Life suggestions for the brazen careerist

I have been reading Penelope Trunk’s blog for a few years now. I discovered her when I was doing my MBA at Fisher. I have been impressed with her, bored by her, intrigued by her and even irritated with her. Some posts have even pushed me to the verge of unsubscribing … and then another cool post holds me back. I am not sure I have unconditional love for Penelope, but I do think she is just another human with some extraordinary insights and suggestions we can use in our careers.

I have rarely commented on Penelope’s blogs. I usually have too much to say … too much to go into her comments. So when I read this post a little more than a week ago, it really got me thinking. The brazen careerist seemed to be entering my domain. I read her post, reread it and analyzed it … and here is what I have as a result. As usual it is too long to post as a comment on Penelope’s blog, but this time I have a space for it on my blog …

First off, let me say that I disagree with  number of things Penelope says in this post such as what constitutes “vulnerable” and “likable”, but that is subject for another post altogether. Here is what I really set out to write. Here is my analysis of Penelope’s situation –

We all build walls. Walls over time. Build walls to be in control. Walls to protect ourselves and our emotions from the abuse of our own lives and the world. We choose who we let in and when. Life experiences push the wall higher or lower over the years.  Harder experiences send the wall soaring higher and higher. The wall is good defense mechanism. A very good defense mechanism. We shield our emotions from life rather than repair ourselves after every fall. A great idea, when you think about it. The wall takes much of the beating now. And the beating over the years makes the wall stronger. Tall and strong.  This wall around us stands and protects.

Strange as it seems, nobody else sees this wall really. The invisible wall is our secret weapon against the world. It helps us “act” vulnerable and people believe us. They “like” us. We navigate life like the wall does not exist. People think we are strong and successful and vulnerable and powerful… all at once. How cool is that? How super cool!

We start to believe it too. We don’t quite see the wall anymore cause it never really gets in the way…our emotions don’t try to step out anymore. Tamed and quiet they sit back and watch. Some might even die. We have adapted to the wall and engage in only in limited emotional actions/interactions. Talk …yes, just talk.We “talk” a lot. We are really “busy” doing stuff too. Never really let all this verbal stuff settle scores with the emotions … since by now the emotions are all boxed up and stored away. What a perfect situation! The wall is but isn’t. We have everything we ever wanted and yet we are completely protected and immune to the world.

And then one day we hear something. Something on the other side the wall (read “farmer”). We open a window. Look out. Take a sneak peek. A new world lies, a new world that we secretly start to love. We open more windows and get a better look. The person on the other side sees us and starts to talk. Invites us in and opens a door.  But that is where it ends. You cannot move but just a little further. You encounter the wall. The wall you do not even remember anymore and the wall that he does not see.

You try to open all the windows, but that does not do it. The sense of pride you had in yourself is replaced by a quite unrest. You are glad the wall protects, but you wish your emotions could take a break. You wish they could walk out and play in the fresh air outside…. but alas, that is something they know not how to do! You open all the windows but they don’t seem to be quite enough. Not enough to let the world in or to let your emotions out.

Ah, you poor thing. The wall protected you but cheated on you as well. What do you do?

Four step process (really has only three steps):

1. Release your box of emotions. Get to know your emotional side. Slowly.

2. Let you emotions out in the world. Direct them. Experiment. Do not let them run amok.

3. Bring your walls down. Slowly but surely. The “invisible wall” is what prevents “fluidity” in your life.

4. Start all over again.

With constant check you will perfect this process – well somewhat, Getting hurt and being truly vulnerable is what lets us see what is “out there”. Over time we can summon our emotions back quick enough and close the door behind us. Let them take a break. But never put emotions in long term storage …they die if not nurtured…and when they die so does a part of you.

Be sure to follow Part 2 of the post where I will introduce my “core framework” and show you exactly how you execute the steps above.

Other suggestions:

1. This post is not about how to be likable, so I won’t even start on that. But whatever it is, please and I say please do not fake anything. It only makes matters worse in the long run.

2. Learn to care.

3. Learn to respect.

4. Learn to be ruthless … in a good way.

5. And stick to your principles.

Before I sign off, I think Penelope’s case is just wonderful and I thank her for sharing her life. Perhaps she will see some value in what I have written and become a great girl friend… but she does run the risk of not having anything to write about when it comes to the farmer ;). I have great admiration for her for all that she has been through and I am grateful to her for providing a perfect context for my blog.