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Bullet Train

When Passion Gets Derailed

Passion is a bullet train, speeding down a track that you think you know all too well.  Your train is well supplied, brimming with the resources and technology needed to keep it going at full speed.  The path is seemingly predictable, as passion doesn’t deviate from its target, so too does a train not derail from its track.

However, what your train never sees coming, whether because of its velocity or its inherent belief that it can’t be stopped, is the one thing that will always stop it.  For a train, that one thing can be any number of problems or objects, from a mechanical failure to a collision.  Similarly, the derailment of passion can be caused by any number of problems, but they all result in the same endings: disappointment, pain, and disorientation.

My train was derailed last Friday, when I resigned from an organization that I had stuck by for 3 years.  Resigning from any position with that type of tenure is difficult, but resigning from a position that was fueled by passion and love for the organization is even worse.  My derailment began with not being promoted within the organization, despite my passion and its physical embodiments.  Tenure seemed not to matter, nor hard work; being the first one to arrive and the last one to leave meant nothing in this environment.  My plans and ideas, putting pen to paper to express what my passion meant, carried no weight.  My references and what others could say about the quality of my work, my determination, and my accomplishments had no impact.  In essence, my derailment was laid out ahead of me, and despite my best preparations, there was no way to avoid the conclusion.

Now of course there were mistakes of my own.  Did I throw too much coal in the engine?  At times, yes, and I let my intensity get the better of me.  Were my dreams of what the destination looked like too grandiose?  Perhaps, and so my ideas may have been perceived as unattainable or unrealistic.  And while I recognize these shortcomings, I do not credit them solely with my downfall; rather I see them as just a little rust on the wheels, issues I didn’t see until after the crash.

Maybe more importantly, the derailment occurred because the track was broken from the beginning.  Having been with the organization since freshmen year and visualizing the destination, I could never have foreseen the problems and issues that would occur years down the line.  By the time I realized the problems were there, it was too late to divert the train.  My fate had been sealed.

So what’s the lesson here?  To speed down the tracks slower or maybe get a different mode of transportation?  I don’t believe that will solve the problem.  In fact, I truly believe that passionate people get the most done when they are speeding down their defined track.  When everything is working as it should, they are able to cruise along and meet every deliverable, create fresh ideas, and add value at every twist and turn.  Some people will get hurt, as I have, and it will take time to redirect my passion into something else.  At this point, that’s all I can do; I can’t afford to just lay by the side of the track.

All in all, I don’t regret having spent the time that I did with this organization.  I know it’s in good hands with a leader who shares my vision and will be around long after I’m gone.  I have many other opportunities to pour my heart and soul into.  I keep the company of great friends from that organization.  However, I will not forgive nor forget what those at the top did to put me in this situation.  In addition, I can’t say that I will be at the same level of happiness working on anything else, not for a long time anyways.  And despite my best intentions, I don’t know if my new “bullet train of passion” will ever be as fast or as sleek running on a different track.  I just don’t know, at least not until I reach my destination.

Entering a New Role, Taking that First Step

“I shouldn’t be nervous at all.  I’ve done this half a dozen times”, I say to myself as I enter Two Chatham Center, home to the Pittsburgh based AccessData, a Broadridge company.  I made my way into the office, where I greeted my fellow interns and my supervisor with a bright smile on my face but a knot in my stomach.  This was to be my next internship for around four months (or longer) and even after having several internships and part-time jobs before now, I was still uneasy.  For some reason, the foray into an unfamiliar office environment, with little knowledge of the company, the culture, and the people, still unsettles me.  What is even more bizarre is that I knew I had nothing to be worried about: I had obviously interviewed well, beat out the best of the best candidates to get to this point, and demonstrated that I match the “type” any company looks for in a qualified, outstanding employee.  Maybe I’m concerned other employees won’t like me.  Perhaps I’m concerned I won’t perform to the level expected of me in my new role.  With all these reasons to doubt myself, it can be difficult to enter a new job with a positive attitude, and although I masked my nervousness well, these thoughts still plagued my mind like a swarm of pesky flies.

