In many ways, I am improving. I am more professional than ever. My values and principles are cemented. I deeply understand the importance of kindness, integrity, work ethic, honesty, charity, and thankfulness. I am proud of these aspects of myself and often feel like I’m measuring up to self-expectations.
However, this growth comes at an expense. It’s an early expense that I have faith will pay dividends in the future, but it is an expense nonetheless. That is, my daily experience is one of friction. It’s a constant grind.
This is a reoccurring theme in my life and therefore on this blog. The feeling has evolved over time. I’m learning to dance with the anxiety and responsibility, but it frequently still steps on my toes.
School, work, driving, preparing for graduate school, self-care, multiple weekly deadlines to hit, a constant compelling need to put my best foot forward and make the right decisions – these are omnipresent forces.
These things take time to adjust to. The key things I need to learn to do is keep a daily calendar of activities and update it as soon as a new meeting pops up and slow down and re-read everything before I send it.
The major things are taken care of, but the devil is in the details. Everything is in the details. I repeat: everything is in the details.
In the future, it is likely that I will be extremely well organized, an immensely kind, good man, and professional through and through. This is 10 to 15 years from now. 24-year-old Kyle until then, well, like I said, he dances. He dances with his own humanity. His own self-doubt. His own weaknesses. He is certainly getting better, but he has a long way to go before he is there.
One thing I said recently that I think adds up is, “One of the key things I’m doing right now is figuring out the balance between what’s an appropriate level of acceptance for human nature and what’s unprofessional.” To put it differently, what I should kick myself about and what’s being too hard on myself.
The response from one of the most professional and well-respected men I’ve met: “If you figure it out, you let me know.”
In truth, I don’t know if the grind ever stops for a leader. At least not for a long time.
I’ve been told I’m too hard on myself for a couple of years now. I’m likely a perfectionist. There’s a fine line between perfectionism and professionalism, between leading by example and being relatable. But I want to be the best role model. I want to be the greatest version of myself because that’s what the world needs. The world has enough people who are willing to settle for their lack of integrity because they’re only human.
I’m going through this – really, really, really giving it my best shot. Giving my work and school and life my best shot. I think self-help gurus will tell you that folks will notice. The thing is if they do, I don’t know. People seem too busy to notice or if they do, they notice quietly. They don’t express your reputation to you. They don’t let you know if you’re messing up.
A failure looks a lot like someone passing the buck because they don’t respect you. They’re too busy. They’re not the best person to help you out. People aren’t going to tell you that you’ve blown it. If they do, count yourself likely. You might save a knowingly failed opportunity if only you can become aware of it.
Success looks a lot like getting to the graduate school application process and at the end someone telling you that they’ve written you the best letter of recommendation they’ve ever drafted.
Trust takes years to build and just one instance to blow.
It’s super easy to slight others.
THIS is why I’m hard on myself.
Success and failure are nimble and nuanced, everyday occurrences, and these will likely depend on whether some person in power who probably doesn’t even know you that well thinks you can or should make it.
I can’t wait until I bypass all these doors, to prove to others that I’m worth their salt, and to be in a position to look back and help others find their paths.
The put together 35-year-old I will likely be won’t act like the noncaring, flippant authorities I’ve too often been forced to tolerate. If and when I make it, I will boldly declare that my peers, the students that I teach, and the children in my life matter. And I’ll demonstrate that by my actions. I’ll believe in them and give them hope. I will get to know them, their dreams, their passions, their stories. I will take the time because I know what it’s like to be disregarded. I know what it’s like to be the intern people call just “the intern”.
To be the server, the busboy, the dishwasher, the pizza maker, the delivery driver, the restaurant host, the burger flipper, the drive-thru guy, the loser, and the outcast most folks don’t give the time of day in a meaningful way.
I know, in other words, what it’s like to struggle, to work hard and have it seem like no one notices or appreciates it.
I just gotta keep going to be that person I know I can be. You keep going, too. We’re in this together.