I happened to catch the newly released soccer flick, “Rudo Y Cursi,” this weekend and while I’m no fan of soccer (much to the chagrin of my husband), I’m usually up for some Gael Bernal Garcia with a twist of Diego Luna. The former more than the latter, but no need to get choosy here.
The movie tells the story of two brothers – Rudo, played by Luna is the brighter and more motivated of the two and is determined to be a soccer star at all costs to himself and his family and then there’s Tato (nicknamed “Cursi”), the more likable of the two, and possibly the more talented, but also the more foolish one. Each of them has their own vice (for Rudo it’s gambling and cocaine; for Cursi it’s women and his short-sighted desire for fame in the form of becoming a singing sensation).
So while the movie is a cliche in its own right – not to mention another variation on the theme of what happens when you take 2 neglected hicks and feed them into a world of overnight success and lavish attention on them, there is something deeper that the flick hints at which I think a lot about in my own career – the distinction between passion and talent.
The most successful people are the ones that can objectively (if that’s possible) look inward and package their talents in a way that makes them desirable candidates for the work they pursue. It may not reflect their passion, but it speaks to their ability to know their strengths and work it to their advantage.
While Cursi is drawn to music, soccer is the device that allows him to pursue his passion and what makes him such a tragic figure is that he unabashedly takes for granted the very thing that enables him to follow his passion.
But the glib side of me thinks, “How much $$ is this guy shitting through and complaining about?”
For many of us our day jobs aren’t our passion. In my vernacular, this then translates to it not being my career. The tension builds to frustration when our talents ARE completely aligned with our passion, and yet we can’t seem to make it work so that our day job = talent + passion.
But I also think it important to not take for granted the very thing that acts as my form of self-expression for the 9-10 hours I work a day because as John Lennon might suggest, “Your career is what happens when you’re busy making things happen all day long.”
I’ve always known that being born in the late 70s put me in the nebulous gray area when it comes fo generational labels and identity. Today, as I was chatting with my sister and she kept referencing me as an “X,” I thought to myself perhaps, I had misled my legion of readers on this site into thinking I was a “wannabe Gen-Xer” when in fact I am an Xer according to this site.
So what are the key characteristics of an Xer? (I’m totally lifting this btw)
- Feedback and recognition
- Time with manager
- High-quality end results
- Balance between work and life—work to live not live to work
- Flexible work hours/job sharing appealing
- Free agents
- See self as a marketable commodity
- Comfortable with authority but not impressed with titles
- Technically competent
- Internal promotion
- Ethnic diversity
I can’t tell if this is a case I often find when reading my astrological sign (Libra) where every attribute speaks, “me!” but generally this reference does a pretty good job of describing my approach to work and the things I value. Realistically, I don’t see myself as a Yer but I know that employers often see me outwardly as one, so maybe the analogy we can make here is Y is my sun sign and X is my moon sign and they can co-exist peacefully within the complicated realm that is my head and every once in a while I can completely baffle people with my mix of X-Y attributes and by the very fact that I cannot and will not be labeled so superficially.
And on that note, I’m going to go and meditate on this one…
If you want to find out what you are or know who you are but are curious to know what others think you are, go here. It might help explain your parents too. (i.e., I thought my dad was a baby-boomer, but turns out he was a “traditional”)
I don’t know about you, but where I work, no one talks money. By $$, I mean salary. While some have their theories about why it’s in management’s best interest to remain conspicuous and buttoned up on subject of money (TheJobBored’s Brian McCullough asserts it’s in a company’s “best interest to keep salaries secret so that they can keep labor costs down”). His logic isn’t far off from my own. Personally, I can’t see an age of true transparency, such as a New York Times article suggested where such discussions are commonplace and every employee knows every other employees salary.
Would I want that?
I’m not so sure…But there are places that do a good job of setting employees at ease by making the work less about the $$ and more about the culture (and seem to succeed at this). For those of us a little more pragmatic in terms of wanting to pay the bills, other places, such at Motek, a firm that the NY Times cited in the article I referenced offer identical salaries for employees at the same level. When someone wants a raise, a raise is negotiated at the team level. This concept were the brainchild of the company’s CEO who spent her formative years in Israel and wanted to extend the socialist ideals of a kibbutz and people pitching in for the good of the greater community. She also someone who had experienced first-hand gender inequity with salary.
I can’t help but think for all the emphasis that’s put on the term “teamwork” in both agency and consultancy workplaces, very few American Fortune 500 companies adopt such practices, which inherently contradicts all the lip service that’s paid to this concept. By not having the very thing that drives and motivates individuals to move up the ladder correspond directly with a overall financial well-being of the greater team or have any consequence, the cynic in me wonders why anyone would bother.
