Tag Archives: work

It’s a Man’s World

Isn’t it ironic that as I sit here at a city Starbucks pondering my gender than  the context of my recurring professional setbacks I noticed that “It’s a Man’s World” was playing on the speaker system? Well, it is. Here I am, for the thousand billionth time, at a point of failure. I’ve done a lot of good work, but it’s never enough. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes. But it still feels like there is something more than just making mistakes that gets me where I seem to always end up.

My office has public calendars and I wasn’t calendar stalking but happened upon an interview occurring with someone who clearly is in the running for either my new boss or my replacement (I can’t figure out which.) That someone is an old dude. Maybe he’s great. His resume certainly is impressive. Maybe he is what the company needs. But I also see an unfortunate trend in my life – I accept roles where no one can succeed and then when it finally is possible for someone to come and be successful (and the role is more desirable) I get replaced with someone who is a lot more charismatic and better at faking being good at things or maybe is actually good at things – I am not sure if it matters. What matters is I can’t fake it. I’m honest to a fault and then some. It doesn’t fly in business. Well, it flies me out of every single job I have.

I’m learning a lot. I’m the kind of person who likes to really understand what I’m doing before I do it. I enjoy systems thinking and understanding the architecture of a broader infrastructure and envisioning ways to fix what isn’t working. I’m not so good at actually getting things done – which is enough of a reason for a company to kick me out – though when I am being productive I’m probably much more productive than most other people might be. I’m a poster child for ADHD though now a woman and no one in real life has the patience to put up with my occasional bouts of extreme productivity paired with stilted outputs due to anxiety, depression and distractedness, in no particular order.

I’ve been writing a lot about gender biases and I do wonder if bits and pieces of my situation happen to be caused by my being female versus male. It’s a catch 22 and all – am I doing bad work because I’m anxious caused by the way I’m treated due to my gender or am I treated the way I am because I’m anxious and doing bad work in a way that’s embarrassingly and stereotypically “female,” whatever that means. The ADHD is real and it doesn’t help. At best I’m seen as a creative savant who is hopeless when it comes to maintaining usefulness in business. At worst I’m characterized as a hot mess that can’t even motivate herself to be lukewarm.

What’s even harder is being in management. I really do enjoy managing employees from the sense of coaching them and helping them grow however I can. It’s just the day-to-day smalltalk that is so draining. I think back to bosses who would always put on a smile and ask how things are going even if they didn’t really care because that’s just how they knew how to be great managers – and although some of them faked it better than others, it worked. I find myself struggling to so much as say hi and bye to my team each day. I know it’s so dumb – as I can envision myself with a big smile asking them about their weekend plans, but then whenever I try I end up feeling so drained just by the effort to come across personal without being too personal. Friendly, but not a friend. Boss-like, but also cool boss, but also someone who has her shit together, despite clearly not having her shit together.

The long and short of it is that I can keep doing this to myself over and over again… for, oh, I don’t know how long… or I need to find a completely different path. I know I’ve said this before a zillion times but now I actually believe it. I mean, I went from making $90k six years ago to nearly $200k today and that’s helpful in terms of my bank account but only feels like an accomplishment in deceit. A good friend of mine – now long-time colleague – has suggested that I take a job that doesn’t pay quite so much in order to provide a little less stress – and less having my bosses constantly calculating if my ROI is worth my cost and then being so passive aggressive about earlier negotiations.

I’ve been rather aggressive when it comes to negotiating because as a woman all we’re told is that we get paid less and we should ask for more. Ok, I did it… and I still have no idea if a man of my “level” would have asked for even more or less, but I felt good about pushing and I had two offers at this rate (actually the other one was for even more) which made me feel justified in accepting one of them. However, getting a salary offer and having that salary not haunt you for the entirety of your tenure with a company – especially if that company is a small business and your boss knows that every dollar spent limits his changes of success and wealth – is probably worth more than $10k or even $20k more a year after tax.

There are two paths here that are the easiest, and then many others which will be much harder and more scary. I stay on the path I’m on, and with my newly-gained experience try my best to stay in this role as long as possible and then when I need to (which may unfortunately be sooner than later) I interview like crazy and try to convince someone that I’m great and negotiate strongly again and walk away with a similar salary and another six months of attempting to do my best without that actually being anywhere near good enough. OR – I find a job that’s maybe lower level by a bit – maybe at a bigger company (though it’s really hard to get hired at a bigger company when you mostly have smaller company experience) and take a salary of anywhere from $120k-$140k (which isn’t bad by any means but it’s a massive pay cut) and then just see if I can maintain that job.

Or I just take another path entirely. Open my own small business. Go back to school for design. Return to my earlier profession as a journalist. Write a novel. Or a yawn-inducing memoir. Learn about shooting film. Move to the middle of nowhere and take college art classes until I’m credentialed to teach. Make a living selling crafts on Etsy. “Come out” as the author of this blog and make a name for myself as this depressed, anxious 30-something who is so remarkably spoiled that despite her disability the only response she gets from the universe is a series of eye rolls and “woe is you’s.”

