Posted by: malstott | September 19, 2012

Pause Programming

While crossing the Pacific Ocean recently on one of my many journeys to Asia I paid close attention to the instructions on the screen. The sudden halting to the movie or music comes with a flash on the screen: Pause Programming. On this trip I took note and followed the directions. Usually this sign means nothing to me but on this trip I was trying to make a difficult decision about my career. The symbolism worked for me. Let me explain.

In the movie that is my life things move along rapidly almost without time for reflection. That isn’t a bad thing in normal times but what if I don’t know about the emergency landing instructions or the oxygen masks? There is value in knowing ahead of time what an appropriate exit strategy is. What should trigger a job reconsideration? When should I trade-off loyalty for self-preservation or even for happiness? What are my values and what would compromise them? Giving this some serious thought ahead of a major crisis on the job is wise and saves a lot of time when time is in short supply.

Do I know what cabin I belong in? While in flight you can’t move out of your cabin without breaking the rules. There are always exceptions to the rules so sometimes it is a good idea to seek out the better wine in business class. Doesn’t hurt to ask. But during a “life programming pause” it is important reevaluate my aspirations. Is my goal to be an employee or to work for myself? Do I want to work on a business or in a business? Is my job the focus of my life or do I want to have several things to juggle and develop?

When turbulence comes along in a career it is best to have a plan. Certainly it is a good idea to buckle in and face the issues. Dealing with crisis is a true test of one’s character and it is a test of a company’s real capabilities. Turbulence in a career is both a threat and an opportunity. If you are prepared and safe (financially and with strong networks) it can be either a non-event or a chance to grow.

Finally, when the movie is paused for the landing instructions and for information on the gate and other connecting flights it is good to listen. The career analogy here is to manage transitions before getting there.  What is my financial situation?  Can I afford to start my own business? Can I take a break and train in a new area? When can I afford to retire and what does that retirement look like? Nurture the network. Who do I know and what do they do? Where do my interests lie and then what can I do to prepare myself for a transition?

Bottom line advice:  Pause programming every once in a while. Don’t be caught reacting without the knowledge that is available if you pay attention. Keep yourself up to date on the rules, options, gates of life, destination details. Be ready for change because it is going to come up. Don’t go through life without thinking.

Thinking is the hardest work there is. That is why so few people engage in it.          HenryFord

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Responses

  1. Marcy: It’s somewhat ironic that your Dad and I were confronted with the same thoughts at about the same age as you are now. Both of us sort of phased out of the work-a-day world when your Dad went from the corporate world to working for himself –then retiring. I went from my career oriented school administrative role to working as an independent associate professor at the College of New Jersey evaluating prospective teaching candidates for a few years before retiring. In both cases it appeared to be a shifting of gears from the fast lane to a more comfortable slower lane. I really don’t know how your Dad felt about that change but I felt that my move was very gratifying,challenging, albeit less rewarding financially.
    My advice (perhaps not sought) is,nevertheless, that you have to examine what avenue makes you comfortable and what will ultimately make you happy–with no regrets down the road.
    In my view, you have nothing to prove–you’ve already proven yourself. Whatever path you choose-ie, working FOR a business; working IN your own business; or retiring—dig down deep–go for what makes you happy–and don’t look back–have no regrets.
    It is a very important decision that you have to make. You’ve already done exceptionally well and all of us are very proud of you and your accomplishments. Whatever you do we will always love you and wish you all the happiness that this next phase of your life can possibly provide . Love you, UR &AB—–Go RU!!!!!

    • No regrets is the key for me as well. That is what precipitated this change for me. I don’t want to regret what I’m doing in my last 25 working years (and yes, I have that many more given my definition of work). I want to contribute at my full potential and I want to enjoy what I do. Too much to ask? I don’t think so. So I concur with your advice (and of course it is sought). The only modification I would make is that there is value in being a little uncomfortable or a little stretched. Growing and learning is hecka fun and I want to keep doing that.
      Go Purdue. Love, your niece


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