May 28, 2007
Take Setbacks With a
Grain of Salt, and a Dose of Sudoku.
the tender age of 15, I went from action-packed, front-row seat to
sweeping up crumbs.
You see, I started my long and lustrous career in front of a soft-serve
ice cream machine at a bowling alley. The biggest challenge? Making sure
each cone, when complete, had the perfect swirl on top and weighed
approximately eight ounces.
Iíd mastered that within a few weeks, and was promoted to bowling alley
waitress. That way, I could earn a few dollars in tips to boot. Before I
knew it, I was again promoted; this time to tournament scorekeeper.
But before I knew it, my dreams of high-fiving 300-game rollers and
getting large tips from people whoíd had a few too many Budweisers were
squashed. I was replaced by a computer. It was back to waitressing for
me! I was very disappointed. But it prepared me to face future setbacks
in my status like a champion. In fact, Iíve learned to pretty much
ignore them and move on. Sometimes, Iíve even been known to initiate
For example, I recently chose to step down as vice president of a small
company in favor of a position of much lower rank in a sizable
department that is part of an even more sizable company.
went from setting strategy to staring at it.
Itís a lot like getting dumped. You go from happily holding hands
jaunting across the park to just thinking about doing it. Longingly
watching others do it. Wishing you were still doing it.
The key to survival in getting from where you are to your eventual
promotion is how well you handle the transition. Here are some dos and
doníts for my fellow demotees:
Sudoku. Mind puzzles keep you sharp. Sudoku is sure to provide you with
that needed challenge until youíre called upon to figure out real
people-process-product problems. It could be years. Youíll be a Sudoku
master by then, so at least youíll feel accomplished in something.
Donít Sudoku on company time. Iíd have thought that was common sense,
but I walked by someone elseís cubicle last week and realized itís not.
display Stephen Covey books on your desk.
Donít read them. Before youíre done, management will be on to the next
great idea, and youíll still be on the fourth habit. Think for yourself
stare at the company strategy hanging in your cube. Read it. Memorize
it. Start testing everything you do, every day, to see if that activity
reflects it. Be prepared to discuss your thoughts.
Donít actually believe that everything you do, every day, will reflect
it. Or that youíll be asked to discuss it, or taken seriously if and
when you are asked.
hang in there. I donít believe that what goes up must come down. Most
times, those people just go higher. But you can always count on this:
What has gone down will always, eventually come back up!
And finally, do look on the bright side of your demotions, both in
business and in life. I was recently demoted from best friend to
ďregularĒ friend after my son was born and I didnít want to go out on
weeknights anymore. In many ways, being the regular friend is easier and
less of a time commitment.
Every demotion is an opportunity to improve at something else you need
to get better at. For me in that case, it was being a better mom. At
work, I think I needed a little reminder of where I came from and what
itís like to be someone who doesnít set the strategy, but is asked to
live by it.
Iíd like to believe that one day, when I am again called on to serve to
my full potential, I just might remember what itís like to be where I am
now, staring at strategy, struggling with status, and satisfying my
problem-solving fix with Sodoku. Until then, pass the eraser. Iím going
to need it.
© 2007 North Star Writers
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