Where do we learn the behaviors that make up who we are? For some reason I was retrospective today. Thinking about my childhood, my teens, college, and my early professional career. At each stage I was a different person and I am still growing into who that is today.
As a kid I was definitely strategic (even if I did not know it at the time). I would find a way to con candy out of the old ladies at church (maybe I would not have resorted to it if it was given a little more freely at home). I learned early on that my sister would get sick on rides at the county fair, so if I asked to go on the spinning ones first I could potentially get the rest of her ride tickets. I was often quiet in the presence of my father when I knew he was in a bad mood, I did not dare piss him off. And I was fun and playful. I liked to be silly.
Somehow as I grew into being a teenager, I grew quieter and more introverted. I had seen too much in my life. Death, anger, poverty, sickness, desertion. As I look back at my senior year of high school, I feel a sadness. I barely made it through to graduation. I was lost and sad, but did not really know it at the time. On the outside I probably looked fairly normal. I was social, had friends, was a cheerleader, but my sadness came from not really having a home or parents to ground my day-to-day life. My last three years of high school were spent at a boarding school, so living away from home (that did not exist) sans parents was strange and so different from my classmates and friends. There was no one I could really relate to.
In college, I eventually found my way and I found my voice. That voice evolved into my professional life and experiences. I began to speak up for what I believed in without fear and decided that I had something to say and did not care what others thought of me.
Throughout it all I have been strategic, relentless, and thrifty. When I decide I want something I figure out how I am going to get it. I had to be that way. No one was taking care of me through high school or college so I learned early on to depend on no one but myself. While I now have people I depend on in my life, there is still always a thread that floats in the back of my mind. Will they drop the ball and I will have to pick it up? Will they follow through with what they said they will do? Each stage of my life has evolved into who I am today. Strategic, sometimes introverted, sometimes extroverted, intuitive, blunt, thrifty, and relentless. I have to trust you, and when I do the rest is history.
We grow up as kids not wanting to be last. When we stood in groups or lines in gym class, none of us wanted to be picked last. Everyone wanted to know they were wanted. Being last meant a lot of things, and different things to different people, but 99% of us did not want to be picked last (regardless of why). That does not mean that we all wanted to be first. We just knew we did not want to be last. Yet someone had to be last. Someone always has to be last.
You can decide though if you are first or last. A colleague told me recently to allow your work to direct your opportunity. So when I recently came across this short and sweet Seth Godin blog, I was inspired, and in case you are not Godin followers, I had to share. I’ve included the entire text (yes all of it) here:
Before you’re asked.
Before she asks for the memo, before the customer asks for a refund, before your co-worker asks for help.
Imagine what the other person needs, an exercise in empathy that might become a habit.
I remember so often growing up that my dad ingrained in me to think ahead, to figure out how I was going to approach something before I did it. The funny thing — my dad barely had a strategic bone in his body. Sure, as a contractor he had to strategize house plans and such, but other than that I did not gain my strategic mind from my dad. In any case, he did teach us to think ahead and be prepared BEFORE he got to us. Have our room clean before he lost it. Do our chores before we had to be reminded. Ask how we could further help. Whether I like it or not, he taught me to be proactive. I wonder if he truly knows that or if it was more about what he wanted.
Ah well, I will never know. I do so love and appreciate those that I interact with on a daily basis to volunteer, offer their help and support, and think about what another might need. Anticipate. Be available and helpful. I try to do it, and I love when those around me reflect the same behavior. Do we all have these skills? I am not sure. I think we all have them in some form. Some of us just elect to use them and others let them lie dormant.