The Balancing Act

Notice: Please bear with what appears to be fluffy mumbo jumbo.  I have a point 🙂

This last week, I’ve received a number of different forms of feedback and it seems that now is as good a time as ever to post a bit about staying balanced.  Since launching this blog over a year ago, I threw away the notion that I could keep my online personal life a separate entity from my professional life (or even lives), embraced transparency and have rolled with it ever since; mostly for the better.

I received a very nice email from a friend who noticed that of late I am more productive (at least visible to him — not sure if my wife would agree).  I also had a very, very unexpected and appreciated phone conversation with a friend who asked me about the chapter I started for the Star Wars Management Guide: mainly, he wanted to know if I actually do the breathing exercise I advocated with its inclusion (the source is here, in case you’re curious).  As I was driving around endlessly on errands on Sunday, NPR had a terrific story with Seane Corn, who said something to me that really urged me to write about this topic.  She said something that struck me:

“I believe culturally we’re addicted to our tension, and we use it as a way to control our big feelings. So if I can put a block of energy around me, I don’t have to deal with my rage or my fear… My feelings were because of the chaos in my world. I was scared. I was angry. I was fearful. And I had to create order and control in order to not deal with those bigger emotions.”

The key phrase in that is “we’re addicted to our tension.”  Think about that for a second. It certainly applies to me.  What enables my addicition?

Well, I feel like a driver for my successes is how I overcompensate for some negatives: let’s face it, there was a long period of time in the 80s where being a nerd/geek was NOT cool. This has been a pretty good tool at my disposal, though  Converting those negative feelings into something positive has been very productive and useful for me.  I’ve been doing the conversion of negatives “thing” for a good couple of years.  I simply found a flow and stuck with it.

As I kept relying on doing this, this year I started to realize I wasn’t getting as far on that as I used to.  Like a reusable battery that doesn’t hold as much of a charge anymore, my tools for dealing with the world started to burn through.  I didn’t diversify my toolset enough. I didn’t ever switch off.  The result of which was that every couple of months, I’d crash and reboot.  It’s not the worst thing, probably — but as I get older, earn more and more responsibilities and become accountable for so much more than I may immediately understand, there’s very little time for crashing and rebooting.

The thing I’ve started to realize is that to find a sense of flow, I need to invest my time and energy into the things I truly care about. Everything else, I can let go.  Even if the day job is a drag, my whole identity is not based on the outcomes of my work there.

This is where I get to the point.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I realized that I could no longer maintain a personal life and a professional life separate from each other.  That’s kind of ambiguous.  If I think of my all things about me that make up “me,” There are some things about me that are constants whether I’m at work or I’m at home with the kids or geeking out with friends and colleagues… my name, as an example, is Aaron no matter who I’m talking to (unless you know me as Eric Stratton, and that is a long story, not for the blog).

There are some elements of my persona that I choose not to make available to work.  My political leanings and religious views, for example, are things I keep out of my “profile” that my day job sees.  I have other “profiles” that face publicly in different contexts. Thinking of how I show up to different places or people in terms of profiles helps me be consistent about who I am (my profiles are always me, but they are “views” of me the way you might have a “view” of a file library in Sharepoint).  It may sound too OCD for me, but my goal is not to control information — I mean, that’s happening to a degree — but it’s more about identifying where I need to set some boundaries for myself and operating well within them.

It probably sounds like a lot of organization and structure to do this, and I have to say that this way of dealing with things has come about pretty organically, so I haven’t noticed the difficulty in it.

I just wish having online profiles that abstracted from the whole of my personal information were as easy to have and reinforce…

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