helpgrowchange

What is ‘career-limiting’ anyway?

What does it mean to 'limit one's career'? Why are there preconceived ideas about what we 'should' be doing to progress our careers? Where is this unspoken ladder we talk about, and where can I break it?

Between 2010 and 2016 my career was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I went from database administrator to team leader to service manager to team leader of another 2 teams, then Service Delivery Manager, back to team leader, and finally to middleware administrator.

Phew.

After about 6 months in each role, I started getting itchy feet again and searched for the next challenge. I gained a reputation among my colleagues on when I'd be moving next. It's funny, but not funny at the same time.

My latest role of Middleware Administrator is a technical role again. It's been 9 months now and I still enjoy working on anything I can get my hands on. I've found true joy in my job (which is rare for many people) and I don't foresee any role-hopping in the near future.

What people think

In the eyes of many people I've spoken to, though, they see this as a 'demotion' of some sort and a step backwards in my career. "Why would you go back to technical?" is a common question I get from them.

To add some context, in I.T. a technical role is lowest on the corporate food chain.

I can feel their confusion (and sometimes disdain) about why I went back to technical. I can feel them thinking he's taken a step back in his career or he's taken the easy road.

Career or happiness

Does it really matter how successful someone is? Does it really matter how high up in the corporate ladder we are? Does it really matter how much money is in our paycheck?

I don't believe it does matter. And, deep down, neither do you.

We talk about this all the time. We complain about our unhappiness in our job. We describe how we're under strain due to the extra pressures of managing a team or client. We live for the weekend, dreaming Friday can't come soon enough.

Why?!

Why do we put ourselves through this day in and day out – because we were told it's what we should do? It's completely ludicrous.

What do you want to do?

The big question is: Would you rather be the head honcho, or be happy in your role?

I'm certainly not telling you to 'follow your heart and fly with the birds'. That's just as bad. For me, I still work Monday to Friday – the difference is I want to and I'm happy.

We spend 80% of our lives working in a job. We may as well make it count, right?

Being an unlikely source of inspiration

Although I aspire to be an inspiration, try to help people solve their problems and write articles for this blog, it's just weird (and extremely humbling) when I hear how I am looked to for inspiration or guidance.

I'm just a guy trying my best to be the best I can be. I don't expect adoring fans or monetary donations or my name to be tattooed across butt cheeks. I just want to help.

It brings me great joy seeing the smile on someone's face after they've taken up a suggestion I made. It is fantastic to see how they find life just a bit easier, or are making a difference because of a conversation we had.

But it's not just about seeing what I've had a hand in, it's about helping others and how happy they are.

Helping others helps you

There is a TED talk by Michael Norton (watch it here) in which he talks about a study conducted around how you can buy happiness.

The study gave a little money to a number of people and asked them to spend it on themselves or spend it on someone else. After all sorts of measurements, it was found that when the subjects spent the money on someone else, they were 'happier'.

This is how I feel when helping you.

Thank you for having faith in me. Thank you for trusting in me enough to want to improve your life.

My family’s health and cherishing every moment

My friend has Hydrocephalus. I cannot begin to understand how hard it must be to live with something like that or any other debilitating condition.

I know of someone else who’s child suffered leukaemia, another person who’s wife is suffering cancer, and I’ve also worked with people who have keeled over with a heart attack or were killed in a tragic motorcycle accident.

These events and conditions of people that I am close to (and converse with on a daily basis) bring me to think about my own life and the health of my little family – and just how lucky and sheltered we are.

There is just no time to waste in our lives.

Every moment should be cherished.

But it’s not that easy, is it? Life gets in the way. Children whine, and bad customer service ruins our days.

It’s simply impossible to breathe in the moment all day, every day. I feel it, and I’m sure you do too. Everywhere on the Internet nowadays, we are being bombarded about mindfulness and embracing the Present. I struggle to do this all day.

What I have found, though, is if I consciously take a couple of minutes first thing in the morning and when lying in bed before I go to sleep, I find myself growing to appreciate a whole lot more in my life.

Make a conscious effort twice a day

In the morning I really concentrate on my first sip of water. I feel it across my tongue and travel down to my stomach. How the cold spreads across my chest. I truly try to appreciate that I am able to afford this drink and am able-bodied enough to lift it to my mouth.

I take just another moment to really feel grateful that all I needed to do was turn the tap and water filled my glass. I didn’t have to fight for it or walk 3kms or even boil it first.

Try it for a week. You might surprise yourself.

Then, just before sleeping, I tend to rewind my day through my head and highlight about 3 things I’m grateful for that happened. They are not always ‘big’ things.

Remember, it’s the small things that can be the most important.

For example, I might be grateful that we could afford a healthy dinner (and that my wife loves cooking healthy dinners ), or that I got a window seat on the train to the office, or that my house is still standing after the earthquake we had today.

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to follow these articles plastered all over the Internet saying you have to do it all the damn time. Just take a little of your time each day to acknowledge just how lucky you are.

No matter our status, we are still human

Every day we deliver judgement on people in higher societal status positions such as Presidents, CEO’s, celebrities, even our managers. We expect them to be 100% correct all the time. We expect them to act perfect all day every day. We lambaste them when they falter.

What we fail to realise most of the time, is they are still human – just like you and me. They, too, love watching a good movie. They also enjoy the relaxation of a lazy Sunday afternoon, or the sweet success of finally completing a personal project.

