October 25th, 2006 08:29 EST
True Freedom is a Choice Part I &II
I did something totally out of character the other day. It seemed so odd to me that I debated whether to even share it with you. But I decided, What the heck! " After baring my soul to all of you for the past 42 weeks, why hide anything now?
During a recent photo session, the photographer suggested we go outside to capture a few shots. The moment I walked out into his backyard from the studio attached to his house, I saw it "a trampoline. I`d never been on a trampoline in my life, but it was calling my name. Finally, I said to Steve, the photographer, I so have to do this right now. I can`t resist! "
Just imagine "I hoisted myself onto the trampoline, and after getting over the nervous jitters, started jumping around like an eight-year-old kid. The more I bounced up and down, the more confident I felt. With every jump, a sense of exhilaration permeated my entire being. Nothing else mattered for those precious moments. There was such an incredible feeling of freedom in every bounce.
I share this story with you because it has a connection (at least in my mind) to an email that I recently received from Mike, a subscriber to this weekly ezine. Mike felt compelled to respond to Carat #40, Customer Ownership " It`s Just Common Sense! " Following are his remarks in their entirety:
Simon, Simon "
I sort of like reading your articles.
I can`t help but feel that all of your writings have this undercurrent of the need for brotherly love in our business and interpersonal actions. I couldn`t agree more. We all want the attention, and perhaps more than that, we want the idea that we have value and should be respected for that reason alone.
This is a different world than the one you grew up in, isn`t it? An entire blanket of "funk" of some kind seems to lie over the whole planet. What you are asking is that people fight against this foul attitude, go the extra mile, do their best and accept the inherent value of people. I couldn`t agree more. Sometimes it seems that this fight is like one minnow against the ocean ".
The one element that seems to be missing in your insights is the fact that this "funk" blanket fell on employers too, and not just on employees. Most employers are so interested in the bottom line that they ignore the people they hire and treat them like a machine they rent for 25 years and then discard on the scrap heap.
From what you write, I would doubt that you have ever been in a hellhole kind of job with no way out. Your answer is to always be positive, do your best and smile more. I agree 100%. But attitude is contagious from more than one direction. If your employer couldn`t care less, then that permeates down to the people too. You make it sound like companies really care about their people, and if slacking employees would just "get with it," things would improve all over. But Enron, and other companies like it, proves this is just not the case. They have created an environment of "survival of the self. " Do what you have to do to survive; your employer may cut your throat at any minute.
In fact, you may be missing the point entirely. The poor attitude in line employees is simply the barometer of a much deeper problem. Don`t blame the line employees for poor attitudes "they are an extension of the hiring parent. " A dysfunctional hiring parent will always produce a child " with problems. When you blame the line employees for poor attitudes and then tell them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, stop and think a minute. Recognize that they come from dysfunctional employers. Sure, employers want success. But most are too focused on short-range bottom lines and not on perpetuating overall health.
If you would council with one of these service people who pass your call on to the next person, who then passes it on to the next and so on, you might find a genuine, caring person underneath all that "poor service." You might find that they feel stuck in a machine that cannot be argued against. That machine is the heartless business that treats everyone like a heartless machine too. That becomes evident to people like you who desire to interact with a heartful person but don`t realize that person is in a heartless job. Don`t attack the line employees for showing you the real problem. It seems that your council is like telling an abused child, "Heal." Quit your bellyaching. To line employees, your answers sound like, "The beatings will continue until morale improves."
I truly appreciate Mike sharing his thoughts with me. I`m humbled every week by the number of you who take the time to respond to this ezine. Many of you offer words of encouragement and share stories of how you are releasing your brilliance. Others offer constructive feedback, and some offer differing points of view. Know that I welcome all of it. I write what`s in my heart, soul and mind, knowing full well that not everyone will like it or agree with it.
Actually, I agree with Mike on a number of points. There are many, many crappy employers who are, in fact, only focused on the bottom line and who don`t treat their employees well. And it`s absolutely true that poor leadership is a leading cause of disengaged employees. But the last time I checked, this is not a slave state. " The difference between an organization and the family analogy that Mike uses is that an abused child doesn`t have free will to leave the dysfunctional parent. An employee can leave a dysfunctional employer and get out of the machine " at any time " if he or she chooses to. Those who choose to stick around for more beatings " have no one to blame but themselves.
The truth is this: Anyone " from the CEO to the janitor " can get another job at any time. (And I would suggest that it`s actually more difficult for those near the top of the pay scale to find other employment than for those near the bottom.) Is it easy to leave the security even a bad job provides? No. Does it take time to find a new opportunity? Yes. Can it be done by anyone? Absolutely.
If you are stuck, feel trapped or believe at some level that you are a victim of the employer machine, " free yourself! Employers are not running adult daycare centers. You have to clothe, feed and discipline yourself. You can`t control external situations and other people in this world " you can only control yourself. Refuse to accept the victim mentality. Overcome your fears, step out and do it.
