Thank you to all who sent in their pearls for the latest Work Stew contest. Your hard-earned wisdom arrived in a variety of formats: aphorisms, short stories, poems. Below are the ten I chose to showcase, with a brief explanation of why (see my note in italics, below each entry).
1. Submitted by Ellen Denton
My father had severe dementia, to the point of being dangerous. When he wasn’t doing something with fire or knives that could get someone killed, he would talk to imaginary people or look around with a puzzled expression on his face.
One day, I dropped some papers on the floor, and he returned to the present, helped pick them up, and had the first normal conversation he’d had in months. If simple work could return even someone in my father’s condition, however briefly, to sanity, imagine what it could do, and is doing, for the rest of us.
Work is so often seen as nothing but an imposition; I love this depiction of work as an activity that can heal.
2. Submitted by Linda Quiroz
I did the job as if my life depended on it. I ate, slept, and drank my work. When weekends came, I hated to leave. Often, I went in on Saturdays. I devoted my waking thoughts, life, and all my dreams to the job. The years passed by, and sometimes, I would get an exceptional review or a certificate. My family languished. I read books and took seminars on juggling my life. The struggle to know when and how to move on was visceral. Finally, I did it. I left my beloved job.
Without a hitch, the job went on.
I especially liked this one in juxtaposition with the first: as important as a job can seem—and be—it rarely needs us as much as we might think.
3. Submitted by Tania Soucie
Trust that you have the ability to meet life’s challenges every 24 hours as they come. In doing so, the pressure of the past and the future disappears. All your energy becomes free for right now.
Anxiety is so debilitating; this just struck me as a wise way to manage one’s energy.
4. Submitted by Daniel Hopewell
It is always better to fail at something you want to do than succeed at something you don’t.
So true! And so hard to live by…
5. Submitted by Simone Pasquini
Some call it the ‘no asshole rule.’ People sometimes forget they have the power to fire their employers…and if they work for themselves, they also have the power to fire their clients. Life is too short.
Indeed it is. This is another one that’s hard to practice 100% of the time—but it’s sound advice nonetheless.
6. Submitted by Anonymous
Care about things that matter and don’t care about things that don’t. It sounds trite, but it is an underlying theme of everything our company does. So long as people are producing high quality results when and how the company needs them, almost nothing else matters. We dress casually—virtually no rules on dress code—because our effort to dictate how people dress does not make a difference in the quality of their work product. Same principle applies to work location (i.e. telecommuting or working from the office) and work hours (i.e. starting early or coming in late).
Agreed, and good news: more and more workplaces, especially those competing for scarce skill sets, understand this and operate in the same way.
7. Submitted by Michael T. Heath
If you’re going to call out the boss,
the principle better be worth it
Be ready to empty your cubicle
Have something else lined up
If you’re speaking truth to power,
think about it twice, first
Make plans for your escape
Maybe you’ll be O.K.
I’ve been there myself:
couldn’t let it slide
Had to say something
Derailed my own train to do it
My soul isn’t very good at barter
I chose this one as a valuable check on the perspective above: of course not *all* workplaces are enlightened and those that aren’t exact a toll. In those cases, wisdom lies in knowing the costs—both of leaving and of staying.
8. Submitted by Charlotte Jackson
Don’t listen only to the words, listen for what is meant.
Yes! This is so hard to do—but those who manage it tend to be enormously effective.
9. Submitted by Rebecca Kerr
Want to get ahead in your career? You’re going to need tentacles. Not the hentai kind (don’t Google that)…helpful tentacles.
One tentacle is offering collateral help to the sales team. Another is helping the product team plan their next launch. Still another is beak-deep in operations, mapping out email drips for overdue invoices.
The more branches of the company you can serve simultaneously, the more invaluable you are to the company as a whole–helpfully filling holes all over the place. So yes, maybe it’s a little like the hentai kind.
Seriously: DON’T google that. Just know that this is eminently practical advice: when job security is a concern (and when isn’t it?), finding multiple ways to be helpful is just plain smart.
10. Submitted by Paula Richey
The one I learned from my dad: “When you start losing your tools, it’s time to take a nap.”
Paula Richey herself provides the best explanation: “My dad has two speeds–full throttle and outta gas. He doesn’t realize he’s tired until he can’t function. Know your self-care signals.”