that to most people, bringing “the truth” to them is the last thing on their agenda.  Fact is, they just want to put in their time and go home.  They don’t want me making their jobs, and in that vein, their lives more stressful.

So, my new goal.  Just become a nice guy and try to make life easier for people.  Bringing up issues, holding people accountable, and pointing out errors – well, that’s not going to make any friends.  Adopting this approach closes some of the gap between excellence and mediocrity – at least in my head.

…now if I can just get my heart to follow….

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