Cut Yourself Some Slack

Last week was a tough week for me. In fact, it was probably the hardest week since I’ve started working this job 7 months ago. In between client meetings, stakeholder engagements, prep work, travelling, making system changes emanating from the day’s decisions in the evening to be ready for the next morning, I was working 15-18hr days almost daily. By Thursday, I had already accumulated hours equating to a week and a half of work, and the week wasn’t even over yet. I don’t drink coffee, but I’m convinced that that latte I had at breakfast was the only way I got though Thursday without passing out! I didn’t manage to get all the sessions on my training program in, which is a sure way to get Roggie just a tad annoyed. 

If I am going to break my no-coffee rule, the coffee had better be worth it 

On top of that, on Wednesday I realized that I had made a mistake in one of my presentations that day. It wasn’t so much that I did something wrong, but rather something that I had overlooked, which would have a significant impact on the client’s bottom line. Great, the first time I am left to my own devices with a client and I mess it up. Nice going Roggie. You just started and now you’re going to be done! I was stressing and dreading that my whole reputation as a reliable consultant would be ruined. All I could think of now was channeling the pink eraser back in the Cape Town office, and hoping that the company’s view on honest mistakes was really as they claim it is. 

Isn’t this the most awesome eraser?

Discussing the catastrophe that was happening in my head with my project lead the next morning revealed that the mistake was fixable and that it wasn’t as disastrous as I’d imagined it to be. The bottom line effect was minimal with a few minor changes, and the project would still be within the client’s budget.

Taking a step back…
At the beginning of August we had a company breakaway/strategic session. One day was dedicated to personal development. The facilitator took us through a session of introspection, which was mostly done alone. We had to ponder on our own successes and failures, and how we handle them. One thing that came through quite strongly was how we beat ourselves up when something goes wrong, but never really celebrate success. Why do we do this? And what effect does it have on your well-being? I realized once again that I am so hard on myself that when I have success, it just gets pushed by the wayside as being “normal”. Just a week before, I had passed my 6-month probation period, and was now a fully fledged employee. I saw it as something that was routine and normal. My view changed at that moment, because the fact is that not everyone makes it through their probation, despite the recruitment process being the toughest that you will ever encounter. It is absolutely something huge and must be celebrated, even if it’s just acknowledging it within yourself and saying Congrats Roggie, you made it! 

In the week or two before this rough week, a colleague and myself were working together on figuring out a very difficult and messy financial model for the project. We both struggled A LOT at first, and got lost down in many rabbit holes in the darkest depths of those spreadsheets. As the days went by, we started to get the hang of it, and eventually became quite comfortable with the content and the challenges. After acing one particular such challenge, we literally stopped, took a few breaths and acknowledged… “We just made a freakin’ breakthrough” and then went on to talk shit about complete nonsense and be silly for a few minutes because we totally deserved it. That little “celebration” is a powerful thing.

One night last week (while I was in Jhb and he was in CT) I again asked him to assist me with some of the changes we needed to make to the spreadsheet before the next morning. I felt bad about it since it is literally this guy’s first month, but he was totally cool about it. Luckily most of the rabbit holes had been cleared by then and it was just a whole bunch of routine linkages. And when I got back and debriefed on the Friday about how hectic the trip was, he reminded me that no matter how rough it was, we need to think about where this project was a week or two ago, and the stable state we managed to bring it to now. So yes, there would definitely still be turbulent times ahead, but right now we deserve a high 5, we did good. I guess one of the many advantages of collaboration is that it’s so much easier to say We were fantastic than I was fantastic

SO… What is my message to you?

  1. Cut yourself some slack. Most of the time things are not as bad as you imagine them to be.
  2. Celebrate surviving the tough moments in life, the difficult meetings, the hard life lessons…no matter what the outcome. 
  3. Take time to pause and not take things so seriously for a moment every now and then, even in the midst of chaos.
  4. Remember that maximum growth occurs at the border of order and chaos.
  5. Appreciate the people who are in your corner fighting on the same team, and who remind you what is important. Let them know they’re appreciated.

final hint: Chocolate and something to bring on a smile often helps with (5)

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