beyond the breaking point

I’ll try not to dwell on the negative, but a big shift just happened in my life.  I’ve been in an industry for my whole working life that I used to love, but which I’ve grown discouraged with for the last seven years or so.  Being in this industry has been frustrating for me but has, in a strange way, been my comfort zone.  I’ve been in this line of work for so long that the work has been easy, almost to the point of sleepy automation with not a lot of real passion or drive involved anymore than what I could muster up by long periods of self pep talk before the work shift.  It’s been kind of like that old lawn mower which you’ve fixed time and time again that really just needs replacing and you’re just tugging on that chain, again and again, until one day you throw your back out before you decide to just get a new one.  I’ve reached that symbolic point in my career in the last year or so and am now leaving it behind.

Again, not to harp on the negative, but it’s not just the industry, it’s also bad management by ownership from one dictatorial individual who was the proverbial straw who broke this camel’s back this time around.  I’ve found out I’m way too much of an individualist to work for someone who rules in an old-school fashion.  I’m losing almost all respect for the old school.  I’ve recently heard this type of reign described as the seagull management style.  It’s called this because the boss comes in, shits on everyone, and then leaves.  Totally makes sense and applied in my case.  Granted, I have a firm belief that this person has full right to run his business however he sees fit.  After all, this was his show, not mine.  He and his family has taken the risk in taking on this business, and they can run it however they want.  It’s their place.  However, I also have the right to speak with my feet and leave.  At times, this individual could be the warmest, kindest person in the world, but could change in a flash.  The whole day would run according to his mood which filtered down through the whole staff.    Keeping good people on staff has been a problem for them, although there are a lot of good people currently on staff who do make it a great place for the customer.  Being there for just over a year, I was the longest-employed salaried employee there.   There’s a lot of dinosaurs like him who are still predominant in the industry.  He’s been very well respected and successful throughout his career, so I’m sure he’s not going to change anytime soon.  When you have someone like this at the top, it flows down throughout the whole crew and becomes contagious like a plague.  I’ve seen managers hired on above me who started off in a very positive direction who have struggled staying in that direction.

Notwithstanding all of the stress and nonsense from this past year, I will say that it’s been my favorite, not because I’ve somehow fallen back in love with the industry, but it has happened in spite of it.  A big attribute to that has been my application of Aikido principles at the workplace and several supportive co-workers.  I dealt with hundreds of customers every day.  Establishing a connection with them and growing relationships with a lot of them has been the sole source of fulfillment there.  Finally bringing my own art to the job has been life changing and I will take that with me wherever I am.  Taking personal responsibility for each customer’s experience has been very motivating, albeit stressful at times, but at the end of the day, it’s been very fulfilling.

It amazes me how difficult it is for us to make the choice of siding with ourselves.   Getting out of bad situations and actually acting on that choice can be extremely hard.  Making that jump away from something very damaging, albeit comfortable, is very difficult and can be very inconvenient, but it’s crazy to me how often we’d rather stay in bad situations than undergo a little discomfort.  Thoughts of letting people down, leaving people behind, people talking about us negatively behind our back, etc. (these thoughts are usually presented to ourself – wait is there multiple personalities involved here? We’ll touch on this in another post – as an uber-blown out of proportion Tarantinoesque movie – yes, with flashbacks and all) terrify us and we talk ourselves into staying.  We have nightmarish visions with these grandiose scenes where our boss has this crazy monologue on how disloyal we are to the company and coworkers as they all gather behind him with tears welling up in their eyes as they shake their heads at us in shame before the door slams shut as we walk out in the snowstorm, homeless, helpless, and lost.  After seeing this movie in our heads, we actually BELIEVE IT!  We then think the best thing to do is just hang tight, hope things change, and let it roll off our back.  Funny thing is, it usually does get a little better…. Then it happens again.  Sure as night follows day, another blowout happens, we promise ourselves that we’ll leave, we complain to our family and friends AGAIN, and the cycle of doom repeats itself.  Every time we end up siding with our aggressors, leaving our own best interest behind.  We kick ourselves over and over for it.  Maybe I should speak for myself here, but I think at least some of you have had this similar experience.  I just came out of this vicious cycle, so it’s fresh in my mind.

