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Home > Blog > The Forum: Incremental Rebalance
Out of Our Minds
Friday, May 07, 2004 11:43 AM
The Forum: Incremental Rebalance
Kevin Salwen on Life

Picking up on Halley's post below, improving worklife quality often requires only a fairly small change of perspective, not a particularly jarring one.

When I was a fairly young reporter in the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal, I had a multi-month period in which it seemed that every story I did ended up buried in the back of the third section. I'd work my tail off, then be frustrated that the editors weren't seeing how important and interesting my stories were. It even got to the point where we joked that if you wanted to find my stories, simply turn to the 'cargo plane page' -- C17A.

After hearing my latest diatribe against the stupidity of editors one afternoon, another reporter wearily replied, 'Why don't you stop doing those stories then? Obviously, other people don't find them that interesting.' As I sat there recovering from the 2x4 he had just delivered to the back of my head, I realized that this had been MY issue all along. Sure, I was riveted by this stuff, but no one else was. I was busy but I wasn't productive.

I began to bypass more of the day-to-day coverage and search for the bigger, deeper stories. My pieces began to receive better display and my job satisfaction improved immeasurably over the following year. Two years later, I was promoted to a great editor's slot.

I'll bet most people, as Halley notes, can find something similar in their own lives and make a tweak.


3 comments

Human Growth Hormone - 2/24/2005 1:34:50 PM
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Kate - 5/7/2004 5:26:46 PM
I like how your story illustrated where the real driver's seat of our lives is: squarely on our own shoulders. Reminded me of a story I once heard Maya Angelou tell about her grandmother, who allowed no complaining. Instead, she was told that the situation at hand presented her with 'two choices...either change it, or change the way you think about it.'
Curt Rosengren - 5/7/2004 2:15:27 PM
Kevin, I think you touched on something important here. I'm continually amazed at what an impact a small shift can have in people's satisfaction with their jobs.

A lot of it boils down to leaving the victim mentality behind, stopping for a moment, and asking yourself, 'OK, what can I do? What can I change? How am I banging my head against a wall that I don't have to?' We often have a lot more control over things than we give ourselves credit for.

For you, the light bulb finally went on and you woke up to the reality - if the interest isn't there, no amount of ranting will make it so. It will just make you miserable. So you looked and said, 'Well, what else could I do? How else could I approach this that I would still really enjoy?'

Sometimes it's not a shift in what you're doing, but in your own way of operating. I had a client who was about to pop by the time she started working with me. She wanted out of her job, and she wanted out RIGHT NOW. The rub, of course, was that financially she couldn't just jump ship.

We started talking about where the trouble was. The short story is that she had a people pleasing personality, and was terrible at setting boundaries. As a result, more and more and more got piled on her plate, and she was about to drown in it.

She ended up getting clear about what she could and couldn't manage. She had a heart to heart with her boss, outlining all of the things she was responsible for, and estimating how much time in a week that would actually take. She asked her boss to help her prioritize the most important things so she could focus on them.

In the end, she mastered the fine art of saying no, and got a realistic perspective on how much she could handle. When someone tried to put more on her plate, she was able to either say no, or say, 'sure - which of these other things should not get done as a result?'

She was amazed at how she was able to breathe and enjoy life again.

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