It’s just at this point where I am at my wit’s end. I can’t even talk to my fiancé about this anymore because he doesn’t like hearing about how I’m failing over and over again. I don’t blame him. He also doesn’t work in business, so he can’t really relate. And he knows a lot of it is my depression and a lot of it is me being lazy but I swear that due to this constant ridiculous anxiety that just builds and builds and builds.

And it’s all fine and well to fall over on my face as many times as necessary to get through life / build a nest egg … but not if I have kids (which I want to do and have to do soon if I want my own.) And so I feel like I’m running straight for a brick wall that someone told me is made of styrofoam but we all know damn well it’s just made out of actual very fucking hard brick. I know I can’t keep running straight ahead, but the older I get, the faster my momentum, and the harder to slow down, the more impossible to stop and turn away from the inevitable outcome of shattering into a million pieces.

When You Made It and You Haven’t Gotten Anywhere

This week, I’ve been reading a slew of posts about how women make less money than men, and why.  Mostly, the argument against this being an issue goes, that women tend to work less than men one they have kids, and they also and generally less competitive so of course they don’t make as much money. In every single job negotiation I feel the weight of this on my shoulder, and try my best to negotiate. I have no idea what a man would do in the same situation with my experience, but since my first couple of jobs when I took the starting salary with no negotiation at all, I’ve tried to ask for a little more, and I’ve gotten more ballsy over time. It helps now that I now have competition offers, and I seem to be fairly good at interviewing these days.

On paper, I sound qualified for a very particular type of role and particular type of company. I’m not sure at all how life has sculpted itself to this specific career path, but it has, and I’m locked and loaded into it, full speed ahead until retirement to gain more responsibility, earn more wages, and look back on a very successful professional career. It hit me this week that I’m nearly making $200k (which, even for one of the highest cost of living areas, is one of those numbers that I thought would never be possible — ten years ago I was making $20k.)

Yet as I look ahead to potentially having children / starting a family, I realize that if I have an opportunity to leave this profession and move into something that is more flexible and personally fulfilling, I would. As much as I like money, and as much as I’ve been driven by this random “$500k in networth before I have kids” goal for the entirety of my 20s and early 30s, I just can’t see myself, 10 years from now, in this same type of role. I don’t want to be a vice president or C-level executive. Even though the pay would be great, I have no desire to be that person. I could potentially figure out how to fake who I am enough to get there… given my success getting this far, I have to believe that someone out there would want to offer me such an opportunity one day.  And I feel very guilty, that as a woman — as a woman who has an actual chance of getting to the top – I don’t want it.

As I sprint full speed ahead towards my mid 30s and the next phase of my life, I wonder what to do about it. I’m so busy these days with just trying to do my job and do it well and planning my wedding that I don’t have a ton of time to ponder what’s next (which is probably a good thing.) But, as my rent has increased this year by $2040 for the year, and the cost of living in this area shows no signs of refraining its hockey-stick growth, I know that at some point soon, I either need to commit to this career or come up with an exit strategy. I’m leaning towards the exit.

I don’t want to “not work.” I LOVE working. I love collaborating with a team to create new products. I wish I could be a ux designer or product lead. I’ve said that now for 12 years. I’ve failed to make any progress in that direction. I tried to study for the GRE and even booked a test slot and then didn’t go because I hadn’t studied enough. I couldn’t focus. I gave up. I got a better job. I made more money. It became less fiscally responsible to go back to school anyway. I got older. I passed that age when people go to grad school into the age when some people do but they’re much older their classmates. I entered the age where you take online classes or executive programs but only in rare cases do you go back to school for an entirely new career. Sure, people do it, and I may eventually as well, but I’m really getting older now — not old, per se, but old in the sense of I have a career. I have a good career. I manage a department, small as it is, I’m still in a high-level role, and there is so much good in my life that I kick myself every time I want to start over.

At this point, I’m committed to another year or two in my current job. If I do get pregnant then that will certainly be an opportunity to think through what’s next. Of course, if I get pregnant, it will be even harder to change careers. If I opt to apply to grad school for 2017 I’ll be 33 when I start, and I may want to put having kids on hold, which means I likely won’t have kids, which is, at this point, out of the question unless nature says I can’t (also a possibility.) In any case, there has to be some major changes in the next 2-3 years of my life, which will likely include moving to another state, or at the least, finding another career path and opting for lower pay and a lower quality of life here. I know this isn’t something I can maintain. It will be hard to say goodbye to the near-$200k salary, but I know if I figure out how to do something I’m really passionate about, maybe I can get back there over time. Or maybe I can just make less money and live somewhere more affordable. Either way, there are options, and I’ll always feel guilty as a woman for throwing away a successful career, but I have to. I have to rethink my entire life, my goals, and the directed outcomes. I do finally feel ready for a change.

