Reflecting on what might make a great list of 2013 predictions — beyond those I’ll be discussing next week on my first videocast — I realized that I’d either be repeating a list of hot topics with which you’re already familiar or showing my ignorance (it’s getting worse not better with the explosion of relevant knowledge). So, instead of predictions, I thought I’d offer some advice that will be useful no matter what’s happening in our industry. And to do that I’m updating an old post that deserves another hearing. My thanks to a Twitter follower, Holly MacDonald, for reminding me of this post.
Life doesn’t just happen. Well actually it does, but there are a zillion opportunities for you to chart and then steer your own course through it by how you react to the opportunities and challenges that life offers. Our lives are a rich tapestry of the choices we make (shall I marry Ron Wallace or one of the other fine contenders?), the compromises we’re willing and able to sustain (if I marry Ron Wallace, we’re not going to be rich but I’ll be a lot happier than with the Prince behind door #2, besides which I’m quite capable of earning a good living), the serendipity to which we’re are subject if we’ll only seize the moment (how lucky I was to have been born into a family/religion/cultural community that valued education and rewarded academic accomplishment or here I am at the University of Pennsylvania, a really top school, even if I’m working my way through and unable to participate as fully in campus life as some of my more affluent classmates), and the shit that happens (what do you mean I’ve got arthritis and fibromyalgia when I’m clearly in my prime? what do you mean my husband has cancer and I need both shoulders repaired?).
Choices, compromises, serendipity and shit — these are indeed the four winds blowing every life around. And yet the course is unique, totally our own, that each one of us chooses or which is force upon us.
In real life, some people, just by the accident of their birth, really do get more shit than anyone deserves and are given very limited choices. But for those of us born into reasonable circumstances and with a reasonable amount of intelligence (or at least the potential for acquiring same) and good health, therefore for most readers of this blog, what we accomplish in life has a lot to do with:
- the choices we make from the smorgasbord of possibilities that our lives present,
- the compromises, really sacrifices, we’re willing and able to make in support of those choices,
- the effectiveness of our responses to the serendipitous opportunities that our lives present, and
- our ability to handle the inevitable shit, and I don’t simply mean here the fall-out from our bad choices, poor compromises or ineffective seizing of the opportunities but rather the really bad stuff that’s not in any way our fault.
Are you wondering what got me started on this topic? The simple answer is aging. As each year ends and a new one begins, it’s impossible not to notice that the years in front are increasingly outnumbered by the years behind. And it’s a wise person who takes stock of what they’d like to do/see/experience/learn/etc. during those years in front and how and with whom they would like to spend their precious time.
But the very Naomi-specific answer is that I’m a methodical, list-making, over-analyzing, searcher after mental models and taxonomies. I’ve approached every important part of my life with as much careful research and preparation as I could muster at the time, working hard to understand my real choices (often more than I realized at first glance), just what was lurking under the surface of various compromises that would come back to haunt me later, how truly serendipitous an opportunity might be versus arriving as a result of long-standing effort and deliberate seed-planting, and (after the usual railing at the G-ds when misfortunate strikes) accepting/working with/overcoming life’s shit with the best grace I could muster. And now, with my 67th birthday in the rearview mirror, and Bill Kutik’s announced retirement from the HR Tech Conference that he created, it seems like as good a time as ever to do a little extra reflection, analysis, list-making and rededication.
Is there any possible connection between all of this and what’s happening — or should happen — in my professional neighborhood, at the corner of HRM and IT? Absolutely! The compass rose of life can be applied to every aspect of life, from developing HRM strategies to selecting and implementing HR technology to deciding whom to hire. Charting the best possible course through each of these situations requires making the best possible choices, accepting and then making work appropriate compromises, seizing the opportunities that present themselves, and dealing with the inevitable shit. Charting that course takes considerable knowledge (yes, that’s where the heavy lifting begins), ongoing discipline (more heavy lifting), real insight into deciding what’s important and why (oops, sounds like deep fact-finding, analysis and introspection), a willingness to take action and then commit yourself when the inevitable shit hits the fan, to doing the right thing and making your choices and compromises (assuming they were sufficiently wise) succeed. A heavy load indeed, for one’s professional and personal life, but there’s really no other good option. Steer your own course wisely or be at the mercy of those who would steer it for you.
And to my close and valued friend Bill Kutik, may you have fair winds and following seas in all that you continue to do. This post’s for you.