A job, not
Nove,ber 26, 19999
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You might not think that poetry has a lot to do with
high-tech careers, but my time in the world of coffee houses and poetry
readings has taught me an important lesson that applies to every aspect
of life. Too often we find ourselves with one defining aspect of our lives.
This can be our poetry, our music or our job. In all cases, though, having
only one defining aspect can lead us into destructive behavior without
even realizing it.
In the world of poetry there are local workshops that allow you to read
your work and receive constructive criticism in order to make it better.
Being in a workshop like this requires you to be confident with your own
work and have the ability to accept criticism in the light it is intended;
to help you better your art & craft.
Unfortunately, I would often encounter poets who would consistently argue
with others in the workshops, explaining vehemently how the others just
"didn't understand." These people ended up taking very little
away from the workshops because they didn't believe the other members
had anything to offer them since they were clearly the most advanced members
of the group.
After some time I began to notice a pattern to those people who behaved
in this fashion. To these people their poetry was the most important aspect
of their lives. Nothing else was providing them joy. Therefore, anything
that threatened their poetry was considered a dire attack on the person
themselves. There is nothing more dangerous in my mind than a person who
defines themselves in only one way. It makes them prone to lashing out
at those around them and, in some cases, taking life much too seriously.
"You got no life outside!
-- blues/rock band, Spyder Blue
By now, some of you may have recognized friends, relatives or co-workers
who fit the above example. Just like the poetry world, high-tech workers
are often in danger of letting their job define their entire life. We
all need to seek out and cultivate opportunities to define ourselves outside
the workplace. Otherwise, we risk becoming angry, arrogant and uncooperative
with those around us.
Developing outside interests allows us to weather the storms that happen
in every job. Downsizing, failing projects and management turnover all
make our work life more difficult. I don't know anyone who enjoys their
job every single day. Outside interests give us a place to turn where
we can experience accomplishments and success when work is being troublesome.
My wife, Rosanne, has had a long hard road in her career as a television
writer. It took her ten years to finally land a full-time job writing
for a television series. During the worst part of these years she was
sending out material to agents and production companies and experiencing
nothing but rejection. In an effort to find some sense of accomplishment
for her I recommended that she look into writing articles for newspapers
and magazines. She went on to write opinion pieces for the Los Angeles
Times and to publish the Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space during
that time. It made a world of difference in her life and mine.
You need to find similar ways to "get away from it all" when
work is being troublesome. These times usually pass, but they are only
made worse by our tendency to dwell on them. Without outside interests
we can actually make the situation worse. We become less able to accept
criticism and advice in our work life. We "dig in" and stop
taking initiative. Every new policy, new manager or new co-worker becomes
a threat to our very definition of ourselves. It is a continuing downward
spiral unless you find some way out.
Another example, me!
One example I can give for developing outside interests is myself. While
I work as a computer trainer/consultant, I also write this column and
several others. I also enjoy painting in watercolors, playing blues harmonica,
gardening (which I also write a column about) and volunteering as an Internet
class teacher at my local library. Whenever one aspect of my work is moving
more slowly than I like or just being a pain, I have many other interests
to which I can turn. It doesn't make the problems go away, but it does
help me to see that there are other parts of my life where I can feel
pleased and successful.
Develop your outside interests today. Don't define yourself only by your
work. We have all seen people who nearly self-destruct when faced with
a layoff, demotion or job change. Don't let job troubles make you lose
your perspective on life as a whole. Seek out opportunities to succeed,
no matter where they may present themselves.