What’s Making Successful American Women Feel Sick?

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Lean In. You can have it all. We’ve come so far in our society to tell ourselves this lie. Yet according to a new survey of super-successful women at Fortune 500 companies, women who are wealthy and highly educated reported to feel less healthy than those who were less successful. Despite the fact that these women were actually less likely to be overweight  and more likely to get six hours of sleep a night, they seem to judge themselves against an unattainable ideal, which makes them feel less healthy.

The Title of the Harvard Business Review Article “The More Women Earn, The Less Healthy They Feel.” It’s not that these women are actually unhealthy, just that they fail to find time to dedicate to their health, especially when it comes to finding time to see a doctor – 48% said they could not see a doctor due to workload. And women who are in high-powered roles find it challenging to find time to exercise – 25% had not participated in any kind of physical exercise in the last month.

As I’ve moved up in the work world to have more responsibility, I find it much more challenging to make time for health. I’ve never been a healthy person, so I’m not the ideal sample, but to perform my job well I should wake up at 6am or earlier and be on a 7:30 train to arrive at work, stay at work until 7 and – I should – attend after work networking events, to return home late in the evening. This is overwhelming to me and I don’t even have children or other responsibilities. I’m trying now to get exercise in by having a personal trainer come to my apartment at 6am three days a week, to make me work out for an hour. But that doesn’t work well when I’m falling asleep at midnight and I need eight hours of sleep a night to function. And my diet, albeit an improvement over what I ate in my 20s, is still hit or miss. Sometimes I’ll go to bed having not eaten enough calories for the day which leads to binge eating the next day. It’s a horrible cycle.

I would assume this is just as hard for men, so the study of women only is an interesting one. There are other reports which show that men often do less housework, especially which children, so women are often more busy due to managing both household responsibilities and work. That may be why this study about women’s health is worth an HBR article.

The other thing that isn’t mentioned, however, is that women generally have more medical concerns than men, and more medical visits required just to maintain their health. I don’t have any idea how a woman finds time to see a doctor over any fertility issues – though I guess I may have to figure that out over the next year or so. As a female executive, I think there is a larger fear that every moment out of the office, every doctor’s appointment, every hour not focused on the job, will be a huge ding against one’s record. Men don’t have to worry about that (typically.) And when the majority of senior leaders in a company are men, such topics don’t come up until you have to have awkward conversations — “I’m trying to get pregnant but I can’t get pregnant so I need to take some time to go to a doctor a few times every month.” Who wants to have that conversation with their boss?

But, beyond this, it’s sad that women in leadership roles feel so unhealthy. What is wealth and success if we don’t have our health?

 

 

Do I Choose to be Stressed?

A friend of mine, a stay-at-home mother who is married to an engineer who is likely earning over $200k a year, has told me to stop making choices that make me so stressed. I should go to a mindfulness class, she says, as this helped her resolve the majority of her own anxieties. They aren’t rich by any means for this area, but they do have a small condo that the husband’s parents purchased and they are renting the unit from them. I agree with her that I put myself in stressful situations and even when I don’t I have a tendency to stress about every little thing, but it’s hard to have a conversation with her about the stress I feel about money and the ability to live a comfortable life. I hear my mother’s voice, someone who doesn’t really want to understand money or retirement savings, but who just assumes it will all work out. And maybe it will for her. And maybe it will for me. But maybe not.

In the case of my life, I just don’t see it all magically working out. I have to make it work. And,  yes, that is stressful. I am literally making the choice between jobs that will pay over $150k and jobs that would pay $60k — and the crazy thing is it’s easier to get hired in the former right now. Those well-paid jobs come with a heaping dose of responsibility and the corresponding stress.

Here I am, one month from turning 32, and — this is the year I’ll get married and when I want to try to have children. I know having children will be challenging due to my health issues, and I also know that stress can contribute to infertility and miscarriages. I need to focus on being healthy and stress-free right now, but that’s hard to do when I am staring down these startup jobs that I’ll always feel under-qualified for and incapable of any sustained success. And just logistically these companies don’t have paid leave for maternity or anything, so I’d basically have to quit when I have a kid, if I have a kid. Which really sucks since I’m currently the breadwinner (well, at least prior to getting the axe!) I don’t know how I can make this work. It works FINE now – living in a one bedroom apartment and being ok with having to move if our rent goes up too much… but I can’t do this with kids. I mean, people DO do this with kids. But if I’m stressed now… then I can’t imagine how I’d feel then. And I don’t want to be a stressed out mother around my future children.

Today, I’m trying to decide whether to do COBRA for health insurance or to purchase it on my own. Neither option is great. For $550 a month I can have a $1500 deductible plan… or I can buy my own and do something like $350 a month for a $5000 deductible. In either case, it’s just a catastrophic plan and any other health needs… like… pregnancy stuff… wouldn’t be covered (well, it would go towards that impossibly high deductible or not at all.) My fiance doesn’t have insurance through work so it’s not like I’ll be better off when married. We’ll just be paying more in tax (if we’re both working) as our big reward for tying the knot.

