Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2013: A Year for Big Girl Panties

This is a rant.  I read three blog posts in one day that complained about how things are so really really hard, and how no one pays someone else the respect they are due, and about how the world would be hunky dory if it was 1999 again, or 1985, or 1955, or even 2001. Why? Because 2012 really sucked.

Those bloggers, and many people like them, believe that they are the only ones who experience the blunt force of this discomfort, disrespect, and lack of growth in their life.   They are wrong.  How do the rest of us handle it? Well, we make a lot of mistakes trying to dig out of holes that we (in most cases) did not create.  But, we do what it takes (or whatever we can) to bring life's entropy back under our control.  It might mean something major, like moving 400 miles to find gainful employment, as my wife and I had to do.  Working more than one job - as I have to do.  Or it might be something as simple as thinking differently about what we expect from others, our lives, and our careers.

But how do you do that?  I want to introduce you to a concept called the locus of control.  I will keep it simple, because I have never even had a psychology class, not even in high school, and if I explain it, I am pretty likely to be incorrect.  You've probably heard of it before, explained in different terms, like in the Serenity Prayer favored by recovering addicts (to whom "locus of control" is a critical concept):

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference. 

It's really not a wild concept.  For those who prefer a visual interpretation:

Oops! Wrong image! (come on, I couldn't resist).  Here's what I'm really talking about:

Or, more succinctly:

Where do you fit on that scale?  There are a lot of things we can't (individually) control in this life.  Presidential elections.  Whether the damn City sends me a water bill with a 500% rate increase with no apology or explanation.  How many times my three year old poops in his pants as we are trying to get out the door to go fishing, as a cold front is bearing down on us.  Whether your employer's shareholders in another country decide (arbitrarily) to jettison your job with 4 hours notice.  

What are you gonna do?

Nope.  Definitely the wrong panties for the occasion.  Courtesy of 

I'd suggest the following, in this order:

1.  Get some sleep.  A good solid night of sleep.
2.  Consult the Bible or other spiritual book, even if you are not so inclined (this topic is heavily addressed)
3.  Laugh at something. Or someone - other than yourself.
4.  Make a new plan, composed to the maximum extent possible of things you can possibly control.
5.  Based on 1-4, re-assess your business and personal relationships with others.  Re-assess how much of your future and your destiny you are placing on the often faulty decisions and often tardy schedules of others in your life.

2013 is going to be tough.  Most mainstream economists are predicting another year of slow growth.  Unemployment in many states is rivaling that of a better economic time...but is not quite there, and may not get there for another several years.  In other states, unemployment is still unacceptably high.  Is your role in that system within your locus of control?  Have you been disappointed because you've expected a job in your field (similar to your 1999 title and salary) to somehow appear within commuting distance of where you've lived for 25 years?  Relocating to take a job elsewhere, for many people, is within their locus of control - even though it's quite scary.  

The kind of support I, err, you, err....nevermind....

In your professional life, what will you do differently in 2013?  I'd suggest to you the thing that I need the most: patience.   And I hate sounding like a dirty hippy, but honestly, patience is a gift that you can only give yourself.  No one outside of your brain can make you be patient or impatient.  It's within your control.    I damage my own ability to move forward sometimes with my lack of patience.  You may be in the same spot. 

And speaking of patience, how is your personal life?  Are there significant things that you've wanted to say to friends and family that you just haven't gotten around to?  What if you died tomorrow (ignoring age, if you're an American, there's a 3% chance you'll die in the next 12 months)?  

2013, as I see it, is a year for each of us to strap on our Big Boy and Big Girl Pants.  Hopefully the right pants on the right gender, although.....errrr.....oh, whatever.  Which pants you put on is something far outside of my locus of control.   Take charge of your life this year.  No more blaming Barack Obama.  Or the Tea Party.   Or the NRA. Or liberals.  Less MSNBC.  And less Fox News.   Imagine what we could each achieve if we stopped blaming someone else and simply moved forward with our lives.  Then imagine what we could achieve together by each of our own individual successes.  It's big.

And if you are still feeling sorry for yourself, please reach out and support a group like the Wounded Warrior Project or St. Jude's Childrens' Hospital.  You'll find that the people who benefit from those programs have a keen understanding of how to move forward with a meaningful life, and try to leave the things they can't control behind them. 


GSFeder said...

Amen, brother. Here's to a Merry holiday of your choice and a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Kevin Frank said...

Nice rant, I hope that people don't get so cynical that they start calling out other blogs. That could get ugly. Was that the right use of that word? I don't know.

Neil said...

Oh, someone said it.....Thank Goodness.

T.J. Brayshaw said...

I suppose everybody is entitled to feel sorry for themselves now and then, but the part that has always baffled me is the propensity to broadcast it so publicly on blogs. I've heard folks do that on MyFaceSpaceBook as well, but I don't "do" those things, so I don't know.

River Mud said...

I've certainly been guilty of every crime insinuated by all of you guys. We can each do better. Me included.

If I say that I didn't get an article published because the selection process was "unfair," (and I honestly personally made that insinuation on another blog's comment section, just last week!!!!), it means that I don't have to improve my writing, do a better job of networking, or write about more interesting topics. I can just blame someone else, and go have another beer and stew about how unfair it all is.

T.J. Brayshaw said...

Ahh, now this is all starting to make even more sense.

My job (scientist) requires publishing. The peer review process is brutal. It will shred your ego. But you're absolutely correct: it makes your writing (and writing in general) better.

River Mud said...

Precisely. I am technically a wetland "manager" and not a wetland "scientist" and so my writing on the topic makes up the guts of permit applications, grant applications, RFP's to consultants for $100,000 fees and to contractors for $1,000,000 fees (building a wetland/stream).

It is easy to get something wrong, and when the nature of the work (both yours and mine) is based on the ridiculously binary belief that "if one thing is wrong, THEN EVERYTHING MUST BE TOTALLY WRONG," then those mistakes really sting sometimes.

I've given classes on environmental grant writing and I think people are honestly depressed by them, because I show them that the funders and government agencies don't care about the back story, or how much they love the river, or how their family has been there for 6 generations. It's telling a much different kind of story...

Fat Boy said...

Great post RM. I have a few people to share this with that NEED to read it... I can only say so much. Sometimes it's a more powerful message when they read it from someone else.