When I was 16 my parents bought our very first computer – Pentium 2 I believe it was. It seemed to me like science fiction (1990s, ex communist Romania). This computer featured one game that I played on and on, trying “to make it to the next level”. The more I played, the better I got, the more my ambition to get further grew. And I kept making it to the next level until … there were no more levels. One fateful day, the screen just went black and the text on it read: Game over. Thanks for playing! The disbelief, the anger, the swearing … and finally, the resignation. There really was nothing over the hill … .
I have fought so hard throughout my professional life for “a seat at the table”. And, much like in my experience with the game, I never saw getting to the table as the end of my journey, rather, the beginning. I have always viewed the ascension to leadership, management or board level as the move from a country road to the highway: now I get to actually do things, affect change, move from ideas into action. Now is the time to learn and better myself and, more importantly, make a difference!
I realized one thing this week (I know, I am 45, it’s late but hey … better late than never): in all of the strife I lost perspective. I forgot that it wasn’t primarily about a seat at the table. That it was about what happens at the table, about whether change and difference are really affected by what goes on around that table.
It just so happened that over the past couple of weeks I have been meeting in teams I am part of, in various organizations. Going from ideas to action is my passion and I always think in “what can we do” terms. The energy I got back blew me away: I was not helping, I was a hindrance. Instead of these meetings being inspirational conversations of likeminded professionals with a common purpose, I was transported to high school where I was made fun of for doing my homework or paying attention to the teacher and asking uncomfortable questions. Not the first time but this time it hit me hard. Maybe also because my body gave me the no way sign: strong stomach aches or long, insidious head aches.
As I am moving into unchartered territory in my life, I refuse to cynicalize myself. If I know something about myself, it is that I will always care deeply. And I would not change a anything about that. But one thing I will do differently, in my quest to be part of teams is to first inquire – what is this team up to? If I do get to the table, what table will that be? Will my time around that table be well spent?
If I understood something during the first half of my life (see what I did there? I have already decided I will live to see 90 and put the intention out there for the Universe to take note 🙂 ), it is that time is our most precious resource. I intend to pay attention to the way and the people I am gifting my time to. Promise.