I know I’m fortunate to even have these problems… but the next few years of my life are legitimately terrifying. These are the years when I either become a mother OR become a woman who never has kids. Either is a major, major life-defining situation. I want kids, even though I’ll never feel ready. I don’t want to watch my 30s go by and have just let work become the only thing that matters in life. And I’m the type of person that is all or nothing — it’s so hard for me to be just enough, but not too much, especially when in the startup world the general unspoken agreement is that you should work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week (give or take.)

Becoming a contractor would be ideal – for the flexibility – but then I’ll really have to deal with the health insurance situation… I mean, after rent, health insurance, and car insurance … that’s about $1800 a month right now. I just don’t think I can – for the long term – do the consultant thing. I think, even though the stability kills my drive, I need it. I just don’t know WHAT to do. It’s not like I can bring up the whole “hey… so I may get pregnant in the next year or two… and also, I may need to take crazy hormones and take time off of work in order to get pregnant because my body doesn’t work so can I negotiate some of flexibility into this contract or you know what just go hire some woman who doesn’t want kids or who already has them at least or just someone who probably won’t have substantial medical issues trying to get pregnant.”

My friend would tell me that I shouldn’t be stressing over this. But, I guess, I would want to ask her if she’d be stressed if she didn’t have a stable place to live and a husband with such a well-paid, high-stress career. She says she doesn’t care about money but I know she likes nice things — she has good taste — and I know she says she doesn’t really care about money because that would be too stressful, but that’s because at this point, perhaps, she doesn’t have to care, or she chooses not to think about it or be involved in her financial future.

There really isn’t anyone I know who is in a similar situation either — my friends here (the female ones) are either married and stay-at-home mothers or part-time self-employed types with husbands who have high-paid tech jobs, or they’re in a situation where they’re making about the same as their significant others and will probably leave the area since their careers don’t provide the salaries needed to last here. I don’t relate to (or have any friends to people who are) powerful women who have high-paid jobs. I mean, I’m not that type, I’m just faking it… for now. I really want to just tell these companies I’m interviewing for all the reasons they shouldn’t hire me… because I’m so tired of being a good interviewer but then feeling like I just don’t know what to do or how to do it when I start – or especially after I get through the few things I know how to do… and am left with a whole bunch of “figure it out” that never goes so well when I’m in charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Goes On and On and On…

It’s pretty damn depressing when you get to that point in life (i.e. your early 30s) where you go from thinking one day you’ll do something big (creative or otherwise) and worthy of at least a Wikipedia page – and then you look around and realize that suddenly your future greatness never happened and your life is going to be just as normal as the next person’s – at best.

Culturally, we raise our children to think they’re special. Their art project deserves to win a statewide contest and be featured in the local newspaper. Being the lead in a school play is the end-all-be-all of importance for one’s happiness and self worth. Life is about being impressive and unique. Well,  at least that’s the way my parents raised me. And I’m sure feeling the effects of it more than ever now.

I’m definitely as a turning point in my life – one where I have a choice to really stop what it is I’m doing and make a significant, strategic or haphazard change – to grasp at whatever sort of inner psyche voice is willing to talk at me to produce some form of a future that makes sense. I know the entire career I’ve somehow got myself into – while lucrative and actually quite stable if I were good at it – is not right. But then I think I’m just lazy and no career will ever be right and I just need to, you know, suck it up until I’m old enough to retire – and then I’ll be bored because I actually like working.