It’s now one week later and I can definitively say (as I knew was the case all along) that I had nothing to worry about.  Not only were all of my colleagues welcoming and supportive of me and the other new interns but our supervisor did everything possible to settle us into our new roles with the least amount of friction.  I felt like a valuable part of the team right from the beginning, and by the end of the week I had the confidence to know that I can take on this job with the can-do spirit that I’ve come to hone through my past experiences.

So why was I at all nervous?  If you’re anything like me, you subconsciously ask yourself questions at an almost breathtaking speed, where as soon as you’ve settled one thought, another one pops up to take its place.  And while I can’t necessarily stop the questions from coming to a head, I can take some managed steps to mitigate the impending tension (or, in other words, calm down).  First, I always have positive attitude when I enter a new company.  Even if you’re masking some insecurity, a friendly demeanor will undoubtedly make everyone around you more comfortable and receptive to a new presence in the office, and may even initiate fast friendships.  Second.  I learn as many names as I can.  One of the topics in Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People (my review can be found here) is that learning people’s names goes a long way to showing you respect and care enough about your colleagues to remember a vital piece of information about them, and it may make conversation or asking for help go more smoothly (instead of saying “hey you!”)  Finally, I believe that the most important trait to have is a can-do spirit.  Having the mindset to always try your best at a new task or perform to the best of your ability in your new role will always garner more respect than saying “I can’t do it.”  We show appreciation and respect for our new colleagues, who were often times in the same positions as us, when we roll up our sleeves and say “Yes we can”, even when the opportunity for failure exists.

As I continue down my career path, I know that I’ll have to enter many new offices with the same thoughts and uneasy feelings as I had experienced a week ago.  But following my plan and staying true to what I do best, I’m sure I can meet that challenge and succeed.

 

The Importance of a Work/Life Balance

This past week was our class’ spring break week, which for most people included gallivanting around Europe to exotic and historic destinations, maybe sipping some wine (or downing far worse), taking enough selfies and pictures of random buildings to fill 3 IPhones of storage, and of course contracting foreign diseases and bringing them back to London for me to sample, (thanks).  However, I wasn’t so “lucky” in my spring break plans, for I worked on Saturday of the week before last, in addition to Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at my internship.

 

Now before there are any judgements made, just know that I am in no way bitter about working over last week and that I actually enjoyed working over this time, since I was able to do some more unique tasks like supervising another intern and conducting site visits of other hotels and event spaces.  These are jobs I wouldn’t have had if I were to be found sitting on the beach in Spain or skiing in the Swiss Alps, and the point I’m trying to make is that I wanted to work because that is the balance I was looking for over my spring break.  I still had Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off to enjoy myself and relax from the hustle and bustle of the past 6 weeks, but I didn’t slow down so much that it would have been difficult to get back into the swing of things.  That’s the way a lot of people operate and it’s important to find the work/life balance that fits you.

 

The importance of a work/life balance cannot be understated and there are benefits and detriments of favoring one over the other.  The Mental Health Foundation of the United Kingdom estimates that 3 out of every 10 employees will encounter a mental health issue in any given year due to work-related stress.  At the same time, an article from the Harvard Business Review sets up a good debate between advocates of more “work” and advocates of more “life”, noting that not all employees are the same and some actually “feed off the urgency of the organization” more than others, leading to increased productivity and happiness for those individuals.

 

I don’t want to justify one lifestyle over any other because everyone is different, just as every job and every life lived is different, and prescribing one specific schedule that will work for everyone just isn’t possible.  At this stage in my life, I’m in the mindset that if I’m willing and able to work, and that I can gain something from the experience, then I will take that opportunity and dedicate that time to the job.  While that mindset doesn’t characterize all of my decisions concerning how I use my time (I do like to have fun on occasion), it’s more often than not the framework for how I can accomplish my goals.

 

But overall, I think I have the right work/life balance for a study abroad experience, especially if I include my education into the work side of the balance.  The important thing is for each and every one of us to determine what our own balance is, and fully commit ourselves to honoring that determination.

 

p.s. Just to prove that I did something else besides work last week, the featured picture is taken from the tour of Westminster Abbey I did just last Saturday.  It was astounding.

 

Check out these links for more information on work/life balance (used above in my blog):

 

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/w/work-life-balance

 

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/work-life-is-productivity-in-the-balance