Have you ever experienced a point in life where everything in and around you falls apart and every door you knock on trying to open it, is closed? Yep, and you just stand there scratching your head asking yourself WTF? After all your plans, perspectives, thoughts turn into rubble you stand in the middle of it all buck naked and don’t know what to do?
Eventually you start picking up the pieces to build something new out of it and it turns out the new thing is better by miles than the old one. Normally you would refer to those situations as life changing moments, I prefer to call them perspective changing moments. So far I’ve encountered two such moments, where the universe or karma or whatever you might call it was determined to teach me a lesson.
The Art of Failing
Till a certain moment in my life term falling or failing didn’t exist in my personal dictionary. Not sure if it was luck or something but everything was going according to the plan I had in my head. OK there were ups and downs but not very major. Grades at school were good, I had my hobbies, eventually got accepted to the Journalism and International Relations faculties at University in Krakow, found a partner, got a cool job, was hanging out with friends and could explore my travel passion. All like a beautiful meadow on a sunny cloudless day full with flowers and unicorns throwing up rainbow. Thought that it will go like this forever that there is absolutely nothing that could disturb this idyllic existence. Apparently not. Geez how naïve I was.
At some point I’ve made the decision to move to Warsaw. It came at the right point as my partner got a job there and I also needed a change in my career. Had this weird feeling and something in the back of my head was telling me that the move was a bad decision. I silenced that voice by convincing myself that everything will be OK. Found a job in Warsaw but it wasn’t what I expected. Thought, fine it’s temporary, at least I have a job and can work on my long term goal. Unfortunately, fate was throwing stones under my feet. The more I tried to push them aside the bigger and heavier the new stones got. Eventually my long term career goal went down the drain, the situation at home wasn’t perfect either, I started to look for a different job as the current one was driving me nuts but couldn’t find anything.
My own pride made the situation even worse. When people asked me if everything is OK my reply was that everything is perfect. I was afraid and ashamed to admit that things didn’t go the way I planned. Why? The thought of admitting that I’ve failed was making shivers run down my spine. Frankly speaking 2015 wasn’t a good year. Unfortunate situations were piling up, as well as all of those emotions related to anger, frustration, disappointment which made me feel incredibly miserable. Biggest hit came at the end of the year, as I lost my job. No wonder, with all of those thoughts running through my head like it was a Formula 1 Grand Prix my performance at work dropped… actually I would fire myself. I was left with nothing, no job, no perspectives even lost my hope, literally standing buck naked in the middle of a rubble.
Good news was that I still had family and friends. The year was coming to an end and I was spending New Year’s Eve with my two friends PK and RC. We were sitting in the kitchen watching how PK prepares some delicious food and then the questions came, hey Alice how are you these days? Man… there it was again pride… that was pushing me to say, ahhhh you know everything is hunky-dory. Not this time! I swallowed my pride and told the guys how things really look like. I’ve been unemployed for the past three months with no good job offers at hand, my savings are getting smaller and smaller and I’m quite desperate. Have to admit that letting all of my frustration out was quite cleansing. The Guys felt sorry for me and offered help. We spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking and discussing options on how I can get out of my difficult situation. Couple of days later a thought struck my mind. You failed… and did the world come to an end? No! You openly admitted that you’ve failed. Do your friends like you less? No! Does failure impact who you are? No! So what’s your problem? Yyyyy nothing? Exactly, so stop thinking that the whole world is against you, put your “I’m awesome” crown back on, find a job and come up with alternative plans for your future. You know what, it helped. I realised that shit happens and it’s up to me how I deal with it. Since then I’m not afraid nor ashamed to say out loud when things go pear-shaped.
I do ask for help if needed but most of all I’ve embraced failure. You might say, Alice you spoiled brat, there are bigger problems in the world than not having a good job. Agree, however it’s not about quantifying who’s problem is bigger or more significant as that depends on the individual. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and adopting a different perspective. I was neglecting the existence of failure in my life and when things didn’t go the way I planned I panicked and found myself in a situation I didn’t know how to approach.
My stupid pride didn’t help here as I was denying, and pretending that all is OK but it fact it wasn’t. I withdraw myself from social life thinking that friends will like me less. On top of that I felt like the worst criminal in human history because I wasted time making wrong decisions. What about now? Now I don’t have a problem anymore to stand up tall and say: yep I failed, happens, deal with it, try again only differently.
