I’m writing this from a small patio of a wine and coffee shop in Jordan Village, near Niagara Falls, ON (and posting it much later). My wife is asleep in the hotel room next door (because I woke her early to get breakfast) and I’m seriously debating if I need something alcoholic.
I think I do. Be right back.
Okay, alcohol acquired. A nice chardonnay.
I’ve thought a lot lately about achievement. If I took the wrong road in life, if I should’ve worked on my math, gone in to business school, been some kind of banker or something. I’d love to tell you I’ve followed my passion, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t passionate about HR, but it’s been so difficult to find a job, that I feel like I’m years behind many of my university and high school friends, in terms of where I’d like to be in my career. Some of that is my own fault, for being comfortable where I was and not, perhaps, applying more far and wide and working harder at finding a new job, but as I sit here, looking out at what I think is a Ferrari outside a nearby restaurant, I wonder a bit if I shouldn’t have made different choices. If I shouldn’t have pushed myself more. If I will ever get to the point of comfort with my job, my finances.
But at the same time I wonder if I really want that. Ferraris are a lot of work. They involve a lot of time spent at the office, a lot of time spent in seminars and professional development, and a lot of money spent developing yourself. Maybe I’m buying into a narrative that folks with a lot of money work hard for it, I’m not sure. Is the Investment Banker’s job harder than mine, or does it just require more training up front? Assuming the former, is it worth the long hours? The pressure?
I’ve often yearned for the idea of working fewer hours. Working a 4 day week, for example, and wondered if I’d trade a fifth of my pay for that now. It’s not even something I could consider, financially, right now, but it’s a thought I’ve had.
We’ve spent the last couple days around Niagara, driving by farms and vineyards, and through small towns and shops. We point out houses we like, and wonder at the idea of eventually moving out here, growing grapes, making wine, and running an animal rescue. We started plotting out names for that eventual property and winery today.
It looks like a simple life, but it is deceptive. One of our favourite stories if of the winemaker who had to miss the birth of one of his children, since it was the only day he could press the Syrah. It seems simple and easy here, but I’m sure it’s not. It’s hard work, often physical, always emotional. I’m sure these little shops here don’t make much, and I’m sure a lot of these wineries operate on thin margins, or require huge up front investments, or extensive background knowledge.
But the idea of something different, something simpler, speaks to me when I’m down here. I yearn to get away from the rush of downtown, from the pressure of my job. But I wonder what I’d sacrifice for that. WoW? Wine? Times like this, a Saturday where I can sit on a patio with a glass of wine and write? I want it all somehow, the simple life where I can drive the Ferrari. I don’t know if it’s doable without some advance lottery numbers or severe mucking with the space time continuum. And I still can’t decide which way I’d rather lean, to have a more steady, restful life with fewer amenities, or a busier one with more, filled with rich food, good wine and fast cars.
Likely, like most people, I’ll end up charting a middle path, as I try to do with most of life. But places like Niagara, like Jordan Village, always leave me wondering about the simpler path, about something quieter. For now, I’m going to enjoy the quiet, close my laptop, and sip this very fine Chardonnay.
And ogle the Ferrari a bit. I mean, I’m only human.
I cannot read minds.
This may sound like a relatively mundane revelation to you, but it was stunning to me, when I read it recently.
I’d heard it before, of course. I think my therapist or a friend said something similar to me, but I definitely needed a reminder. You see, I have confidence issues. Huge. Self-worth issues, what have you. Every time I do just about anything I’m mentally preparing the counter-argument to someone who thinks I should do things differently. Every time I take a few minutes off work to use the bathroom, on the walk back to the office I start mentally preparing how to defend my bathroom break to my boss. “Sorry boss, my stomach was bugging me,” stuff like that. Every time someone speed walks past me on the walk to the train (as many people do, because I’m short and have short legs and generally hate walking fast) I come up with something to say when they, of course, inevitably, shoot some smart comment at me for daring to walk slowly (I’ll note this has happened a stunning total of zero times).
This was important though, because it reminded me that I cannot, in fact, know what people are thinking of me. In all likelihood the person speed walking past me hasn’t given me a second thought. Ditto for my boss when I’ve went to use the bathroom.
It’s the same thing in personal relationships though. I always worry that Klutzy is deftly not saying when she’s angry, and that of course I’m reading what she’s not saying correctly and she’s secretly hating me, despite the fact that our whole relationship is basically built on being honest and forthright with each other. It might take us a few minutes, but we always get there, and it’s never as bad as (or even what I) think it is.
Even with my friends I often worry about what they’re thinking, that they secretly hate me for x y z. It’s hard for me to remember that, if I were to reverse any situation, I wouldn’t hate my friends, or would forgive them, or what have you. I’m special, you see. I’m not worth that extra consideration.
I’ve been trying to work on my confidence a lot, because it impacts everything. Trying to trust myself, and in turn work on trusting others. It’s not easy. But the silly revelation of the fact that I cannot read minds, that I cannot know what someone else is thinking, was huge for me. It’s important to remember you absolutely 100% cannot know what someone else is thinking, and most of the time, it’s important to trust them at their word. Cause in the end, really, what else can you do?
I’ve made mistakes in my life. Personally, professionally, in all aspects. I make them…if not daily then likely weekly. A missed deadline, a misspoken word, anything and everything.
I say this because I think we don’t say this enough. I think we curate our lives too carefully, on Twitter and on social media. I get a bit frustrated when people seem to be only sharing the positive things in their lives. Life is not all positives. If it is…well, then you’re very lucky, or you’re not doing too much. Or more likely you’re just not being honest, either in public or with yourself.
One of the difficult things for me is to admit to mistakes and to remember they aren’t the end of the world. I’ll never forget what a friend said to me once when I was worried sick about a mistake at work: “Did anyone die?”. We want to do the best at our work, absolutely, and in no way am I saying not to take mistakes seriously. But there is no point in beating yourself up over it. It happened, all you can do is learn from it. And guess what? You can be perfect, you can do everything right, and things can still slip through your fingers. It’s still possible to make a mistake, no matter how cautious you are, no matter how many precautions you take.
And someone will say that that’s terrible, and that something like 99% is not good enough, as a friend said his boss said to me. And…I’ll be honest, I don’t think that makes sense. We should all strive for 100% perfection, of course, but for it not to be good enough is just not realistic.
I think it’s important to be honest about mistakes. To own up to them, and to share when we make them. I think it helps normalize it. I think to expect that perfection is unrealistic, and sets a dangerous standard.
So, I’ve fucked up, occasionally. I’ve caught a couple recently, despite my best efforts. I slightly hate to be that guy who always asks a question at the end of the blog post (cause I feel like it’s a bit of a blatant grab for comments) but I’ll ask this here, and feel free to tell me here, over email, or Twitter, or smoke signal, or telepathic emanation:
What was the last mistake you made?