Now, I do realize that sometimes my musings may sound a bit Pollyannaish in nature and are often over the top in the positive psychology. But I do not apologize for it. You see, although I must admit that I`ve never had a hellhole job, " I have been to Hell and back in life. I grew up in the ghetto in Brooklyn, New York. I`ve had to scrape for everything I have. No one ever gave me anything. I chose to not play the victim and made the decision to do something about my circumstances. And yes, I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and figured it out.
After graduating from high school, I went to college. But when I ran out of money after the first year, I had to drop out. With no money to make it back home, I got the best job I could find: front-desk clerk at a hotel, making $5.10 per hour. That`s where I cut my teeth in the hospitality industry, while I tried to find my place in life. I eventually finished college, but it took me 10 years to do it.
Am I looking for sympathy? No. It is what it is. I chose to deal with the circumstance I was given and move on. I only share this story to make this point: I`ve personally experienced all the things I write about. I don`t have a permanent positive attitude because I come from privilege and have had an easy life. I have a permanent positive attitude because I know firsthand that is what it takes to dig yourself out of your hole.
It is my goal to provoke you to take responsibility by choosing to be free of all limitations. I do know for a fact that every person, including disengaged service representatives, are genuine, caring people who have the seeds of brilliance hidden within them. My purpose is to either help you find your freedom while you`re in the machine " by releasing your brilliance, or give you the confidence to get out of the machine " and find your freedom elsewhere. Just as I made a decision to experience the trampoline, you have a choice to bounce up or down, in or out. I invite all of you " including Mike " to find a trampoline, start bouncing and experience the joy of pure authentic freedom.
Simon Says "Freedom is a choice. How bad do you want it?
Well, the response to last week`s Brilliant Carat was absolutely overwhelming. We received incredible feedback from all of you. Apparently, we all did some thinking and stretching.
Some of you have been, or still are, in Mike`s shoes and empathized with him. An avid reader of our Brilliant Carats politely told me that the underlying tone of True Freedom Is a Choice " was to quit and move on. She said, Simon I`m in my 40s and have been working in the same industry for well over 15 years. I am self-motivated and a happy, positive person. However, there are days when I love what I do, and there are days when you get a sucker punch in the belly from senior management that you didn`t see coming. I don`t care for the treatment that I have to endure, nor does my senior executive who bears the brunt of it. " She went on to explain that her team is great, but other departments in the organization are extremely dysfunctional.
Guess what, folks? I was at a loss for words. But, you know, her comments got me thinking. I`ve certainly never meant to imply that when your job is in sync with your passion, every day is a walk in the park. I am extraordinarily blessed to be able to release my brilliance in a way that furthers my purpose. But that doesn`t mean I exist in a constant state of bliss. In any endeavor in life " work, relationships, family, faith " there will be good days and bad days. The question is, which do you have more of?
As long as you experience more pleasure than pain, as seems the case with the reader above, I`m not advocating that you fire yourself from your job. Instead, let me ask you a question: For the short-term, does that job serve a purpose in your life? Does it keep a roof over your head, food on the table, shoes on your feet? If so, then choose to hire " your employer to fulfill that particular need in your life. When you have bad days or when management sucker punches you in the gut, reframe the situation to see it as one where you`ve chosen that situation for this moment in time. Will that be your chosen situation forever? Maybe not. But for today, it meets your immediate needs.
However, when pain consistently outweighs the pleasure in your job, then I believe it`s time to fire yourself and move on. Many of you who responded to last week`s Brilliant Carat apparently feel the same way. I`d like to share with you some inspiring stories of those in the Brilliant Community who chose freedom. " (The following comments have been edited for brevity, and the names have been removed to ensure confidentiality.)
Growing up, my mother always told me there were no limitations to what I could do. All I had to do was put my mind to it. If I wanted something bad enough, I had to take it upon myself to make it happen. I tell you this because, very much like your trampoline example, this is exactly what my mother has instilled in my brothers and me. I view each day as an opportunity to make an impact, somewhere or on someone. I live my life knowing that I am the only person in control of my destiny.
So often, I meet people who play the victim card. " I agree that if people are unhappy in their current circumstances, whether personal or professional, they can do something about it. If only more people adopted this attitude, work places wouldn`t be the way they are. I wouldn`t have to work with people who are disengaged and complain constantly about their current circumstances.
I recently switched jobs because the company I was working for didn`t recognize my brilliance. It`s true that misery likes company, and I refused to give in. So, I found a new job with an organization that applauds my brilliance.
I really enjoyed reading this Carat. It is refreshing to get other points of view sometimes. It helps put what you feel, think, and say in perspective. I can understand where Mike is coming from too. I do not work in a "hell hole, " but I do long for control and for freedom from the mundane. Every time I read a Brilliant Carat, it pushes me closer to that "freedom " goal. Thanks for the insight and encouragement.