The Master and The Apprentice
This is a continuation to the story above. Perspective change helped, because come on if you want to change something how can you do it without changing your perspective or attitude. Things started to work out as I was simply embracing all what the universe was throwing at me. Left Warsaw, moved back to Krakow and not sure how that happened but one day the universe threw a job offer at me in the company I always wanted to work for. Can’t believe, they hired me… guess what, it turned out to be even better than I expected. One and half year later the universe struck again only this time in a very positive way. The company I work for has sent me for a contract to Hong Kong. Will save you the details on how to deal with relocation and grabbing opportunities for a different post. However, packed my bags and went. On the ground I’ve met my new Boss. By this time I had no clue that at the end of the contract he will be the one who changes my perspective by 180 degrees. Despite my Boss being open, helpful, understanding and extremely competent, he was the most demanding person I’ve ever worked with and for. He didn’t accept sloppy reporting, lack of supporting arguments or incomplete pieces of information. The first three months were a nightmare. I’ve constantly heard from him: not good enough, do it again, rewrite it, speak to more stakeholders to get their view, oh that piece of work is not on the level I’ve expected it to be, hmm I’m surprised that somebody with your intelligence doesn’t take notes. Right, what an *&^%$$£*&^ you might think. Nope, he was everything but an *&^%$$£*&^. He actually took time, when he had time 😛 to explain things to me, outline his expectations and give advice on how to approach different matters. My feeling by that time was something like, my Boss taking a cocktail shaker and throwing ingredients into it, those being: things I know so far, my expectations, my experience, his expectations, his experience, his knowledge, the unknown. Shake everything fiercely, pour the mixture into a glass and say: right ready, now go figure. I tried hard, maybe too hard and constantly felt that my good is not good enough until two situations which made the scales fall off my eyes.
1. Chat with my Boss about a summary. Man, I remember that conversation like it was yesterday. I presented to him the piece of work I did, he looked at me and said. That’s a good report showing the current state but it doesn’t tell me anything about the trends or the broader perspective. Look Alice, I know that you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and make your hands dirty to get the job done but that’s not everything. You are too focused on the tasks you do, so you don’t see the bigger picture. It means, you’re fabulous at executing but you have no idea why you are executing those pieces of work. Take a step back and think where your tasks fit, what is their purpose, what does it tell you, where does it lead you and most of all what’s the value of it.
I was sitting in that conference room and with every sentence he said, my jaw drop got bigger. After he finished the first thought I had was… damn, he is absolutely right.
2. Chat with one of the team members. That one I also remember like it was yesterday. I had the strange feeling that I’m not meeting any expectations. One day a programme manager from the team approached me, the conversations looked something like:
– Alice, you are doing a great job; wish you could stay with us longer.
– Huh?! Really, I have the feeling that I’m constantly failing and that I suck at what I do
– Did you hear any complaints from stakeholders about your job?
– … yyyy… no
– So why do you think you suck?
– Well, I have like 60 unread emails in my mailbox and I never had this before. I feel like I’m constantly behind
– Don’t be silly, unread emails are not a measurement of doing a good job or not. You changed the work environment, you have a different scope of responsibilities now. You need to re-baseline your expectations and don’t punish yourself that you have unread emails in your mailbox
I can’t believe that two so simple pieces’ of advices could do so many changes to my perception. After the three first months which closely resembled hell the remaining time in Hong Kong was extraordinary. Boss was still picky, but hey he had to, to teach me something. Imagine how my ego was boosted when after some time during one of the business calls my Boss said – Alice, you sound like me…
Why am I telling you all this? To brag with my awesomeness? No waylahhh. Thing is that sometimes the universe puts people, places and situations on our life journey that change the perspective completely. Funny thing is that only after some time you realise that you have encountered a perspective changing moment. After my contract in Hong Kong finished and I returned to Poland my life wasn’t the same anymore. I became more thoughtful when it comes to the decisions I take. I pause and think about the so what factor and where will a decision lead me, how the path I’m walking might change based on the decision I take. Most of all! What is the bigger picture 😀
Some time ago on one of my friend’s Facebook profile, I saw a statement, saying: if the version of you from 5 years ago could see you right now, she’d be so proud. That’s very true. If Alice from 5 years ago could see Alice right now she would probably say: halle-f*****g-lujah, good girl, keep going, high five! Well, with the help of some amazing people, a bit of luck and working through some pretty frustrating moments I did change from this angry, perfection obsessed, failure ashamed person to a happy, assertive but grateful kid that I think I always was.