Friday, June 15, 2007

A Matter of Committment

I went to an interview yesterday and expected to learn more about the positions I had applied for and about the company in general. One of the positions in particular is interesting to me because of the projects I would be working on and because the person I'd work for has so much to teach me. Those teachings are more than industry knowledge, competitive dynamics, and brand building. I have written before about explicit versus implicit learning. The most fascinating part of this potential job opportunity is that afterwards I find myself not considering the job as much as considering my life in general and what this job could do for me as a person.

Yesterday was a perfect example. The person I was interviewing with asked me what about the job concerns me or worries me. And to be honest, I told him I was worried that I may jump on board the ship and maybe he'd jump off in the not so distant future. (I said this with much more professional language, though this was certainly the intent.) And I asked this not because of who he is at all, rather because of who I have worked for in the past. I have had several positions in which the person who hired me was largely the reason I joined the company and then that person took off for greener pastures not long after I arrived.

Then he did something very interesting: he showed me a piece of paper that had a few lines he had written above a quote by Goethe. "Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it." This quote is everywhere - magnets, notepads, graduation cards. There's nothing new in the message we haven't heard a million times before. Essentially, it's the Nike principle: just do it.

The interview was in New Jersey and since I live in Astoria, I had to take the GW bridge to get home. The traffic was backed up so far, it took me over two hours so I had plenty of time to think. And my first thought was, "What the heck am I doing here? In this traffic, in New Jersey?" And then I thought about committment. Real, honest, true, tough, traffic- ladden committment. Was there really magic in it? Was our profound belief in committment just something we tell ourselves when times get rough and we don't want to admit we misallocated our resources (time, money, or effort) to investments in people or jobs or cities that just didn't work out? I wasn't sure but had a long ride home to consider this.

By nature, I am a person of committment and sometimes that has worked well for me and sometimes it hasn't. I've been at times overjoyed and at times gravely disappointed. As the skyline of my beloved New York came into view, I thought about the magic I know is here, in these people, these streets, even these buildings. Last summer, I had been considering moving to Philly or Boston post-graduation for personal reasons and those personal reasons faded away and I committed to coming back home, to New York. I had some great job offers in other areas of the country, and with some reluctance I turned them all down for the dream of New York.

For sure, there were times I regretted turning down those jobs: when classmates asked me what I'd be doing post-graduation and I had no answer, when my bank account balance was quite intent on dwindling away, when I couldn't take off with my Darden friends to Asia or Brussels or any number of other fabulous travel destinations they had planned to see because they had jobs to come home to. And I, perhaps foolishly, kept holding to that dream of the phenominal job that would fall into place once I planted both feet on the pavement in New York. Idealistic? Sure. Foolhardy? Maybe. Scray? Definitely.

I should make one clarification here: while I believe in a higher power of some kind, I also believe that that higher power helps those who help themselves. I didn't just move to New York hoping and praying that something would work out. I have been networking myself to the bone, applying for jobs, following up with contacts, tapping into every possible person and interesting company that would speak to me. I've considered who I am, what I'm about, and what I want. In short, I committed to me and to my happiness and success. I promised myself that I would be more patient than I am by nature. The magic happens, and I needed to work at letting it into my life, and sometimes the magic takes some time and space to really develop. Oh, and it also needs a little elbow grease behind it.

So here I am, almost one week in. And it's happening. My sublet at the right price, job interviews, seeing old friends, meeting new people. I'm not buzzing yet, but I'm beginning to hum, steadily. I can see the magic's tiny glimmer off in the distance and it's coming my way. The grace and power can't be far behind.

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