During my career in contract administration I have had the opportunity to assist in developing numerous proposals for submission to the US Government. It is a long process where the requirements and deadlines can change at a moment’s notice. It is tedious, frustrating and stressful to say the least. At the end of the process you wait and hopefully the proposal will lead to an award. Win or lose, no proposal is perfect and there is always the opportunity to learn lessons. We ask ourselves: Where can we improve? What will we do differently next time? If you’re smart, you will take the process of examining the lessons seriously and implement them moving forward. The goal is continual improvement.
As far back as I can remember, I have been a person who is open to trying new things. Another way to say that is that I have a short attention span and move from one thing to the next quickly. It takes a lot to hold my interest for a significant amount of time (which may explain my two short marriages …) – especially now that I am older. Time just seems so much more precious and I refuse to waste it on nonsense – and the older I get I find more things fall into the “nonsense” category.
In school, I never stuck with an activity longer than a season. I was a cheerleader in 7th grade; I was in the drama club in the 9th grade and was in a production of “Cabaret”; I ran track my sophomore year and was a decent sprinter. Than the boys showed up and all extracurricular activities fell by the wayside. The fact is, I enjoyed participating in all those activities but once I did them I didn’t feel the need to do them again. That attitude has followed me into adulthood. I think about how motivated I was to be a Figure Competitor. I trained like a beast and got into the best condition of my life. I walked on stage 3 times before I turned pro and then I walked one more time as a pro and then I was done. I sometimes think about doing it again but for the most part those thoughts are fleeting and the desire I once had is no longer there.
I got my first job when I was 15 years old and over the course of 38 years I have had close to 20 different employers. It may be more. I know people who have worked for the same employer for 20+ years. They spend their entire careers with the same company.
The longest I’ve spent with one employer was seven years. At the time, I’ve always felt like I had a good reason to move on, however, looking back it feels like all the jumping around did not serve me well. The truth is, my main reason for going from job to job was financial. Each time I went to a new employer I would receive a substantial increase in salary. I was chasing dollars instead of job satisfaction. I learned that when you chase dollars that’s all you end up with. I believe that when you pursue something deeper you will achieve something deeper and the dollars will eventually come.
Now I’m about to be 53, starting over (again) in my career, working 3+ jobs trying to make ends meet. Sigh.
No failure – just lessons, right? So, what are the lessons?
1. Be patient. Just because you don’t see the positive outcome doesn’t mean it’s not coming. Time is going to pass anyway so work your plan and stop being in such a rush.
2. There are no shortcuts. Each step in the process is important.
3. Put less focus on the goal and more focus on the process. Fall in love with the process and before you know it you are at the goal.
4. Understand that everyone does not have your best interest in mind.
5. Trust your gut. The first instinct is usually the right one.
6. Asking for help is not an indication of weakness.
7. Do every single thing that you can do to get the job done and do not spend one single second worrying about what is out of your control.
8. Maintain other interests outside of the goal. This will help to relieve the frustration when things aren’t going as quickly or as smoothly as you think they should.
9. Volunteer. Helping others is a great way to take the focus off yourself and what you perceive as problems.
10. Remain grateful. Each day that you wake up is another opportunity to say “thank you” for all the blessings that you already have.
I’ve accomplished quite a bit during the first half of my life. I’m hoping to have another 40 or so years to do even more. My prayer is that I am smart enough not to make the same mistakes again and that I implement these lessons in order to be more content and at peace.