Foolish as it is, my job has taught me a few worthwhile lessons. Not lessons to justify nearly five years (five years!) of ridiculousness, but still.
When I employ people in the future I will find a way to align their motives with mine. At the coal mine, my goal is simply to take the money they offer in return for my labour. Their goal is to fulfill the promises and contractual obligations made to their customers. These two aren’t well aligned, in my opinion.
Nothing will ever be perfect. 100% agreement between employed and employer 100% of the time is not a reasonable goal. What I think is reasonable is to structure the work before they even turn up so that what they do each hour puts us both in the same boat, going the same speed toward the same destination.
How to do that? The first place to start is to communicate precisely what your business or organizational goals are. To ourselves. While this might sound fundamental, clearly articulating this kind of thing can reveal inconsistencies and misalignments in our own thinking, that of management or owners.
After that, figure how to make non-owners apply their time and skills to tasks that keep the boat moving ahead of the sharks. Did I mention it was a lifeboat? We’re all in lifeboats, and thinking of business that way adds piquancy, don’t you think?
From the beginning I had the idea to be a pro. This is my past flying career I am talking about. From the get-go, my goal was clear, but so equally was the pathway. It was never, ever going to be easy.
Passion for being a jet pilot (Boeing 727 please) got me going. What motivated me was the sure knowledge that despite the drudgery, boredom, expense, uncertainty, disappointment and time spent, the only way to give myself the chance at success was to simply keep going. One has to go through the grind of all that stuff in the hope that everyone else drops out. Last man standing wins the day, or, in this case, a nice uniform and a shiny jet.
My point is that passion didn’t help me through the long nights of study or the dead-end jobs I took for the money. Passion fades when you have spent everything on getting qualified and still no-one wants to hire you.
What did get me to the end was understanding completely that it was an endurance test. I set myself up to take that test, so I damn well better finish. It’s neither sexy nor especially gratifying at the time, but at the end…well, at the end you forget about the misery.
It is as if it never happened.
The dream was clear from about age 8. I was becoming an airline pilot and my aeroplane of choice was the Boeing 727. The -200 series, please. I would live in Melbourne. Days would be filled with sunny flights around the country. I would be content into old age.
Dreams and goals are odd animals because they are often super specific. Super-specific. Like our minds are digital machines.
Real life is utterly analogue. It is valves and pumps, lags and bumps, derailments and diversions. The number of influences on a life will approach the infinite. The choices we make, the priorities we set and the decisions we make make a wriggly snake out of our arrow-straight dreams.
Being okay with what happens makes for an easier time of it. Arriving somewhere in the general vicinity of your original destination is about as much as we can expect.
This, I have learned.
Amid the perfidy, you and I need to live our lives. Corruption, vested interests and outright criminality taint much of public life, but for the most part, what we do day-to-day isn’t that much affected.
It will in the long-run alter everything we do, but unless you take an enormously long-lens view, this afternoon is the same as every other. Yes, the media’s splashy stories grab our attention, purporting to make them relevant to everyone. But that’s not the case. Presidential politics is at best badly written soap opera; celebrity is court jesters pandering to the crowd; economics is dazzling magic tricks that make no sense.
Nope, none of these things change today.
Here is the inevitable truth: that we all somehow can only find happiness and satisfaction in the everyday. Locating ourselves in a circumstance we’d be okay repeating tomorrow remains as clear-cut – and elusive – as ever. Being in charge of your own orbit is challenging, subtle, empowering and sweet simultaneously. All that remains is to choose to make it so.