When I was 16, I wanted to be 18. At 18, I wanted to be 21. To me each age meant I was grown; what I never considered was the growth I needed between them — because maturing is a process that brings along two friends: responsibility and challenges.
Every professional or personal challenge I experienced and every lesson I learned was typically about me recognizing and managing the lines in my life: learning when to cross them, when to draw them and when to read between them.
During my professional growth, I learned:
- The line between independent and dependent after my first year in college. I didn’t like my initial major; so I worked full-time while attending school, because I didn’t wanted to hear my parents’ two cents (pick a major, money don’t grow on trees). After changing my major three times, I graduated not only with a degree, but also with applicable experience and a great sense of satisfaction.
- The line between being incompetence/competence the first time I was hired in a leadership role without good mentorship. I had to become competent quickly by leaving my ego home, shamelessly asking questions and empowering the right people. It wasn’t without some tumultuous times, but in the end we got the job done as a team.
- The line between work and life when a coworker died from a heart attack. He worked 90 hours a week because he thought he was irreplaceable. Three weeks after his death, he was replaced.
- The line between ambitions/overcompensating is often skewed when you are hitting homeruns at work and striking out in your personal life. In order to successfully grow professionally, you have to grow personally. To do one without the other creates a significant imbalance. We all have to make some sacrifices in our career journey, but keep in mind that no matter how much you achieve in your professional life (salary and title), at the end of the day, it’s replaceable.
During my personal growth I learned:
- The line between friends and people in your life is often tested through your trials and tribulation. Through each of your challenges, you will identify the difference by who readily steps up to support you and who quickly steps back. You will always be disappointed when a “friend” steps back and pleasantly surprised when an acquaintance steps up.
- The line between caring and carrying is often subjective and not easily defined when you love someone:
- A guy told me that he was the youngest of four boys and his father believed that his parental responsibility ended at high school graduation by giving each son $100 and a suitcase. He told them that the world was theirs, go out and make their living because they weren’t welcome at home anymore. Although he worked his way through college while living with one of his brothers, he thought his father’s actions were harsh, considering it was the mid 1990s and not 1890.
- I recently met an 80-year-old lady who has been married for 62 years. She told me she had two sons, the older son had two kids but her 58 year old “baby” has never left home. She assured me nothing was wrong with him; he was very responsible, has worked for the same company for 38 years and he is included in their trust. I remarked that he apparently doesn’t like change, and she said no and neither did she.
The line between caring and carrying is often blurred with emotions. Trying to motivate unmotivated loved ones by intimidation, bribery, embarrassment or overindulgence, hoping they will do better, is similar to wading in quicksand. The more you do, the more you get sucked in. You can’t grow for someone else or make it easier if that person is unwilling.
Your ability to cross the lines between growing up/growing old, telling/teaching, irresponsible/responsible and defining yourself/defining your career is often blurred with a mixed bag of hard and easy choices…and no excuses.
Age didn’t define my maturity; challenges and responsibility did. The line between age/maturity may look thin, but it represents a lot of choices and lessons. No matter how much I wanted to fast track my maturity, I learned that time flies only when you throw your watch.
Written by: Gwendolyn M. Ward, Principal at FOOW?
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