Things I think I’d like to do and why I haven’t done them yet…

  • Psychologist / career counselor — I enjoy helping other people plan their lives and giving advice. But I don’t know if I’d want to do that for a living, or if I should just stick to trying to be a good friend to a few select individuals who occasionally ask for advice. The amount of schooling required to switch to this career is immense and I’m so far behind now it would be challenging to make such a change, especially if I’m not 100% sure that I’d be happy in this field… which I’m not.
  • UX designer — this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, as in 8+ years. There are many different ways into the field but I am convinced graduate school is the best way to transition at this point. I daydream about studying design but then I also worry about it being too limited — many UX designers have to basically listen to non-designer managers tell them what to do, and the entire experience is frustrating and soul-sucking. Plus, UX designers don’t only get to do the fun strategic design work, but they also have to create hundreds of pages of detailed wireframes. I’m not the best when it comes to details or sticking up for my points when someone else says I’m wrong. I worry this dream career would be more like a nightmare.
  • Teacher — I don’t think I have the patience for teaching, but I do like the idea of feeling like I’m actually doing something meaningful in my life. The reason why this is even on the list is that I really enjoy helping people, and I know if I could feel useful everyday I’d be much happier.
  • Writer — the whole journalism thing didn’t work out… getting scoops was so stressful I ended up just getting myself scoops of ice cream instead. Social anxiety also gets in the way of interviewing random people for your stories, and I never could come up with my own story ideas anyway. Writing a novel is appealing but I’m terrible at plot and dialogue, so that’s a no go. Professional blogging is a thought, but a bad thought, as I can’t even keep up with writing in this blog and I only post when I’m feeling inspired (i.e. frustrated.) I’ve received a number of offers for sponsored posts on this blog, but I don’t want to turn this into that type of a site. If anyone actually reads this blog still — well, they know that it’s not about trying to sell crap.
  • Photographer — I enjoy photography but I don’t know how to do it correctly – even though I invested in a fancy camera a few years ago. Being a photographer is a huge investment and it also means that you have to basically give up your entire life to the trade. Wedding photographers are busy all weekend every weekend, especially in the nicer months. Photojournalists travel the world and rarely see their own bed. I think I’m looking for a job in my “old age” with more flexibility, not less.
  • Film editor – I often think this would have been an idea job. I enjoy telling stories and taking stories and putting them together. But to be a film editor I’d have to first learn how to use the latest tools, then start at the very bottom, and who knows if I could ever move up. I have a friend who does editing in LA and she seems to like it but she works long hours and the pay is not good. There are so many people who want to be film editors that the agencies that do this can basically screw people over. But really, I don’t want to move to los angeles, so getting a job in film editing would be quite challenging in most other cities.
  • Character Animator — if I could learn to create animations that would be pretty cool… but I don’t think I’m talented enough to do the work that I’d actually want to do.
  • Mother — not that being a full time mother is actually possible, but I’d like to do this for a little while. Maybe by the time I get done dealing with a screaming baby 24/7 I’ll be ready to go back to the corporate world doing just about anything.

Well – those seem to be my options – or I can just stay where I am now, career-wise, and try to focus on the parts of it that I like. I’ve just concluded that I need a job which is based on projects that have a certain timeframe so there is a sense of natural momentum and also a good feeling of being DONE with something before moving on to the next thing. I’m not good at the type of job that is never, ever done (well until you quit or get fired) — even your best results are just temporary. I wish I went into film or some more creative field where you worked on projects one at a time. I need that sense of completion. After 6-12 months I start to feel restless, which isn’t healthy or positive for my current career. I need to focus and just pretend to be someone else for a while – and to figure out what it is I’m doing next – because I have about two years before my first child (knock on wood) and I need to have my shit together by then.

Financial Independence – What it Looks Like to You

When one is on the road to wealth, the dream of financial independence lingers in the distance. Financial Independence means different things to each person. For some it may mean being able to take year-long luxury vacations around the globe and returning home to a mansion. For others, just being able to live a modest lifestyle and not have to work in order to afford it is enough.

I ran into this interesting article discussing financial independence.It posed a few questions which help paint a clearer picture of what this dream would really be like:

  • What time would you wake up?
  • Would you be awakened by an alarm clock or by your body’s clock?
  • Once you arose, what would you do first? Second?
  • When and what would you eat?
  • What would be the main activity of your day?
  • How would you spend the evening?
  • What would determine when you went to bed?
  • What would your home look like?
  • What kind of vehicles would be a part of this typical day?

I thought I’d take a stab at answering the questions, as they probably will help guide in my determining my ideal lifestyle with or without said financial independence. How would you answer these questions?

What time would I wake up?
Probably 8 or 9am.

Would you be awakened by an alarm clock or by your body’s clock?
Body’s clock. I hate alarm clocks.

Once you arose, what would you do first? Second?
I don’t know. If I don’t have work to go to, I tend to just waste time. I’d probably be bored very quickly. I’d likely waste away my days unless I had a project to work on… like work.

When and what would you eat?
If I had “luxury” financial independence, I’d have a cook who would make me healthy delicious fresh food everyday. I’d also be a better cook because I’d have a nice kitchen and a maid who would clean up after the mess I make. I’d frequently dine out – sometimes at fancy places but mostly at modest restaurants. I’d try to eat healthy. I’d have a personal trainer.

What would be the main activity of your day?
Well… other than sleeping and watching television, which would get old fast, I’d want to be working. Maybe I’d take classes. If was wealthy I’d want to just spend my life learning. I’d probably take a bunch of psychology, art and writing classes. Maybe I’d just get a bunch of master’s degrees. I’d spend a decent amount of time floating around my pool. I’d travel and take lots of road trips across the country.

How would you spend the evening?
Cuddling at home with my boyfriend, watching movies, taking relaxing baths in a luxury bathroom that I designed. Sleeping.

What would determine when you went to bed?
What I was tired. It would usually be pretty late. I’d be doing something creative at night and fall asleep whenever, knowing I didn’t have to wake up at any set time in the morning (unless I had class.)

