A good fit

This post has nothing to do with banks or Wall Street.

I’ve come to realize that no matter how good you are, there’s something to be said for a good fit. Work is like sleeping. What do I mean? I’m fond of telling people that I can “fall sleep anywhere.”

When I was in the Air Force, we’d go on these Army exercises where we’d train where they did. This often involved spending weeks at a time in the field, staying up for several days and simulating what we’d do in real life contingencies. During those times, I quickly learned how to adapt my personal quirks to the most austere locales and discovered things like how a chem warfare suit bag can be a useful pillow (not the suit itself. Only with the suit inside the bag) and how the ground is more comfortable than a military stretcher to lay on after you’ve not slept for a while.

The point of this story? Being in a situation where you can fully stretch your wings takes some adaptation. No new situation comes with an instruction manual on how to do it perfectly. You move, shift, grow and see how it comes together. But this doesn’t solely rely on your own talent. One of the things I’ve figured out coming to different cohesive communities over the years is how much my own success relied on the embrace of others within the community to enable me the freedom to operate as I do. 

This owes not just to leadership, but the freedom to express yourself. When this doesn’t happen, the situation becomes a lot more difficult. Not every community boasts the openness of others, every culture is comprised of stakeholders who have a vested interest in things remaining as they are with as little change as possible.

None of this matters if you’re a true change agent. You’ll find the spots where you can, make the changes you can make when you can make them. Not change for change’s sake mind you, but finding the areas where you’ve been called upon to assess the situations and grow them, evolve and develop programs and do your best with what you’ve been given. 

Sometimes, a good fit isn’t always about shaving off the edges to make yourself fit, but pulling on the lines enough to reach your destination understanding that you might fall an inch or two short of your goal and that often, that’s just going to have to be good enough.

You have to make your own path

I have this habit of checking the ages of prominent people to see how old they are. Then I’ll count back to the number of years in the bio to when it seemed they were normal. If they’re a decade older, it usually makes me feel a bit better and then I feel like I still have time.

My entire professional career and personal life have been subconsciously driven in this manner for a bit too long. I’m admitting it here because I’ve read enough “go empowered millennials!” blogs to figure that I’m not the only one. But even if I were, it’s worth sharing anyway.

There was once a time when my professional life seemed to be skyrocketing. I was riding a fairly epic win streak and even when there were losses, it seemed bigger wins were emerging out of the woodwork. I thought I was doing everything right, I felt beyond empowered and like most things in life; it was just getting figured out.

I remember the first professional job I got out of college was funny. The minute I got a business card with a college on it and people found out I worked at the local community college, they all wanted my advice.

“Hey, my computer is doing this.”

“Can you build me a web site?”

“What do you think of all of this Facebook business? Should my daughter be on it who is 11?”

I laughed and thought that all of the attention was weird. I mean, I didn’t get any smarter when someone gave me an office and said “have at it.” But it went that way off and on again for a while. Before too long, people wanted to hear what I had to say or at least, acted like it. It was a pretty fun time.

I don’t really miss those days now, to be honest. I mean, it never felt all that comfortable. I do my best work behind the scenes. While I make a decent candidate, I’m far better as the architect you don’t hear from until it’s necessary to get a point across. In the business of web strategy, teaching is something that comes naturally. I like demystifying the web to the point where people ask, “wait, if it’s this easy why do we need you?” 

The future could be composed with many different things. I can go in a lot of different directions. I feel a certain desire to build on what I’ve done to this point. But on the flip side, I want more.

I’m sort of reluctant to say a lot, because it’s akin to taking the wrong turn using GPS, you find yourself recalculating to get back on track. The lack of context this platform provides is a blessing and a curse at the same time. So my goal, in a sense, is to start fleshing the story out more. It’s hard to take people back, so I’d rather take myself forward and just help people fill in the blanks as we go along. 

It’d be one thing if I had a caustic background with lots of red flags. Or if my story were that of someone who didn’t have a lot to offer. I’ve learned a lot over the years and I’ve gained a lot of perspective along the way and a ton of experiences that I simply wouldn’t have had sticking to a conventional path.

What I’ve come to realize is the only way to really get yourself where you want to be, is to know it and pursue it earnestly. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. But you can’t measure yourself with someone else’s scale and wonder why it doesn’t work for you.

It never will. 

Being relevant

This is part of the “not everyone is a high-powered expert” series; aimed at giving those who might not be ready for graduate level social media possibilities, something at their level.

Years ago, the debate and discussion was about finding ways to create pages and to debate whether to use social media at all. Now? The debates are done and everyone has jumped both feet into the water of the social web. 

Suffice to say, there aren’t enough lifeguards to police the waters. Now, the discussions have transitioned for many to determine how to get outsiders to care about what they’re doing in a world where there’s too much noise.

I hear the refrain often that “there’s too much to keep up with, so I don’t bother trying.” For those audiences, these tips are helpful reminders:

1. Connect. People want to know there’s another person on the other side of the digital presence, even if it has to maintain a certain institutional robo-tone. 

2. Engage. Engaging folks is often as much about timing as it about content. Relevant, interesting content that compels people to take the time to join the conversation works better than a barrage of seemingly unrelated topics that may not gain the traction of one or two thoughtful posts.

3. Community. Sometimes, it’s less about the people you’re seeking and more about the ones you have. What about all of the folks who’ve spent their time participating in your conversations when others weren’t as interested? It’s critical to foster a sense of community; whether or not you want to give them ownership. Making people feel actively part of a community will sell your blog as a place to come and bring others.