For better or for worse, I seem to be pulled toward career paths that are not for the faint of heart. Just when I caught my breath from a whirlwind statewide gubernatorial election, it took merely 4 short months before I needed that adrenaline rush again. I craved the feeling of having meaningful tasks to keep me so busy that I was racing against the clock, not watching it countdown until quitting time.
After campaign life, where showers and haircuts were a luxury and 5pm wasn’t quitting time – it was merely the half point mark of your day, I swore I was done. Once was enough for me. I earned my badge and can say I did it, but I wasn’t going back. I was ready for a steady 9-5 job where I could make plans with friends and actually keep them. But then the boredom crept in. At first it was a pleasant boredom, the type you’re happy to get used to. But then even my best time-wasting tasks were leaving me with hours of the day unfilled. Slowly but surely I was developing “cubicle fever.” My maximum workload had been pushed to such limits on the campaign, that this has become the only work pace I now know. As much as I craved a normal work schedule, I had been trained to function like a one-person department and there was no going back. It’s like riding a train going 80mph and suddenly falling off and coming to a complete stop. When dropped back into the real world, I could no longer relate. So as many of you who have followed my journey thus far know, I took the leap and created my own Public Relations business as a way to again find that whirlwind work pace that has become my metric for normal.
Almost a year later and I’ve found myself ramped up to campaign speed again. The biggest difference is, this time around I call the shots. I can take unlimited time-off so long as I plan ahead and get my work done or take it with me as I travel (yes, from time to time I still have to call upon my envelope stuffing skills, but you won’t find me doing door-to-door voter polls anytime soon). I’m working now harder than ever, and depending on the week, am even busier than I was the week before Election Day on the campaign; however, I’ve realized one profound truth from these two experiences.
Panic does not equal passion.
On the campaign it was normal for people to be run around like a chicken with their head cut off and there were certainly circumstances that called for panic. But in many cases I believe people would overact with stress and drama as a way to declare their passion for their work. I’m a calm person by nature and I handle stress best internally. This led to one or more occasions on the campaign where my commitment was questioned. But I can assure you – anyone who is NOT committed on a campaign would not last more than a week. It’s a frustrating position to be put in. Do you give in and act panicked just to declare your passion? Or do you do nothing and risk your dedication and hard work being written off as less than your very best? The only answer I’ve been able to form came years later….it was starting my own business where the proof of my passion is my quality of work and my cool head and calm demeanor has become the signature characteristic of Bennis Inc.
I know that the panic vs. passion struggle is not limited to campaign life. I saw it emerging in various forms in my other jobs. Two people can get the same amount of work done in a day even if one leaves at 5pm and the other at 9pm. The late worker shouldn’t be award a medal of honor for staying late if he took a 2 hour lunch and surfed the web for an hour. So much is dependent upon your leadership style and how you react under pressure. In a salaried job and in campaign life, there is no reward for working efficiently – more work is simply piled on. I’m grateful that if I work smarter and get my task list done for the day, I am rewarded with a flexible afternoon or the ability to take on more work and earn more money. But more than anything, I’m grateful that I don’t have to give in to panicking just to prove my passion.
Keep calm and carry on.