And – again, just like you and I – they fail. Often.

Recently, I watched the first few episodes of a new T.V. series named Lip Sync Battle. It’s a show in which celebrities attempt to perform a live act on stage while lip syncing to a song of their choice. It’s hilarious.

What was more interesting to me, was the opportunity to see a little more of the people behind the celebrity faces. Dwayne Johnson letting off steam to The BeeGees, or Anne Hathaway pulling off Miley Cyrus. The banter they had going between sets added further personality and insight into who they are.

It’s about time we stopped putting celebrities and people of power on a pedestal. It’s time we stop perceiving them as unattainable, different, or better than us.

Because they are not any different to us. They are still human.

Next time you’re reading the gossip magazines, or news headlines about some mistake one of these people have made. Stop. Try put yourself in their shoes. Would you act the same way? What would you do in their situation? Have some empathy and compassion, as they are making the best decisions for them at any given point in time.

Bringing this closer to home, think about your managers, your friends, your family. What compassion can you show them when they have made a decision? What are they feeling when they make certain decisions? Sometimes, they certainly make bad decisions or a different one to you, but they made a decision all the same. How do you want people to treat you when you make a bad decision?

I’m guilty of being judgemental of others’ decisions. I have laughed at celebrities, or baulked at a politician’s personal response. I know I’m wrong, and I’m an ass for even thinking it. But I believe our world won’t get any better if we continue in this way.

These people are human. Just like you and me. I can’t imagine the pressure of the world watching me 24/7. Watching, waiting, pouncing on every word I speak with a vengeance, and talking as if they know me.

So, I’m going to cut them a little slack. How about you?

How to make social media meaningful

We all interface with social media in one way or another. We like and share with our friends on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, or share our vintage photos on Instagram. There are a plethora of options for sharing ourselves and our views of the world on the Internet. But why is it that we still ‘do’ social media so wrong?

Because we don’t interact. We don’t engage enough. We don’t connect with another.

Think about when you have a face-to-face conversation with a friend. They’ve come over to your place for a cup of coffee (or tea if that’s your preference), and you two are chatting away.

Do you both talk at the same time – trying to shout over each other? I doubt it.
Do you just ignore a story of theirs, and carry on with your own? Nope.
Do you shout something at them, then get up and walk away without saying a word when they comment about it? Of course not!

Many of us are still coming to grips with how socia media is impacting our lives – and where it fits into our social spectrum. We still see these platforms as shouting boxes for people to see us and how awesome we are, but we don’t take the time to truly connect with others online.

Make connections

I’ve been on Facebook since 2007, and I’m only now beginning to understand how to use it as a medium to connect and grow the relationships – almost like another means to get to know and understand them better.

It’s about commenting on their status, showing empathy when it’s needed, tagging them where necessary, or simply liking their posts.

The more you interact, the more meaningful your social media experience will be.

I’ve built some real connections online over the past few years. Friendships that have formed purely online across continents, people such as Jay, Brandon, or Annie. We interact fairly often, and I anticipate meeting them in person one day.

And as for the people I have met in person already, social media is another tool I can use to strengthen these relationships further.

It’s all up to you

You need to think about why you want to be on social media. Do you just want to brag about your successes, shout out your opinion at anyone and everyone who might be interested? Are you online simply to spy on your family, friends, and acquaintances? (I really hope you’re not, that is just creepy and wrong)

Or do you want to be a better person. The person who wants to really connect with their friends and family in a meaningful way. Keep it simple. Treat your special connections with extra attention. Add some personality to your posts. They will remember it, remember you.

Today, while you are browsing your Facebook or Twitter feeds, why not reply on someone’s post and ask a question? Spark a conversation. You never know where it might lead.

Be competitive, just don’t forget about sportmanship

We live in an extremely competitive world. We compete against somebody almost every minute of each day. We compete in how many tasks we do in a day, how fast we can run, or even how much money we make in a year. There is nothing wrong with some healthy competition, there is something wrong when people disrespect their competitors.

I’m a huge believer in sportsmanship. It is about playing the game, giving your best, and still respecting your competitors. Whether you win or lose, you have to acknowledge how well your competitor did.

The best example of this is through sport, such as rugby. Tackle after gruelling tackle, two teams absolutely smash eachother during a game. Yet, when it’s all over, they shake hands and start chatting like long lost friends (particularly in New Zealand).

Another great example of sportsmanship was in the Cricket World Cup 2015 semifinal, in which New Zealand batsman, Grant Elliot, smashed the ball to win the game. The South African bowler, Dale Steyn, crumpled to the ground in defeat. What did Elliot do? Instead of celebrating wildly and running to his team mates, he went over to Steyn, helped him up, and showed respect for a game well played. It still gives me goosebumps remembering it.

You can be the same in your day-to-day dealings. There is no reason to leave people in the dirt when you are successful. There is no reason to sabotage someone else’s career because you’re jealous of their success.

You are better than that.

I believe we should be comfortable in our own abilities, compete against ourselves, and continually strive to be better than before. We need to acknowledge the strengths of people we are competing with – admire them even.

Think about an activity you are busy with in which you’re competing with someone. Are you putting them down? How about urging them on? Are you wishing ill on them? Why not wish them the best? Are you mocking their weaknesses? Have you analysed your own? (Yes, you do have weaknesses)

Congratulate your competitors when they win, respect them when they lose. Be competitive. Win the game. Just don’t be a dick about it.

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