Arriving to departure.

18 Nov

Ok, here we go. Hopefully firefox will be kinder to my work than Microsoft edge has been. This rewrite will be a little bit scattered, but I hope it will be cogent. I just want to get it all out, we can edit it later.

I really like this question, and this will be a difficult one to answer, we will absolutely have to revisit this topic later on. It’s hard for me to even think about quitting because, to me, it implies some sort of failure. I think people give up too soon without enough consideration. However, I am aware that there is such a thing as failing to admit failure, the sunk cost fallacy is a real thing and not to be taken for granted.

“Give me a place to stand, a lever long enough and a fulcrum and I will move the Earth.” -Archimedes

The first thing I would recommend when encountering any sort of difficulty is to ask this simple question: “Is it me?” If you are the cause of whatever problem you are encountering this is great news, because it is infinitely easier to change one’s own thoughts, perceptions and behaviors than it is to change those of others. It is useful to have a trusted partner who can point out the plank in our eye that is warping our perspective of reality where we only see a speck. Sometimes all we really need to do is develop a higher tolerance for whatever is (at the moment) intolerable. Imagine meeting someone who had just quit his job at an aviary to work on a pig farm because he didn’t like dealing with bird poop! I have come across countless people who leapfrog from failed relationship to failed relationship, bemoaning their bad luck and readily finding fault in their partners, decades into this pattern they finally come to the hard/easy question: “Is it me?” Remember, leaving doesn’t solve the problem. You will either leave the problem behind for someone else to deal with, or you will take it with you. I’m not sure which is worse, but I can say with certainty which is more easily avoidable.

If you can rule out yourself as the problem, (and I recommend never doing so permanently) you will have a place to stand. Now it’s time to gain leverage in the form of tools and skills. The other day I came across a problem: the sleeve button of my favorite flannel shirt had popped off. Luckily for me I had a sewing kit handy, and adequate sewing skills for the task at hand. If I hadn’t had a sewing kit, it may have been worth it to buy the tools. However, I can’t say it would have been worth it to take sewing lessons. How frequent and pervasive are the problems you are encountering in your given vocation? Are the costs of gaining the tools and skills necessary to address the problems prohibitively high? You can’t always “get a new one”. Consider the job of jungle bush pilot. While mechanical emergencies are relatively rare due to maintenance, they do occur. And when they do, both the tools and skills of an airplane mechanic are vital. Try your darndest to plan ahead and gain tools and skills before they are called to task.

Fulcrum time! We don’t all have to be mechanics to get up in the air. Many problems can be outsourced. If you do not have the tools/skills to tackle a given problem, odds are somebody you know does. Or at least somebody you know knows somebody who does. Persuasiveness and diplomacy are great skills to have for the purpose of conscripting the aid and advice of others. If you can’t solve a problem on your own; find like minded people, build alliances, put together a posse. Leverage that leverage!

If all of the above doesn’t work, consider a corporate style template. Verbal warnings, write-ups, suspensions leading to termination. It’s important to have this documented in writing to avoid surprises. There’s a reason it’s called wrongful termination: it’s wrong. Each step of this type of process allows the other party the opportunity to ask the hard/easy question I talked about earlier. Each step increases the severity or the situation. They can self assess or refuse to self assess. They can try to improve or refuse to improve. The assessment may not be accurate, and the attempts at improvement may fail. This takes patience. If people refuse to improve or even consider that they may be in the wrong, termination may be in order. Obviously there are varying levels of offense. If an employee pulls a knife on a coworker and threatens bodily harm I’d say it’s safe to skip over the verbal warning phase. As a side note (and I hope an obvious one) if the problem is with an individual it will be easier to deal with than a group, and group problems are easier to deal with than cultural problems.

Before leaving: Be clear about the reasons for your departure. There’s a chance that this will cause the problem to be addressed after you leave instead of leaving it behind for someone else to discover. Be nice about it though, I’ve never heard of bridge burning as a recommended policy. Also: communicate your views to someone who can actually do something about the problem. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. At least you tried to help. Take inventory, be clear with yourself why you are leaving. Know the problems, and know what tools and skills you need for your next venture.

Lastly, failing is costly. All that blood, sweat, tears, time and money you put into this thing you are leaving and you don’t even get a t-shirt! But you do get to take your lessons with you moving forward.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” -Marcus Aurelius


I’m not technology enough to do the linky comment thing yet. These are skills I aim to gain.

Question: What are some useful and detrimental constraints, self imposed or otherwise? I’m leaving this one wide open as a bit of a joke.


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