What are other less innovative places doing?
Universities tend to do a good job of scaling salary expectations with pay grades, but then again unless you’re more senior, universities aren’t known to pay too well either. Still, people who work at universities tend to stick around since the work-life balance is optimal and they get other perks (free tuition, access to university facilities, etc).
The Weather Channel keep salary info confidential, but claims it doesn’t fall into “that black box” either and people are given data to explain salary.
While it’s natural to seek out math to to do the #s, employees also want to be talked like people – not like lemmings. We want to know that what we do is important and that the teams we report into NEED us. It’s more than an email every now and then, it’s more than a pep talk, it’s showing me & my peers the appreciation. If pay is directly correlated with performance (as is stressed to us) and corporations emphasize teamwork first and foremost, than the next logical step is streamlining HR policies like the one Ann Price innovated.
Last week I had a short email exchange with a former co-worker whom I had just learned recently “resigned” from a former employer. Reading between the lines her version of “resigned” sounded like it might be more synonymous with another person’s “laid off.”
Either way she was out and onto better things, she assured me. The company wasn’t the same place she knew and it was time for a change. The longer and the more descriptive the back-story around her departure became, the less convinced I became of the amicable nature of it, but it got me to thinking about human behavior and the lengths we go to, to explain away our failures.
Don’t get me wrong. Failure might seem like a harsh descriptor in the scenario I’ve just described and while I don’t equate her imminent departure as one, judging by her reaction, she clearly did.
I’ve gotten the royal boot twice in my life and they were both in consecutive jobs. In the first, I was laid off after less than a month. It barely left a scratch on my resume or a dent in my career. In fact so small and insignificant was it, I left it out entirely from my resume rather than paying it any more airtime that it warranted.
The second job, however, made enough of a mark in my career and professional development to rear its head in job interviews. I debated going the “I left the job to pursue other activities” route, but in the end opted for an approach more true to my brand. In short, I ripped that band-aid right off and was upfront about the job – its strengths, the relationships I’d cultivated, the skillsets I’d developed.
As transparent as I was about the jobs strengths, I was also brutally honest about getting laid off. It’s never an easy convo, but after the 1st interview, subsequent ones were easier and I never left feeling shamed or incompetent, especially because I played up the desirable qualities I’d obtained as a result of this job.
It was a natural conversational piece and moreover, I kept it on the positive (employers love this) and started to gain a new appreciation for my former job and the person it allowed me to become. in fact, I felt strangely empowered and the point is, what I ended up projecting more often than not, to potential employers, was “What the heck was that employer thinking letting her go.”
I bring all of this up because listening to my former co-worker made me think of all the wounds a lifetime of professional experience will inevitably leave us. The ball’s in our court, however, with how we handle the situations life throws us. And as anyone who works in Marketing knows, it’s all about the angle.
And the spin. So think carefully about presentation and how you want to be perceived. If you’re lucky you won’t have to fake a thing.
I posed a question recently through one of the many LinkedIn groups (btw, if you’re interested in a relatively safe environment to share ideas with peers and pose questions, I highly recommend joining a group that suits your needs). I asked how people stay sane and positive during the work week.
The “happiest” bunch I came across were the entrepreneurs that worked out of their homes selling cosmetics after spending 8 hours at work or after 20 years working in corporate America, decided to try something different and start their own business. While each story was different, the thread tying all those stories together was the “I can do this on my own” factor.
Happiness has been on my mind a lot this month and while I’ve never been one to be overly enthusiastic about life in general, as I told my PIC (partner-in-crime), there are varying degrees of unhappiness. These degrees are usually exponentially related to the amount of work I get involved in, with regards to my full-time job/day gig.
It goes like this: The more responsibilities I assume in my day gig (x), the less energy I have left to pursue the writing that interests me (y) outside of my day gig, the greater my frustration and anxiety = the more unhappy I am. I have an hour commute to and from work each day, in which I mull over happiness – my own and others around me.
People who are passionate about what they do and approach their work with a more meaningful sense of urgency and purpose – as an extension of their vision, will succeed and undoubtedly be more fulfilled in the work. This is belief system I can buy into.
Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great” speaks of uber-visionaries and entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs at Apple and Yvon Chouinard at Patagonia – men whose companies and brands extended far beyond simply a “computer” and a “clothing store.” They wanted to reshape the way people think and feel about the world in which they live and the relationships they cultivate and grow.
I love listening to inspirational stories about what work makes people happy and why. I hope one day I’ll be able to put it together which as much self-assurance and determination as my peers. For now, I’ll settle on living vicariously.