This career has been a huge part of my identity and is how a lot of people relate to me.  Even though I inherently knew I was changing on the inside, it’s been so hard to express that on the outside out of fear that I’d be going against the (okay, I’ve said it before, so I’ll name the industry here) clean-cut golf pro label I’ve had on my back for so long.  I loved golf when I was a kid.  Being an only child and having a couple dramatic events at a fairly young age that not many of my peers understood, I was attracted to golf because of the solitude.  I could go out just before sunset, just me and a little white ball, and focus on one thing: getting that ball in the cup.  A golf course just after sunrise or just before sunset is one of the most peaceful and invigorating places to be, and the course seemed to speak to me, not so much in language, but more so in vibration.  The shifting of colors and changing of terrain from hole to hole was intriguing.  Not being much (okay, at all) of a school person, I got straight into the business after high school, where I played competitively.  After some time, golf became a business, and a lot of my bosses were the typical stereotypical old golf pro – good ole’ boys who hob-nobbed with the snobbish and hung on their every word to gain status in their social club.  I can count on one hand the number of bosses who have been a positive force in my life, and I’ve had a lot more than two bosses in my career.  When being groomed for management, what happens is, if you don’t act and manage like your bosses, they end up not liking you, so people usually either change in order to act and manage like them, or they move on.  Moving on has been scary for me before now because it implied the unknown.  What else are you going to do?  You have a pretty good thing going here, do you want to just give it up?  I’ve been trying to do a hybrid of working with these types, but being myself behind their backs and managing in my own way when I could.  This has become tiresome, and I’ve grown to resent a lot of those I’ve worked with through the years.  It’s a business that, because of them, is stale and has hit a wall.

After looking for some time, I think I’ve found a company that encourages autonomy and allows people to be themselves at work.  It’s well known for creating an environment at the workplace where people want to be driven by an incredible mission and culture that fosters great teamwork and productivity.  Enter the new school.  I am very excited to be a part of a company like this and look forward to observing and writing a bit about the aiki principles involved in it.  This is, I believe, where business is going if it’s going to be successful.  The human spirit is too strong to be ruled by an iron fist, and I think people are evolving to the point where they know this.  People don’t want to be cogs in a machine.  Companies managing in the old school way are (hopefully) going to find it harder and harder to keep good, productive, conscious workers on their team as more of these newer companies come on line.

Philosophically, I see Aikido and it’s core principles to be a great vehicle to move the human consciousness to this place.  The more people care about self-growth and the possibilities we each have, the more of them will start to move to this new type of business.  Being more in tune with human nature and in nature itself, people can use this knowledge to foster and grow this spirit in others through their businesses instead of acting against these forces for short-term profit and difficulty for everyone down the road.  I don’t believe this can be governed or forced on people.  These ideas must be shown, experienced, and believed by people through the voluntary interaction between us, not through the use of force (government).  Not to get too preachy, but I’m on a roll here, like Mahatma Ghandi suggested, be the change you want to see in your world and make it happen, inspiring others to do the same.  If you feel like your life is being governed by someone or some group in a way that’s anti-life and against your personal growth (which usually includes the world around you), do something to change it, or cast your vote of non-support by going elsewhere.  If you can’t find somewhere else to go that does this, start something of your own offering others something to be involved in where they can bring themselves, encouraging them to be themselves to help your cause.  That thing doesn’t necessarily be a business.  Start a group or a movement towards making that change.  Try to only work for people who will allow you to bring yourself to the job.  When companies have people who can do this, there’s not much need to micro-manage them.  Getting out of their way will be the goal and letting them each individually cast the light that only they can shine on their work will be the result.  Those who only want to be told what to do and are only interested in punching the clock and getting that check will go to a place where only that is expected of them.  By enslaving themselves, these people will easily find those who are willing to enslave them, and they will feel safe and secure working in this situation.  I’m not sure about you, but I’d rather be invigorated and excited by my work rather than safe.  In this economy, not being safe can be scary, but it’s a risk I think is worth taking which is the only route to personal freedom.

4 comments

  1. Jeff Black on

    Great article! Enjoy your new adventure!!

  2. It’s quite obvious how much you love golf, but not the industry. It sounds like you still have a couple of lines attached to what you’re giving up. That’s totally okay. Even though you’re apologizing for focusing on the negative, sometimes in order to deal with something, you cannot turn your back on it. We learn this all the time in the dojo. It is when it consumes us that it becomes the kind of negative that harms us, rather than the negative that simply exists in life. Batteries have a positive side, and a negative. Lightning could not exist without this polarization, either. Kind of like conflict, we can’t exist without both sides. Sometimes things come to a point where all the energy must meet up, and how we deal with it then comes down to who we are, or in Aiki, our training.

    You’ll still love golf, Jonas, never give that up. I doubt you will anyway. It sounds as if all the focus you put upon it needs to be done in a different way, and as you said, this choice might be a hard one. Boy, do I understand that–leaving warehouses. Seven years of the stuff, and I’m not trapped in the cement box anymore. I made the leap…

    …what isn’t usually realized is the equal challenge of once you leave familiarity, building it up again wherever you go. This is my challenge. To some, looking back isn’t the issue, it is looking forward. The way I see it, we’re in the same boat, you’re just rowing port, I’m rowing starboard–in the end, we’re both moving forward. 🙂

    • Jonas Ellison on

      I just looked and saw your comment, thanks! Yeah, making the leap is tough, but it’s really nice once ya do it. Good to see you’re going through the same kind of thing. Good stuff, man, hang in there.

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