I left corporate America for that freedom you speak about. At the age of 40, I took a humongous leap of faith. I left a six-figure job and never once looked back. My family, of course, was flipping out even though I`d prepared them. But what I`ve learned since that time has been priceless. I`ve learned that the road to significance is a lonely road, and you have to learn to walk it alone sometimes. I woke up to my inner freedom, and I heard it loud and clear in 2000.
There are so many employees struggling in Corporate America, unhappy and miserable, who dread Monday mornings, and I mean really, just walk into their jobs as if they are machines. It`s sort of like the hamster on the wheel. I know, because that was me six years ago. God, I`m so thankful and grateful that I woke up.
And here I am, six years later, a partner in a business where I am continuing to pursue my passion as an HR professional on my terms and my schedule. This one action " to leave Corporate America " has opened up so many new doors for my family and me. I truly know what it means to put your faith first, family second and career third, because I`m living it.
Simon, when I think of all the dreams that would have gotten detoured if I hadn`t chosen to leave Corporate America, I get teary eyed. To live each day knowing that your dream is connected to someone else is powerful. I love the fact that God has trusted me with this awesome mission. It is definitely bigger than me and it`s not about me. But I understand why I was chosen for the mission, and that in itself is freedom "and very powerful.
My wise immigrant father once heard me complaining bitterly about my job, my employer and the company. He had me stand in front of him, and he circled around me, carefully inspecting my person. At the conclusion, he said, I don`t see it? " See what? " I asked. He responded, The person that must be holding a gun to your head to stay at that job! " Well, that was a lesson learned, and one that helped me forge a philosophy of I was looking for a job when I found this one. "
This is the freest country on the planet, and as you said, if you continue in a lousy situation, then it is your own fault.
I have to say, Amen Brother! I`m on the upswing of coming out of a very negative state about where I work, and your Brilliant Carats seem to come to me at the right time, each time they appear. Thanks for sharing this " those readers fighting the funk" can always use the encouragement. You`re hardly Pollyanna. " I see you more as Anti-funk-anna. "
Your past, where you were brought up, and where you are today, somewhat remind me of my life. I, too, do not have a permanent positive attitude because I come from privilege or have had an easy life. I have a permanent positive attitude because, like you, I know firsthand that`s what it takes to dig yourself out of your hole!
It has been a tough road creating my own success throughout the years. I have built self-esteem from within, definitely NOT because of positive influence growing up. I left home at 16 because of chaotic living conditions. I knew leaving home would be tough, especially financially. But I also knew that I`d rather move out and move on " to a positive environment (although alone), than to stay in a negative environment. I really shouldn`t call it a tough road " but the beginning of a journey " to become more and to make the most of my life! I was searching for happiness and peace within, and I wanted to give this world all I have to offer!
I only wish that some folks would realize that when life seems difficult, move on and learn something or gain something. Whining and self-pity only hold us back from success! Whether it`s been my own mistakes or life`s hurdles, these have helped me grow and become more successful.
Simon, I don`t know if you remember me, but we met at a time when I was very unhappy in the position I was in and somewhat unsure of what direction to go. Well, I got a promotion a year or so ago, and I was sure this was it. " For a while, I was happy, or so I thought. Needless to say, not much has changed except more work, more politics, budget issues, and never being able to make the boss happy.
One day after showing way too much emotion at work, it hit me " this is not it "! Yes, I like what I do, but I don`t LOVE it. I have decided that next year I will resign from my full time job and start my own business. Although nervous, I`ve never felt so GOOD about a decision.
As you can see, these readers revealed their own Brilliant Carats. Each one shared an interesting perspective, and I think there is something for all of us to learn. I`d like to thank them for allowing me to share their stories and words of wisdom with you. I encourage you to continue to email me with your insights and your feedback about what resonates with you.
The real point of last week`s Brilliant Carat " and this one for that matter " is that you have the freedom to choose. And remember, as the old saying goes, if you choose not to decide, you`ve still made a choice.
My friends, if you`ve reached a point where you have more pain than pleasure in your current position, then make a choice. Get fired up about what you`re doing. If someone or something has put out your fire, then figure out a way to stir up your inner flames.
If you can simply no longer find a way to get fired up about your current position, then make the choice to move on. Move on to another department, another company, another career. I`m not suggesting that you up and fire yourself from your job today. Freedom rarely comes in one fell swoop. You may have to plan, strategize, save and perhaps get some additional education or training. It may take some time to achieve the type of freedom you desire.
In the meantime, adopt the mentality that you have hired your organization to fulfill a need in your life, even if it`s as basic as providing food and shelter. Knowing that you choose this temporary situation makes it much easier to get out of bed in the morning and give 100% while you work toward your freedom.
Simon Says "True Freedom is Truly Your Choice.
For More Information: www.simontbailey.com