In the end…it’s all your fault

Posted: April 21, 2013 in Philosophy

There are a lot of different thoughts that have brought me to the content in this entry, and it’s all been on my mind recently.  I’ve been struggling to come up with anything solid to share–hence the lack of entries, or at least, a severe shortage of entries that are spread far from one another throughout the month.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the past lately.  Nothing from the too distant past, rather, the last five or so years that mark the majority (if not all) of what I would consider my true “adulthood.”  One year ago, I was thinking about the last finals I would ever take.  Two years ago, Janine and I were preparing for the addition of our son Zak to the family.  Four years ago, Janine and I were adjusting to being parents, having a 3-month old baby at the time.  Five years ago, we were gearing up for house hunting and getting out of our apartment.  And six years ago this week, I was officially “between jobs–” completing a seasonal assignment and wondering if I would have something full-time that was only rumored to me at the time.

And it’s all gone by so fast.

This blog entry is intended to have more of a work-related theme than a personal one, but maybe you can think of it as it pertains to your personal life.

2008 was a rough year in a lot of ways, and for a lot of people.  If you’ve been employed by the same company (or have kept your own company afloat) from 2008 to now, it was not as rough for you as it was for others.  Many companies, mine included, had to lay folks off.  It wasn’t necessarily a matter of firing people; in a lot of cases, companies just had to get rid of bodies.  And the logical, business decision to make in those cases is easy: of the X people you have on your team, you have to choose the X minus 4, or X minus 2, or X minus 10 people with whom you would go to war, and everyone else gets the boot.

The person who was my boss at the time has more common sense than most people I know.  And this rule that I live by, I learned from her: make yourself invaluable, and you’ll probably avoid the first cut.  The idea is to get your hands in as much as you can, spend the first couple years saying yes as much as possible, take on as much additional responsibility as you can handle and are allowed, and you’ll probably still have a job, maybe even get a raise.  Then grow.  Continually, non-stop, constantly without slowing.  Make every person you interact with, every project you touch, every responsibility you have seem to others like it is the most important.  Be a diplomat.  Expect, and accept, criticism.  Do not react immediately.

For the folks in 2008 who had been doing this, they kept their jobs then, at least in my building.  There were more cuts coming, and this rule only gets you past the first cut.  Once that happens, you have to turn up your game, make everything you do seem like the evolution of what you used to be.  Make your pre-2008 rule seem archaic by outperforming, out doing, out thinking everything you used to do.  And the people who did this–they survived the second cut.

And it goes from there.  But here’s my question: what about the people who survived the first, second, and third cuts, but didn’t ever grow?  We call them “golden goats;” the people who seem like they are somehow exempt from performance reviews, from repercussion, from punishment.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the people who were better employees than the golden goats, but weren’t golden goats themselves and so lost their jobs, and how unfair it seems.

But it’s not unfair.  No matter how bad I feel for those people who got cut in the first or second round, I recognize that their demise is their own fault, and their own problem.  Our life circumstances–they fit into the same category.  We all have a cross to bear, all have our issues to deal with, and we can react to those issues in a number of different ways.

Anyway, sometimes I’m reminded of my own professional moratlity–the idea that I can lose my job at any time–when I think of the golden goats.  Because there are very few individual rules that can give you all the tools you need to remain employed in the landscape of the last several years.  Even the golden goats go; I’ve seen many of them lose their jobs too.

Do yourself a favor: don’t ever think you’re exempt from the rules.  Don’t think yourself a golden goat.  Even in a professional sense, “You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”

Sorry again for the lack of attention I’ve given this site lately.  For those who make a regular habit of checking in, I truly and deeply appreciate it.  Be well and stay tuned.

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