What would your home look like?
It would be in a neighborhood where I had friends who lived close by, who were also financially independent or had more flexible lifestyles. It wouldn’t be giant, but it would have a sizable yard with a private pool (optional) and enough room for entertaining and having guests. I would personally design my own unique kitchen and bathroom. I’d have a robot that does my laundry and folds/hangs my clothes!

What kind of vehicles would be a part of this typical day?
I’m fine driving the basic honda/toyota type car. If I was the rich kind of financially independent, I might buy a Tesla. But I’d be too scared to drive it because I tend to bump into inanimate objects. Maybe I’d splurge on a Lexus or something. I don’t need a Ferrari.

What is most interesting about this analysis is that clearly I’d be massively bored if I was financially independent. I like to work. In fact, I can’t imagine ever retiring. Still, I want to achieve financial independence. To me, financial independence is $2M in networth, or $1M with a modest lifestyle in one’s 30s/40s that is growing to $2M. It isn’t some super fancy lifestyle. And even if I was financially independent, I’d want to work. I would just want more flexibility in deciding where and when I work. And I’d also want to have the opportunity to take more classes and change careers frequently, not caring about taking lower level jobs to be learning something new all the time. Hmm.

Nothing Works Out Like You’ve Planned

The word of the day is “resilience” – meaning dealing with the shit life throws your way, because no matter your best efforts the, ahem, shit will be thrown. Being able to handle whatever the day has in store is the most important skill there is in surviving adulthood. Even the smartest, most talented people have setbacks. It’s up to us to remember that it’s those setbacks that make us stronger over the long term.

Relatedly, there are a number of reasons why I’m struggling significantly with my job right now. At the end of the day I manage to get hired for positions I’m not qualified for — largely because the people who are qualified for them are already in other jobs that come with a dose of sanity or at least a level of respect. In hindsight, I’m not qualified for much of anything, but I keep managing to convince people otherwise — or at least that I’m a good fit to clog up the hole for a while until budgets expand and I can be replaced.

It’s frustrating and not sustainable. Money isn’t everything. So what if I won’t make it to $2M or even $1M? I’ll figure it out. While I’m not the type that likes to work all the time around the clock I’m still the type that likes to work. I can’t see ever retiring without finding opportunities to earn a little income on the side. And if I do have kids, my bf and I will just figure it out. It isn’t worth killing myself over to get there.

I’m still upset about the whole situation — because there are parts of my job and the people I work with that I really like. I still go back to envisioning all that someone in my role can do for the company in a short amount of time, if I were actually good at my job. I see the pieces of what needs to be done but I don’t know how to get there. And, quite frankly, I’m a terrible manager and leader. This isn’t a pity party — leaders are organized and good project managers. I’m definitely creative and collaborative but I’m not the type who will ever be talented at this thing they call management. And you know what? I’m ok with that. I mean, it still makes me queasy to think I’ve come this far and it’s the furthest I can go – but it’s good to accept the situation for what it is.

Tenacity and Intellect, the Perfect Combo

For the longest time, I believed that people were either smart or not smart. Either you could easily figure out how to do something or it just wasn’t meant for you. Now, to some extent, that’s true, as some people find certain things easier than others naturally. But one of the things I’ve come to appreciate in life today is that intellect only gets you so far – it’s tenacity that gets you the other however many miles you need to go. But everyone can get there as long you try hard enough.

It has been interesting getting to know my friend better over the last year as he has been preparing for a major exam for graduate school. The amount of focused studying, both self-study and via outside tutors, he put into the exam, showed me how even for a very smart person, the amount of practice required to get a great score takes a lot of work. In fact, even after taking the exam once and scoring very well, but apparently not quite as high as he wanted, he went back to the books, studied even harder, and walked away with one of the best scores you can get on his second try.

Most of my anxiety stems from not knowing how to handle being challenged. When I was a young child, I loved math, doing multiplication workbooks over dinners out waiting for the food to be served in first grade and probably kindergarten. I loved it when it came easy. Then it got harder and I gave up too quickly. My father would get frustrated at me for not understanding things fast enough. I grew distracted and antsy and sad that I couldn’t just get everything as easily as I once did. I gave up way too soon. I gave up because I figured most things in school were irrelevant to my life.

Fast forward X # of years and – I’m still that person who gives up too easily. Who freaks out over every minor imperfection. I’ve never actually witnessed the work it takes to succeed at the highest levels of intellectual performance. And for everyone, even the most intelligent people out there, it takes work. But it’s the work, and the efficiency of that work, that defines their intellect. Focus (to keep attention on one problem until it is solved, even if it has multiple steps), creativity (the ability to think outside the box for answers to problems that are trick questions or don’t have obvious answers), processing power (how fast do you compute?) and memory (how well do you store and receive information) and determination (how quickly do you give up when it gets hard?) are the five core tenants of intellect, IMO. As a person with ADHD I struggle with all except creativity. Every person can become smart is they can fix those four tenants of themselves. Not everyone will be Einstein but we can all get good scores on exams, or be loved by our colleagues for the work we produce, if we try hard enough.

