My sister-in-law asked me if I knew the Big Bang Theory.
Well of course, it’s the theory that the universe is continually expanding. It started as a single point and then BANG. Over time, we have become hotter and denser. Isn’t it? I presumed the subsequent laughter was either due to my pantomime of bang or on a deeper level, the double meaning of the universe becoming hotter and denser.
Alas, this was a question about a television show and I apparently display what I have come to know as Sheldon-like behaviors. I have not seen the show but over the last few years, various people have commented I have done a “Sheldon.” This has provided me with enough data points to conclude I may have similarities with a fictional character. I love data and logic and apply them to everyday situations,
The photo is of me doing a standing forward fold with my legs behind my shoulders, a variation of legs behind the head. My ability to easily do this is in part due to maintaining a degree of overall fitness and my yoga practice. More importantly, this is something that roughly only 5% of the population can do. I have hypermobility. It would be statistically unreasonable of me to expect most people to be able to do this pose.
Why then, when we are unable to do something at work is there is an attitude with enough hard work, with enough direction and with enough support we can “learn” to do certain things? I am not advocating stopping encouraging children and stealing their joy. Besides, at an early age, there are not enough data points to form a conclusion. As adults, maybe a little honesty is needed. Sometimes, it’s just not “your thing.”
Fortunately, I have found “my thing. “ I have an ability to look at numbers and situations and deduce patterns. These sorts of things appear so obvious to me that I often don’t realize other people don’t see them as easily as I do. I can review processes and predict issues. I can take a great degree of abstraction to develop a solution (i.e. I was looking at a toilet paper holder and came up with a design for the cash gate assembly on an ATM.).
At work, when I mentor, this is the framework I use.
- What: Describe to me specifically what it is you are trying to do or accomplish.
- Why: Why do you want to do this? In most work situations, people want to do something either because it will give them a sense of satisfaction, or they will make more money.
- How: Are you improving? Are you making any progress? How do you know?
- Commitment: What are you willing and able to do?
What: Answered honestly, a solution is presented. Some are unable to define what they are trying to accomplish. The first question is all about creating focus and expectations.
Why: The second question, as to why, help defines clarity and the drive behind the what. I find that most don’t typically give much attention to the why that they are setting out to do. What and why are good places to start. While this may sound like common sense, it is not commonplace.
How: When people say they are “stalled” in their careers, the how digs deeper. This is the time for the brutal truth. You know what you want to do; you are clear why you want to do it. Are you improving? Seriously.
If someone has the goal to be a pro golfer (the what) and the why is the love of the game but also the money associated with it. Great – that is all clear. Now, how’s your game? Has it improved from a month ago? What is your practice schedule? How much time are you putting in? If there is no marked improvement, why do you continue to pursue this goal?
Sports provide a clear example of when something is worth pursuing and when to stop. When attempting to advance in your career, it isn’t as clear when something is or isn’t “your thing.”
Say, for example, you have been trying for five years to advance to a new position and your manager’s response is that there are no openings yet. Think about it for a minute, five years and there are no openings for what you want to do. This is what I mean by truth. If this is what you really want to do then why are you still at that company? If you aren’t getting better, reconsider your path. It is not like the lottery, each week you have the same odds, and those odds aren’t good.
Many times we pursue those positions we are supposed to or are expected of us, rather than what is right for us.
Commitment: Finally, there is willing and able. I would love to be an ethical hacker. The idea of hacking into systems; love it. There is just one problem, I have no hacking ability. Now, technically, there is a course of study of could pursue and so on. Am I willing to do that? Well, no. I mean I like the idea of hacking, but to flat out pursue it, uhhh no.
For many situations, advancement means moving or travel, if you are not able, because of your choices, family, commitments, etc., admit it, be grateful and level set yourself. You are not an executive because you can’t travel. The company’s goal is not to enable you to live your best life possible. That’s Oprah territory. Embrace your strengths and commitments and accept those are the parameters you need to work within.
Mass generalizations are problematic. This is only guidance. However, there are two things to consider. If you are frustrated with your career:
- Consider willingness and ability. The willingness, to be a professional basketball player may be all there, but you have to assess your ability. My ability to look at the integration of people, process and technology and my willingness to do this because I get a sense of satisfaction and figuring out puzzles makes me happy with my job as a business architect.
- Consider if you are pursuing what is expected of you rather than what is right for you. As the only female in many of my mechanical engineering university classes, I definitely was not doing what was expected of me, but it was right for me.
If you are frustrated with your career, try the steps. If you are coaching someone, have them try the steps. If you are watching someone flounder month after month, year after year, consider they haven’t done the steps. My next step; I’m going to go find an episode of this Big Bang Theory.