Grateful for question of perspective
I was a new homeowner, with a pregnant wife and firstborn toddler, and I had somehow managed to fool the editor of a paper twice the size of my current employer that I could run his news desk of copy editors all older, better educated, more experienced and worthier of the position then me. The first order of business for them was to train me – their new “boss” – how to make simply pages on their computer system.
The nagging fear was I’d be found out this time soon enough. Whatever I’d gotten away with in the past would catch up to me, oh yeah. Then where would I be, with young children and a home to support, and a wife whose maternal duties were paramount over the workplace for the foreseeable future?
I imagine this is common to all occupations requiring leaders, on top of this craft that rests on subjectives such as readers finding your work worthy of their time. There’s plenty to feel nervous about, if you are of mind to worry.
I don’t recall how cocky I might have acted, junior in all ways but title to this group. Did I mention they universally despised the fellow who hired me? I felt as small as my toddler son in a sea of grownups those first days.
The stint, which lasted a little over a year before I became editor of my first daily, was a success. Somehow, starting with mastering the computer system, I won over my colleagues, helped improve our corner of the newsroom, helped gain it more respect in the hierarchy of the paper, and set up that next “dear God how will I ever get away with this one?” moment at my next stop.
And somewhere in there I learned not to look down from the precipice, or at least not regard the imagined height quite so fearfully. Part of it rests in confidence, surely. If I kept fooling folks with each promotion and new set of responsibilities, maybe there really was something there to work with. Now there’s a concept. Part of it was a “dive in” mentality toward tasks and goals – never mind success or failure, just get after it.
And a piece of it, maybe the key piece, was a simple question: What are you grateful for?
Huh? It was part of a set of self-improvement tapes I had at the time. My new job was 61 miles down the western Michigan shore, and I had lots of time to and from work to think. The guru was Tony Robbins, who had cred with me because he had helped Los Angeles Lakers sharpshooting guard Byron Scott with his confidence. I think there are 20 tapes, and I listened a couple of times to each and did all the exercises, faintly embarrassed as I am to admit such. My fear surrounded the job, but I worked on trying to be a better person, a goal that continues.
Anyway, the one part I still remember is the question. For whatever reason, answering it in list form delivered a certain perspective that spun away from the relatively silly worries about workplace issues.
Even answered sarcastically, as I would do. What am I grateful for? How about I’m not dead! OK, translated, grateful for life. Oh, I’m real grateful my #$%3 knee ran me out of firefighting for a career, you bet. Then again, a whole world opened to me that I never would have experienced. Taken all the way to today, we wouldn’t have reached Vail but for a bum knee. OK.
The real answers to the question – the woman who is my wife, the kids, extended family, friends, colleagues, living in these times and this place, ability and desire to keep learning, all the opportunity available – these things tend to squeeze out relative triflings, such as “Who am I fooling?”
Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or firstname.lastname@example.org