Sunday, September 25, 2011

Transition, The Status Quo, & An Ever-Present Enemy

It has been a long time since I have posted. A very long time. I almost feel guilty about it. But a lot has transpired since my last post on sacrifice. I have separated from the Air Force, travelled across country to settle back in Portland, OR, gone through one hell of a job search process, accepted a new position, started my new job, started searching for a house, not to mention the living my life part! It has been a roller coaster ride with many highs and lows, it has taught me some lessons, but most of all it has taught me about myself.

Transition is an interesting thing. There are very few moments in our lives where we really cross over into a new chapter. Most transitions are just slight iterations or developments of where we already are. And although those minor forks in the road are very important and defining in the aggregate, they are not nearly as beneficial introspectively as a major life changing transition like the one I am currently navigating.

My transition out of the military has forced me to really evaluate what I value, what I want my life to look like, and how I am going to make it happen. As I have discussed in many a post, happiness is always the ultimate goal for me and for my family. As evident by my last post on sacrifice, that doesn't mean that there aren't things or periods of happiness that you sacrifice in the name of long term fulfillment. But this transition has really been an amazing challenge in the sense that I had to make a lot of tough decisions regarding whether an option is worth it or not. Worth it in the short term, the long term, and in the entirety of the life I want to live.

Which leads to the next insight derived from my transition experience, that of the status quo. People are social beings. Undisputed. I believe that people are inherently good. Often disputed. With those contexts in mind I think that people are naturally inclined to default in some sense to the status quo, to push others to do the same, and at times to inadvertently give others horrible advice. I don't think that people want to offer poor advice they just innately find comfort in giving advice that is shared by others. Below are some real life examples and anecdotes that not only relevant to my situation but also illustrate my theory above.

"It is a tough economy out there."
"Aren't you scared to not get a job?"
"Why don't you stay in Boston and get a government civilian job?"
"You can't be too picky. People nowadays are just lucky to have a job."
"You might have to take a job you hate until you find something else that you really want."

Did some of these comments piss me off? Yeah, a little bit. Especially when I heard them 500 times. But going back to my initial thoughts, none of these comments were made with any ill intent. I was never mad at the person making the comment it was just the questioning in the aggregate that became frustrating. People give advice based on their own frame of reference and set of life values and as a whole many of those values align to a common theme. The challenge, when following your gut, is to keep a tight watch on what is best for YOU and not to let the constant pressure of the status quo influence your decision making. This was an enormous challenge for me especially when things got tough, when I was rejected, when I hit dead ends, or when nothing was happening at all. It was during times like these that I became all too familiar with the ever-present enemy.

My ever present-enemy is an enemy shared by all....self doubt. My parents gave me and my younger brother an incredible upbringing. I look back and feel like they raised us the 'right' way. They instilled within us a sense of humility and taught us to treat everyone with dignity and respect. They kept me grounded while encouraging me to achieve whatever I wanted. I attribute much of my long term success to those maxims being ingrained into who I am. I think being humble has not only helped me to get along with a wide variety of people throughout my life, but it has also kept me hungry and striving for more. But being humble can open you up to self doubt in the short term. Whether it has been in school, sports, the military, business, or life in general I have always battled self doubt as I am sure most people do. I have witnessed kids in hockey who are anything but humble, to the point that it negatively affects their team relationships, consistently reach heights beyond their ability just because they aren't paralyzed by self doubt. There are a lot of successful people out there who are successful because they attack life with a relentless self assurance. Although I wouldn't trade places with those people, I have taken notice at how they have overcome (or bypassed) fear to achieve their goals. In my case, overcoming fear or self doubt must be a much more conscious decision based on who I am. It is a challenge and one that I continually face at every stage of my life.

My transition to corporate life has been no exception and with the numerous ups and downs throughout the process I frequently faced self doubt and wondered if my goals and dreams were actually attainable. As the old cliche goes, hindsight is always 20/20, and looking back over the last few months I can start to see that my focus on my goals, refusal to accept the status quo, and my ability to overcome the ever-present enemy were all critical in my successful transition. It wasn't always easy but I can look back at this chapter as an embodiment of how to be resilient in pursuit of happiness.


KLWokrer said...

Matt, this is a very insightful and well written post. I am so glad I read it, as it has given me hope in my job hunt and the big transition in my (and our) life at this time. I wish you guys the best and congrats on the new job!! We are really happy for you.


Matt Bader said...

Thanks Kara! Keep the faith. I read a quote from Steve Jobs the other day (in celebration of his life) that basically summed up what I was trying to say in about half the words with twice the impact. Check it out - "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."