…You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.” – Will Smith
For this week’s quote we can thank American actor, producer, rapper, and songwriter Will Smith; it’s timely for me because – after taking some time to examine my life choices – I am once again internalizing what it means to live it.
…Back in November when I last wrote in this space, I commented that I was going to be reading and writing about HR less because I felt like I needed to focus my energies towards developing less HR-centric technical competencies – competencies that would in the long run make me a stronger HR person.
I suppose this was partially true; at the time I was beginning to realize that I needed to become a more well-rounded manager and expert in the business I support, as opposed to strictly being an HR process expert and administrator. And the past few months of white space has helped me to identify some of the gaps I have, which has lead to me developing new work skills that have made me a greater asset to the team I lead and client groups I support.
…When I wrote my November post more than anything I was just frustrated, though. I was frustrated with how much time and effort I was putting into developing myself for (in my mind at the time) such small returns… frustrated with the pace of change; I knew where I wanted to be and what I wanted to accomplish, but all of the hours I was putting into work, the webinars I listened to, white papers I read, networking I did, and thinking/writing about HR weren’t getting me there fast enough. And I got tired of it – tired of working hard all of the time no matter how I felt and never slowing down no matter how much I wanted to… all to feel like (most of the time) I was standing still.
…So I stopped for a while. I went from 75 hour weeks to 55 hour weeks: If it was Friday evening and I wanted to go home, I went. If I didn’t feel like doing anything on the weekend, I didn’t. 1 And if I wanted to enjoy a Wednesday evening with friends, I did so. For 3 months I did what I needed to do to support my client group and business, then lived – nothing more or less. Learning and development took a back seat to good old-fashioned rest and relaxation… and to be honest for a while it was good. My life was out of balance, and I needed a moratorium of sorts to re-find my center.
With that said, life can often have an interesting way of letting us know when it is time to shift course: Over the past month and a half I have found myself faced with some pretty big professional challenges and been surprisingly up to tackling them. When pressed, I drew on knowledge I didn’t know I had to solve problems I didn’t know I could. The cement had set between the bricks I’d been laying for the past few years, and they’d congealed into a wall for me to lean on for wisdom and strength. 2
This is getting a bit too long and isn’t really good enough to justify it, so I’ll close by saying that as of late I have settled on two things:
1. I was working way too much before my “break”.
2. If you really dedicate yourself to getting better at something you are getting better – even if you can’t always point to the returns right away.
…Maybe the answer to marrying these two at-times-competing statements lay somewhere between 55 hour work weeks and 75 hour work weeks, maybe it lies in process… or maybe it lies in just making time for everything you can and being present in those moments 3, but I will tell you that wherever that medium is I am excited about finding it again in a way that I haven’t been for a while now.
…So as we get started this week, I would ask you to remember that – while the pace of change can be slow – as Smith points out in today’s quote, it is important to focus on the process and not the end result. This is often easier said than done… but if you know where you are going and keep taking steps to get there then – if you’re a little bit lucky – you will find your way in due course. It just takes time.