There are times we need reminded of who we are and what value we bring to others. I recently went to lunch with some very good friends. I could call them old friends as I’ve known them for nearly 20 years and they are older than me. So, truly, they are old friends. This get together was on the heels of an interaction at work with a leader of mine the day prior. This leader asked me to be more like someone else and less like myself. The person he referenced used to be a petty tyrant who bullies others to get things done that I later befriended. I was taken aback by the request and left with an emptiness and the associated stress I didn’t quite understand. Physically, I had a severe tension headache that went down into my neck and upper back. Obviously, I had some significant unconscious reactions to the request this leader made. While I understand where he was coming from and can even relate to the need, it nonetheless asked me to be someone other than myself.
My friends and I had a great discussion about all sorts of topics. Throughout the luncheon, I was reminded of why I’ve stuck around for almost 20 years at the company I work for. I was reminded of the meaning I derive from my work not only from the product but from what I think of as my true success in my role as a leader. Specifically, helping others achieve what they want to achieve is what drives me to do what I do as a leader. Helping people transition to other phases of life whether that be retiring or moving on to a job they better connect with is what truly gives me purpose. Certainly, having helped create spacecraft that expand human knowledge by visiting other planets is meaningful but it is the connections with people I’ve made that creates a profound sense of accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, I love telling others I have my name physically inscribed on a plaque on Mars and not just on a microchip with millions of others. However, it is the connections I’ve made and what I hope are positive influences on lives that provides a sense of accomplishment.
After being reminded of who I am and the value I bring to others, I found myself later that day reviewing the contract I have with myself. I printed out the contract with my future self written 8 years ago and taped it to the inside of a cupboard I get into daily as I cook for the family. Reading through the contract and having been reminded of my value in the eyes of others I’ve helped allowed me to return to my center, my schwerpunkt if you will. All I can say is thank you to my past self for writing down what’s important to me in the form of a contract to review when needed. And, of course, I have the utmost gratitude for the friends who helped me recenter myself.
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