Taking an inventory of the tough times

It’s been a tough week so far. The last two days have involved more-than-usual firefighting and some workplace conflicts. The good thing is that I work with a highly mature group, which keep conflicts highly professional and asks each other the tough questions. Nonetheless, undergoing a physically and emotionally tough day is taxing.

If you’ve read this far, you have realized this post is not written by the author when he is in the best of moods. Also, be warned that it does not get better from here.

But if you’ve come this far in the post, there is an upside! it hit me tonight that my definition of a “bad day” needs some calibration. So I thought of re-counting here some of my professional-life bad days, just to read myself later to remind myself that I’ve lived through worse.

1. My toughest experience, top of mind, was an instance when I was completely in the wrong (I’m going to keep a certain level of abstraction here). I had committed a grave error, and it was not just a mistake but something I will now classify as “willful ignorance”. I was called out on it, and frankly I should have known better. I rode on the assumption that my act will be overlooked, and that tempted me to take a short cut. If it was not for the good nature of some senior people involved who were on my side, it could have turned out bad.

However – it taught me never, ever to take shortcuts again. Between the easy-but-wrong and the right-but-tough thing to do, I now always choose the right-but-tough thing (or so I think)

2. Once, a customer threatened to “ruin my career” if I did not give him a specific business report he wanted on priority. It was clearly an over-the-top response over a banal item, by a customer well-known for his bad temper. More interestingly, when I took the matter to my boss at the time, instead of siding by me, she admonished me for aggravating the customer. Later, when I thought about it, I realized it was plainly an emotional response from her, because she would now need to meet the customer to discuss the outstanding item, and those two could not stand the sight of each other. She took it out on me. Thankfully it was a Friday, so I came home early and drank a beer to get over the memories of two outrageous encounters.

Lesson learned: sometimes you just got to take it. From everyone.

3. My job hunt in 2012. Before I landed a generous independent assignment, I was out hunting for work for more than 3 months. Those were tough 3 months. It took a lot to keep hitting job postings everyday, knowing fully well such searches take time. I held on, and kept going. Then one day, it was over and I was back in business.

Lesson learned: sometimes life hits you hard. Believe things will change, and you will feel yourself again. And keep going.

I started this post feeling negative, but having penned down the tougher times, today doesn’t look so bad. I think the trick worked!