Note: This is the seventeenth in a month-long exercise called Reverb10, where bloggers reflect on the year before and think towards the year ahead. The idea is to post daily, based on the day’s prompts; let’s see how well I do.
Prompt: Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?
I will note that these are getting much harder to do as the month goes on; that said, I appreciate the discipline, and am trying to think of it as meditation. *ahem*
The summer before my senior year of high school, I got my first job – at Clean Water Action (CWA) in Providence. For three summers and one brutally cold winter, I travelled to various neighborhoods in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, and I walked door to door, convincing people in their homes to give generously to the organization’s goals, which focused on tougher environmental protection laws.
The job was physically demanding – I spent five hours a day walking, five days a week – but the exercise was invigorating. Most importantly, I found I was really good at the job. Having been studying theatre, I was well equipped to put myself in the situation that these folks were in, and I was able to craft my “pitch” according to what I knew would resonate with the folks I was speaking to. It was incredible practice, that has fed into every single area of my career to this day – hence, my interest in human-focused design.
Why am I discussing an experience I had in high school in the context of lessons learned this year? Because of bricks.
As a canvasser, one of the things that you learn quickly is that people say “no” a lot. Not only do they say no, some people are incredibly rude about it – or worse, they keep you there talking, pretending to be interested, just so they can waste your time. At CWA, we called this “carrying bricks.” Each “no” is another brick, and you have to make the choice whether you’re going to keep carrying those bricks – making it harder to get to the next house – or drop them and move on, looking for the people who are going to get it.
Because I didn’t carry bricks, I was one of the most consistent canvassers CWA had for three summers – and I loved the job. For six years running a design studio, I didn’t carry bricks in my business development process – and I was successful in keeping the studio running, and profitable, for all six of those years.
This year, in my shift from business owner to employment candidate, I realized that I’ve been carrying bricks, hardcore. Mind you, this is a brutal environment. Plenty of places are hiring, but the candidates they’re looking for seem to exist in this magical alternate universe that leaves us brilliant-but-normal types in the dust.
After a particularly disappointing bit of feedback from a place that I was really excited about joining, I found myself doubting everything I knew to be true about myself. Then I realized that it was a brick. A brick that I’d been carrying for months, along with all the other bricks that I carried from all the other rejections I’d gotten from places that just didn’t get me. When faced with a brick, what do you do? Do you throw it at the offender’s window, or build a wall with it to protect yourself?
Neither of those things actually help matters. Petty larseny only leads to trouble, and building a wall only hides you further – which is no help during a job search. The only thing you can do is leave it where it is. Drop it out of your bag and keep moving. Eventually, you’ll find the place that gets it, and you’ll know it’s right.
I haven’t found it yet, but I know it’s close. The more clarity I get on what I really want to do, the closer I get to the goal – and the more people I meet who actually get it. It’s a really, really good feeling.