No More Stupid Punts
What do I mean by “stupid”?
“Mah momma says: ‘Stupid is as stupid does, Forrest'”
~ Forrest Gump
We’re all trying to get our needs met. How we go about that can span the whole spectrum between very smart, and very stupid.
In my vocabulary, “smart” means we’ve chosen, found, or stumbled-upon an effective way of getting our need met, and conversely, “stupid” simply means that we’ve chosen an ineffective way to get our need met.
And boy have I been stupid.
A Series of Stupid Punts
Over the past ten years or so, I’ve taken a series of engagements (jobs, contracts, etc.) in the hope of helping folks – folks who’ve assured me that they wanted help, btw. Generally I’ve directed my help towards improving their company in some way. Sometimes this has been related to an Agile adoption, sometimes to some kind of Lean transformation, and sometimes to improving e.g. software or product development in general.
These engagements have all been punts. That is, the outcomes have been uncertain, and the clients’ commitment to change, although avowed and often emphatic, unproven. Stupid punts.
Ill Met by Moonlight
In all cases – whilst, of course, getting paid for my efforts – I’ve just been trying to help folks. And have been focussed primarily on their needs. And in the process, not paying much attention at all to my own needs. So, unsurprisingly perhaps, my own needs have often been ill met.
Here’s a list of the needs I’m talking about:
- Meaningful connections – the opportunity to make meaningful connections with people. Given that my help is most often directed towards seeing the whole organisation thrive, flourish and become more effective, “meaningful connections” includes everyone in the organisation – from the executives (board, management team), to the frontline folks (devs, ops, sales, marketing, support, etc.).
- Mutual learning – exploring interesting topics together with other folks , and learning together about things to do with making businesses more effective.
- Contribution – actually making some appreciable contribution to the improvement of folks’ lives at work, and to the healthy growth and progress of the organisation as a whole, too.
- A sense of progress – a.k.a. accomplishment. A feeling that folks’ efforts are not wasted, that things are in fact moving – and in the “right” direction.
- Regard – being “successful” enough that folks would hold my contribution in sufficiently high regard that they would recommend my services to others.
- Well-being (of self and others) – in particular, helping folks get their needs met, relating to one another humanely, and – for those who wish to – fully realising their innate potential.
- Mutual joy – in the nonviolent communication sense of the term (through e.g. self-empathy, empathy, and honest expression). See also: Brahmavihara
Aside: The correlation between the above list and Martin Seligman’s idea of P.E.R.M.A. is a happy coincidence, yet unsurprising, I guess.
I wrote a post recently explaining how my then-job was not meeting my needs in that particular position. It may come as no surprise to hear that I resigned shortly afterwards.
To date, I’ve often been so focussed on the needs of others (clients, co-workers, employers) that getting my own needs met has been pretty much squeezed out. This regularly leaves me feeling depressed, angry and, often, alienated.
I’m resolved to find a more balanced position between my needs and those of others. And to begin to work on less stupid ways of getting my own needs met, too.
I’ve reached a point in my life, with the help of Marshall Rosenberg, where getting my needs met seems crucial to my happiness and peace of mind. This has become sufficiently important that I’m resolved to take some steps to significantly increase the likelihood of that happening in future. I am presently thinking on what such steps might look like.
If and when this is working well, I anticipate better outcomes not just for myself, for all. I will still keep taking punts, just not quite such stupid ones. Semper mirabilis, indeed.
In closing, I note a certain irony. For some twenty years now I have taken careful account of the needs of all stakeholders in whatever endeavour I have been involved. Just not, it seems, my own needs. Cobblers’ children, anyone?