Go Fast Or Go Home
June 24, 2014
When encountering a staggering challenge -- personal, professional, relational -- many people give up too soon. In the small hours when things can seem insurmountable and the odds are against us, we may cling to the concept of accomplishment-without-risk. Fear is a relentless pursuer if you allow it to be. But when you're not afraid to lose, you can challenge anything.
In a long-ago column, I recall introducing the proposition that each of us falls into one of two categories: work processors or work creators. This concept is not intended as judgmental; instead it may help sort out the way we approach our life in these turbid times. We need both groups, of course, and there is no rule restricting anyone from moving from one group to the other. "The good old days" weren't a specific time or place, they were whatever we wanted them to be ... a state of mind. So when someone talks about job dissatisfaction I sometimes raise the comparison between "processor" and "creator" and am met with looks of puzzlement.
Some definition for your consideration: "Work Processors" have taken an orderly road to their career. They view their job as a means to an end; a second home, eventual retirement, a jumping-off point marked by time and compensation. Processors often see risk as something to be avoided, taking comfort in the "known." They are valuable participants in an organization's well-being. They measure their time in hours and days, and see much of their personal satisfaction from off-the-job fulfillments, while meeting daily goals and standards. These qualities are not a negative but instead core beliefs spanning an occupational lifetime; many of which came from parents or career influences early-on.
"Work Creators" see the world quite differently. They view their job as an end in itself (occasionally tabbed workaholics) and to be sure, their approach can sometimes be detrimental to those around them. Work Creators are one with their role, and embrace meritocracy knowing the reward often follows when one loves something and pursues it like a Terrier shaking a toy. They inherently find risk (or it finds them) and are satisfied with the risk-reward fulcrum. Much of their satisfaction flows from what they do.
About 20% of Americans fit the "Creator" category with the balance leading successful lives in the Processor group. Neither is "better;" there is no best-place-to-be. After a couple of decades in a career, a poignant sense of the one-way flow of time engulfs us; all of the offhand decisions, the impulsive choices that can swell and become our fate. And we watch our kids transformed into young adults, setting sail for life and career and we wish we could reverse time though those days are gone, with only the future stretching ahead.
It really doesn't matter whether you're a Processor or Creator ... neither can be switched on-or-off. In today's battles, smashing victory or unwelcomed disappointment, we hold our future in our own two hands. We may fool ourselves that there's some big reward at the end of the game, but time and fate whisper in our ear. Processor or Creator, this is our life and it's today.