I’m not hard-wired to actually embrace change particularly well, though I ironically happened into a line of work that is constantly evolving. Personality quizzes consistently determine that I’m high on conscientiousness, agreeableness, (my favorite) neuroticism, and extraversion. Depending on the quiz, my scores are usually 50-75% on all of those traits.
But then on “openness” (a measure of how much you embrace change vs. convention) my scores plummet to 16-30%. That seemed counterintuitive to me the first time I saw my results: I embrace progressive policies and politics, so on a societal level I certainly want change. And for the first several years of my career, I switched jobs and moved frequently. Modern communications requires practitioners keep up on an always-shifting landscape. But if I look at my closet or the music on my iTunes, I see the real evidence: I am change adverse. I’ve been wearing the same basic silhouettes and neutrals for 15 years, and as my husband says, my taste in music shows that I don’t take myself too seriously. (Not sure if he meant that as a compliment, but I find music snobbishness insufferable, so there. I still like Weezer.)
Slight sidebar: Since I started working in consulting, I think I became increasingly skeptical of change because of the overuse of “innovation.” I'm going to save a longer riff on this for a 2016 blog post.
There is an inherent tension between my agreeableness and comfort with convention and the fact that I’ve had some documented problems with authority. I specifically had problems when I determined an authority figure was pretty bad at their job (i.e. my fifth grade teacher, my high school soccer coach, and a few former bosses that I never got along with). In retrospect, it was perhaps inevitable that I’d eventually decide to work for myself. It took a slow boil of learning so much by working for other people for 10 great years, and one year of letting it sink in that D.C. was not my forever home. It was time to change.
A couple of people I adore have talked about dealing with change beautifully, though in their cases, unwelcomed change that was forced upon them. Rachel Ward, who I’m lucky to know, wrote a sad, hilarious, widely-shared Medium piece this year. One of the most highlighted quotes in the piece was that “being comfortable with being uncomfortable is a very effective way to be a human.” And Stephen Colbert, who I wish I knew, said something very similar about how after living through tragedy, he does not mind feeling awkward and cannot be embarrassed. That is what allowed him to be a comedian; otherwise he’d be a lawyer. Who better to take advice from than people who lived through tragedy and can talk about it with grace and humor?
In 2015 I had let go of things I took comfort in and get a little more uncomfortable. As I wrote about before, I actually liked my old job, my coworkers, and my clients. There were a lot of things that I liked about D.C., like the fact that I knew my way around, I had a great network of friends and professional contacts, and my favorite dance aerobics class, ((305)). I had to commit to changing, or else I would have stayed comfortably in the velvet rut, as my husband’s old coworker used to call their place of employment.
You know what is uncomfortable in my new life? A lot. People ask me a lot of questions, like “What’s next? When are you going to buy a house? Are you going to get real office space? When are you going to hire people? Are you trying to get more clients in Pennsylvania or nationally? More political clients or corporate?” And I don’t really have definitive answers on any of those. Shit, actually reading that makes me think I need to make 2016 the year I write a business plan…
It is a bit uncomfortable knowing that I don’t have an employer that owes me a paycheck every two weeks. Clients are free to walk away at will. It is really uncomfortable, actually, not getting a paycheck that automatically withholds taxes and realizing that it is on you to figure out what you owe and pay it. But that is why God introduced me to my accountant, Judith, and she’s my new favorite person.
So in the spirit of Judith and all the people and support mechanisms that helped me embrace change, here are few of my favorite pieces of inspiration and advice from the last year:
- Startup, podcast by Gimlet media – I think this entire show is fantastic and felt relatable for me. Of course I don’t deal with raising VC money, but there are still nuggets of wisdom. For example in episode 18, minute 23, an early investor tells the Gimlet media founder that being offered a bunch of money is not necessarily a good thing. In that scenario, it meant someone else is "driving the bus" now and the founder needs to drive his own bus. As a former bus driver myself, I appreciated that analogy.
- Domino, February 2015: “…you can approach interior design either as an expression of self, with furnishings and objects that directly reflect your own experience, or as the pursuit of a showplace, stocked with attractive yet impersonal times. … there’s a karma associated with decorating and that people who pursue the first option are ultimately happier. So, in some sense, the way you relate to your sofa is, like it or not, the way you relate to the people in your life - because you’re either being authentic or you’re not. Profound, right?” So profound.
- Bloomberg Businessweek, December 2015: “4 signs you’re in a dead-end job” If I needed a reminder that it is better to build your own elevator than climb someone else's ladder, this one struck a nerve. I should print it out and hang it on my wall to cheer me up when I'm having a bad day.
- Real Simple, January 2016: “Over time you realize that to compromise who you are is never worth the position, title, monetary gain, or whatever. It's just not worth it, because you take your whole self to work.” There are limits to what you can do with compartmentalizing … eventually compromise will catch up with you. I can never deny that I take my whole self to work.
- The Muse: Do yourself a favor and sign up for their emails. If daily is too much, sign up for the Sunday Inspiration. The Muse writes original content and curates great stories about career and life, and I almost always find something in the Sunday Inspiration roundup click worthy. When I talk to friends and co-workers about career issues, I'm constantly referring them to "this thing I just read on The Muse about [performance reviews, asking for a raise, when it is time to move one, etc.]"
- Perhaps the most important pick me up of the year: my personally curated 2015 “Fight Song” Spotify playlist. If this was a CD, I would have worn it out.
For 2016, I hope you can get comfortable with being uncomfortable, drive your own bus, and embrace positive change. And for myself, I’m going to get to work on that business plan. Thanks for reading my Scottie blog and all the love and support in 2015!