Monday, May 25, 2015

Passion and Compromise

Normally there is no clear answer. There are tradeoffs. That is very annoying because being able to do something with confidence is a challenge when you have nagging doubts. Pesky what ifs.

One of my favourite books is 'Catch 22'. The lead character is caught in a dilemma. Yossarian is a World War II bombardier who is desperately trying to get out of the war. Normally if you think thousands of people you haven't met are trying to kill you, you are crazy. Unless it is World War II and you are a bombardier. In order to convince the powers that be that he should be released from duty, he needs to convince them that he is crazy. Too crazy to fly. But if someone wants to leave, they are obviously not crazy and so they have to stay.

A form of this 'Catch 22' can appear in the work place. You are working with other people and so the nature of the beast is that there are going to be many views. To get things done, there have to be compromises. As soon as there are compromises you can feel slightly less attached to the outcome. The more compromises, the more apathy. To give your best to something, you need to be passionate. You need to care. There needs to be something that draws out your creative spirit and gets you excited. But normally those creative spirits are less willing to compromise and apathy clips their wings a little each time they do. 

The answer seems to be in detachment. It is somewhere in between compromise and passion. It isn't apathy. When it comes to a workplace situation, I think the best way to detach is to think of it like a game. I can remember one particular situation where I was walking along particularly rattled by some project that was being worked on. Thoughts going round and round but not going forward. I also happened to have watched Game of Thrones the night before. I decided to play a mental game and think of the situation as GoT, with 'Physical Me' as an Avatar. 'Real Me' was watching the game. The outcome was important, but it didn't affect Real Me. The rest of the walk was more pleasant. Perhaps because of the mental exercise, perhaps because the episode of GoT that had come to mind was particularly good. I think there were dragons.

This was a brief experience and I am no Jedi Knight of detachment. I know I am at my worst when I either desperately want something or am too attached to a result over which I don't actually have control. I know being comfortable separating myself from that result is the way forward but I am not particularly good at it. I blame an artistic temperament. I am unwilling to let go of the fire that gets rattled. I have a friend who is the Luke Skywalker of this detachment in the workplace. He really cares, but is able to detach enough to be ridiculously good at getting things done. This allows him to navigate personalities and situations without getting too rattled.

Whenever I hear friends 'download' about work frustrations, whatever the work, whether medicine, business, teaching, or charity work - they often relate to some variation of this compromise/passion trade off. They are rattled. The Catch 22 is to get things done, it feels like you have to not care. If you don't care, the flame to get things done dies. My friend Mr Skywalker shows one way. Detachment seems to be the source of the force. The force is strong with him.
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