Railway switches and sun spots, close-up

A couple words have been stuck in my head for a while: perspective and confidence. I thought they would be separate posts, but the more I ponder, the more it seems one feeds the other.

Perspective is tricky. You almost never have all the facts and, as my boss likes to say, there are at least three sides to every story. It was easy to dismiss the wildly popular “sparkly vampire” novels as ridiculous teenage drivel. But then–possibly after a bit too much Thanksgiving revelry–I started reading one. And I couldn’t put it down. Perspective: changed.

If you’re just starting out, you probably haven’t managed others. Maybe you were a supervisor at a restaurant or pool, but managing in a professional setting is a lot more nebulous. Your boss might know things she can’t tell you. And–trust me–when you get there too, you’ll sometimes wish for the days when you didn’t know the dirty details.

Businesses exist to make money. Period. Yes, the good ones look toward the future. They are considerate of their employees, communities and the planet … because it helps the bottom line.

“Work is about business, not you” (more where that came from). Especially early in your career, when work is a huge part of your life, it’s easy to take things personally. Work issues are rarely personal. Maybe your manager said no when you asked to attend a training class. What you didn’t know is that there were (more) budget cuts, she saved your job from being eliminated, and now no one has a training budget. This is an extreme–and entirely hypothetical–example of perspective.

You have a couple options as an employee in this situation. 1) You can take it personally and complain to anyone who will listen, or 2) you can take it in stride, and find a way to learn whatever it was on your own.

If you decide to be a victim, you’ll always be a victim. Find creative solutions to your challenges instead of complaining about them. (Note: occasional venting to trusted friends is fine, and a healthy way to deal with things you can’t control. Incessant whining is not, if for no other reason than it urges others toward violent impulses when you’re around.)

I believe one difference between employees who choose option 1 and 2 is confidence. The complainers are constantly seeking validation from others. They assume the boss said no to the training because “she hates me,” “she likes Joe better,” or “I did something wrong.”

The person who chooses option 2 has confidence. She doesn’t know everything–far from it. But when presented with something new, maybe a software program or a new business problem, she has the confidence that she can (eventually) master it with creative thinking and hard work. And, maybe in the case of software, liberal use of Ctrl-Z.

If you’re a one-person shop, you have no choice; option 2 is the only way. You wouldn’t be trusted to run an organization’s communications if you couldn’t do it. It will rarely be easy, but you can meet the challenge. And, after a while, dispatching everyday business challenges will become second nature. It gets easier with time, perspective and confidence.

p.s. Please forgive the longer-than-usual pause between posts. I’ve been trying to decide between Team Edward and Team Jake. You know, as an experiment on perspective…