I’m thankful for being able to get to know this friend better over the past year, as his refusal to give up on what he wants, and ultimately walking away with a major victory en-route to the prize, has shown me the truth about being the best person you can be. In 2015, I want to be the best person I can be. I feel inspired. And I know this is going to be a trying but great year.

 

Hello 2015! Goodbye 2014. And so on…

It has been one hell of a year. Accounting for all that has happened, no wonder I feel mildly overwhelmed. As life speeds ahead, I’m grateful for this one day a year to stop and reflect on how much changes in the course of 365 days. A lot, to say the least.

I’m trying to become a more mellow person, but that’s a struggle. Whatever seems massively important today, unless it has to do with your loved ones or close friends, isn’t really that important at all in the grand scheme of things. When I care too much about everything, that’s when shit starts to hit the fan. Work is work, love is love, and the two should never be accidentally interchanged. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t work hard and get shit done, but the amount of stress I create for myself on this impossible quest to perfection, and the ultimate downfall of such anxiety, is not worth it and it doesn’t help anyone.

In 2015, I’d like, more than anything, to manage a solid and productive year at my current job. This will not only enable me to reach or at least get near my 2015 financial goal of $400k networth (up from $300k today), but it will also provide me with the confidence I need to be highly employable going forward, with a playbook to use which can be followed in any role I take, at least within my specific type of position and industry. It’s creating the playbook that’s hard, especially when you have to learn from trial and error.

In my last opportunity, I realize now that a lot of the challenges there were not my fault. I didn’t make the right plays, for sure, but sometimes young companies have issues beyond what a marketing or sales person can help. Lesson learned there is to never take a job unless I believe 100% in the product and also know there’s a large pain point it is solving.

That’s not to say anything is going to come easy in 2015. I am in a much better situation, but some of the realities are the same as the last and I want to make sure not to make the same mistakes. While I don’t want every year of my life to be dedicated to my career and working long hours, I think 2015 is the year to do it. I don’t have kids yet (but hopefully will soon) and outside of a stable relationship with my boyfriend of nearly nine years, I don’t have much of a social life to speak of, so I might as well invest my 2015 into, as calmly as possible, kicking ass at my job. (And accepting help from the right people who can actually GSD. I.e. hiring smart and making decisions not based solely on resume but on my gut.)

I’m also accepting that there are some things I’m good at and some things I’m not so good at — and I want to forget about that and try my very best to see what I’m truly capable of — if that isn’t good enough for this role or this type of role then, well, I need to figure something else out. I’m hoping that’s not the case, but we’ll see. The difference this time around is that I want to push myself to do whatever it takes to succeed. It is going to be a struggle every step of the way, but what good taste of victory isn’t?

As a working professional, I’m not allowed to be scared, but I am, but I’m also reminding myself that it isn’t worth being scared over succeeding or failing in a job as long as you believe you’ve actually done your best (and you have enough of an emergency fund in the bank to help you through whatever transition needed should you falter.) I have to wake up every morning and ask myself — what needs to get done today? And I need to get that done. Period. No getting distracting on projects that may help the bigger picture but aren’t contributing to your core objective. To succeed at work, you have to be selfish. You have to learn to say “no” a lot. And you have to get results so people trust that when you say no, it’s for good reason.

Outside of work, I hope 2015 will be an exciting year on the personal front. It should be the year my boyfriend proposes to me, which I’m actually excited about given we’re pretty much married at the moment and there is no other person I’d rather spend the rest of m life with. What I have learned about myself is that – while I thought I’d want to marry someone who is career-minded and well-traveled, for many adventures throughout the next however many years of my life, I’m actually much more of a homebody who prefers stability in my relationship. That’s not to say we don’t take trips on occasion, but we’ve yet to travel abroad with each other (my Southeast Asia trip was with a high school friend, not with him) and that’s ok. I’ve discovered that the value of a relationship is having someone to come home to at night, to share a meal with, to watch a movie or tv series with, to cuddle with and wake up next to in the morning. And, of course, to raise a family with when the time is right. All of the other excitement can be obtained outside of a relationship in the form of individual adventures and sharing time with good friends.

2014 has also been a year of seeing my parents go through their own transitions. My mother turned 60, my father, in his 60s, still has terminal cancer, yet is doing miraculously well, #knockonwood, and they’ve been remodeling all of the bathrooms in their home, considering purchasing a condo in Florida to spend the long winters, and surprisingly enough have not killed each other on a series of road trips across their part of the country. I have to remind myself often that I’m now old, and so are they. I mean, 60 isn’t that old necessarily, but 60 year olds are grandparent age, and neither I or my sister have had a child yet, so they’re occupying themselves with a variety of other engagements. But it is strange, how fast life goes, and remembering your parents when you were young, and knowing your time with them, even without accident, is limited. Living far away, if you see them twice a year, for 30 more years, that’s even just 60 more times to say hello and goodbye to the people who made you, and that’s a terrifying thought, no matter how many times they drive you to want to jump off a bridge on each visit.

