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How I Almost Ruined My Career to Succeed
2011-03-19
My first job when I graduated from college was with a huge (huuuuuuuuuge!) company that generated a lot of computer programs.  No, not THAT one. Even older. AT&T back in the days when it was a monopoly.  And I have nothing but praise and gratitude for what I learned there. Thank you, AT&T. But I digres

The process of developing a program was the following:1.      Draft a High-Level Design Document.2.      Draft a data flow document.3.      Draft a Detailed Design Document.4.      Draft flow charts for subroutines.Write the program.

Okay, so the process for drafting the High-Level Design Document was to list all the data bases from which your program drew its data, and all the subroutines that your program interacted with in any fashion, whether it was to send its results or have a computation done.  The document is then circulated among the project members, including the people who know the most about the data bases and subroutines, for comments and feedback. It is a marvelous method, and one that I have used in many other fields besides programming.

Well, for my first project, I was having difficulty drafting this document, because I was having difficulty getting the information I needed about the other things my project would interface with.  I was either asking the wrong questions or not explaining my concept clearly enough, but it just wasn't coming together. So I wrote a document that I knew was deliberately wrong in key areas, to force the people at the meeting to give me the right answers.  See, they had an interest in it, too.

So I circulated this document, and went to the meeting.  And we went around the table, each person pointing out how my document was horribly wrong.  And my boss looking at me like I couldn't spell "C" if you gave me a hint, and me writing like a court reporter on speed and steroids.

At the end of the meeting, I thanked each person individually for his or her contribution, and told them what I had done and why I had done it.  I went back to my office and finished the project in 2 months (it had been projected for 6 more).  When it went to system test, it went through unscathed.

For the rest of my brief time there, this little incident had no impact.  It didn't ruin my career and it didn't make my career.  I believe this was so because this I show I approached my career, there and everywhere - when in doubt, step out. Take a shot. Take a risk.  Keep the bigger picture in focus.

Too many people are so scared of taking a risk that they never move off their spot.  They are so scared of what people think of them or will think of them, that they never give anyone else the opportunity to think of them at all.

My opinion, having worked in 3 disparate careers and many different workplaces, is that most workplace anxiety is caused by people NOT speaking up.  By NOT confronting a stupid or unworkable idea.  By NOT writing a document that is deliberately wrong so that a document that is deliberately correct can be written.

So here is the takeaway from this little story.  When you need an answer, step out with energy and confidence.  Because when you need an answer, the world or your community will provide the answer.  But when you need assurance or reputation more than you need a correct answer, get a puppy or a kitten.  Because the world or your community will only give you assurance and repute as ling as it benefits THEM, not as long as it benefits you.   Believe in yourself.  Take the risk.  And if you get kicked out of the community, then you have learned something about yourself.

(P.S. I actually left AT&T to join an organization to assist in Africa, another wonderful and life-changing organization, and another one that was not necessarily a good fit for me. But I love both organizations and look back fondly and carry what these two taught me to this day.)

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Filed under: stress management, anxiety relief, Health Related Issues From Work Related Stress, worry, Stress Management Strategies, Stress Management Techniques, Executive Leadership Coaching, Stress And Time Management, stress at work, coaching for leadership, work anxiety      

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RICK CARTER - Christian, father, husband, martial arts student, litigator.  STRESS JUDO developed to fight stress in fighting arena and courtroom. You too can be as cool and calm as every movie lawyer or action hero you've ever seen.  Be envied by everyone who cracks under pressure. You won't.

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