I hope that 2015 is filled with success, love, and friendships. My resolutions are to go to the gym every weekday (or walk at least one hour with commute), to NOT pig out, binging on crap food just because it is the only thing that helps combat my terrible anxiety, to focus on the primary success metric on my job and relentlessly show results to my boss and team so they can trust me and I can expand to do the things I enjoy most while still delivering unprecedented results, and to spend reasonable amounts of quality time with my family who are across the country, not just my parents, but my cousins, grandparent, and sister. I also want to get rid of tons of shit and live a simpler life.

Finally, my New Years resolution, which is crazy, is that I don’t want to buy anything (other than perhaps a new suit and coat) between now and June 2015, as my focus is on losing weight and saving money. I want to have my 401k and HSA maxed out by March ($20k), following by investing in a post-tax IRA ($5.5k) and manage to save another ~40k-75k through some serious frugality over the year. I can’t focus on that though, as it distracts me from what gets me there, being successful at my job, and growing into an actual executive who looks nothing like the me prior to 2014. Bring it on 2015, I might not be ready for you, but let’s make it happen.

 

Surprise, Surprise – it’s been a good week

I’ve been really hard on myself at work these past couple of weeks. One of my direct reports reminded me today that I should be proud of how much I’ve accomplished in just the eight-ish weeks I’ve been at the company. Putting this perspective on things made me smile. Of course, I could do more. Of course, I could be better. But work isn’t about perfection. It’s about GSD and learning from your mistakes.

Things are starting to come together. Don’t get me wrong, I have more work on my plate now than I did a week ago, and the pile of to do list doesn’t show signs of stopping. But I’m starting to get a handle on what I need to do to be successful. I’m still not sure if I can do it, but I do my best work when I know what I need to do and can focus on getting it done. When I’m not clear about the steps to achieve my goals is when I flounder. I need to just pick what to do and do it. Getting something done is much better than freezing out of uncertainty, which tends to be my schtick. Well, schtick no more.

I also am so happy that my talented friend is jumping in and committing more contract hours to helping out. He’s just a machine (in a good way.) I’m trying to get over this stupid inferiority complex where I have this deep rooted fear of bringing in people who are smarter than me because people will wonder why I’m on staff in the first place. The reality is that smart leaders hire people who are smarter than they are. I still wish I could be great at everything but that’s not realistic. It’s better to show that I can effectively bring in smart people to get the job done well.

Relatedly, I had a really good conversation with one of my direct reporters today. They have a lot to offer and I need to learn to effectively manage and nurture their potential. If I can get my shit together next year can be really good. I’m glad that I’m not expected to hire a giant team. I can focus on a few key people and try to be a good leader. That means very different things to each employee/consultant. Ultimately a good leader provides clear direction and isn’t flaky on their decisions. Once the leader commits to something they follow through with it unless they have a really good reason to change course. Make a decision, get shit done, learn from said shit, rinse & repeat, repeat, repeat, suds and all.

There is so much more I have to do to become an effective leader. I’m still terrible at communication. Somehow everything I say comes across as defensive or overly critical… unless I just don’t say anything at all. It’s really frustrating that every word that comes out of my mouth is, well, wrong, if there is such a thing as ones words being wrong. I tend to earn trust and respect via my work so people overlook my inability to communicate, but it’s going to hold me back a lot as I try to move up the corporate ladder.

A big part of what I need to work on is listening. With ADHD it is a bad habit to talk out of turn and blurt out things that I am thinking. The real reason I do that is twofold – one, because I tend to forget what I’m about to say and want to get it out before I do, and secondly, moreso, because I don’t know how to actually organically enter into a conversation, say what I have to say, and exit at the right point, without it being too late to talk about what we were talking about a few minutes earlier. Either I’m butting into a conversation too soon or I’m going back to something that everyone stopped talking about once they’ve moved on to the next topic. It’s really frustrating and embarrassing.

I wish I could be one of those people who everyone else just wanted to listen to, because everything I said was stated so eloquently that who would want to interrupt? There is someone at my company who is really good at that, and is equally as frustrated at my foot in mount disease, which I’m trying to curb significantly around them to avoid destroying the relationship. I admire their ability to just say the right things at the right time. I might not always agree with their ideas (actually most of the time I do) but I’m talking more about how they present themselves and their words.

If only I could just copy their demeanor and communications style, but it isn’t quite so easy. In lieu of giving up on being an executive I need to fix this huge challenge of mine. The other option is that I change course and, I don’t know, become a best-selling novelist, or a beach bum in a third world country. You know, at least there are options.