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It’s What I Do. . .Not Who I Am

March 17, 2015

My therapist is worried about me. I’m not sure if that reassures me or worries me. We were talking about the incredible hours I’ve been working and he heard me use the phrase, “It’s what I do.” 

Maybe we should discuss that in more detail next time. 

Do you ever listen to talk radio? I do occasionally and I’m always consider it a little weird when people say,

Thanks for taking my call.

The host normally says something like, “What’s on your mind,” or “You’re on the air.” If I ever become a radio host, and someone says, “Thanks for taking my call” I’m going to respond with “It’s what I do.” Because if you think about it, that’s your job as a talk show host is to take calls. 

I am complemented often on the hard work I put in and the results I get. I’m not sure exactly how to respond. My job is to keep our computers running. Sometimes that’s as easy as showing up and not touching anything. Other times, it’s an 18 hour per day job. The point is that the job is defined by the results. So, when I spent 30 hours over two days working with our operations and engineering teams to fix an issue and someone thanks me for it, my most natural response is “It’s what I do.”

I have admit I try to say it in Nathan Fillion’s voice when I say it.



 (Serentity)

But my therapist isn’t worried about me doing a good job at work. He’s worried about my “becoming” my job. He’s concerned I don’t have an idenity outside of this workaholic that craves people’s approval. I don’t think he needs to worry.  

So, how do you keep them separate? Or, more importantly, since this is my therapy session, how do I keep them separate? 

Good judgement.

Good judgement comes from experience.

Experience comes from poor judgement.

I haven’t always had good judgement. I don’t always use good judgement today. But, when I took this job, I knew the hours were going to be long and the client was going to be demanding. Sure, I was unemployed (in IT we call it self-employed. None of us are ever unemployed) when I took this job, but I made the conscious decision to stay. So, how do I exercise that judgement? 

Priorities vs Loyalties

Let’s be clear, my loyalty is pretty simple. I’m loyal to the 9 other people that share my house. To the 4 single daughters who live outside my house, and the daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter who live about 15 miles from me. There’s no question.

That means they are my first priority, right? 

Nope. My priority is the place my paycheck comes from. I have a son with a birthday next month. I’ll be gone on his birthday. We are celebrating it on Saturday when I get back. I’m going to miss a fair number of concerts this spring, just as I missed a bunch of the fall concerts.  

My daughter graduates from college and is being commissioned in the Army in May. I’ll be there. Last night I got to attend an elementary school arts festival. My boys were brilliant. Right up unti thier performance I was in the back of the gym on the phone solving a work issue. 

My kids know that even thought I want to be at certain events, my job pays for the house, food and clothes. 

Time

I’m starting to sound like a rotten father, aren’t I? I’m that guy with the phone pressed to his ear saying, “Yeah, boys we’ll play catch as soon as dad finishes this call.” Harry Chapin wrote about that guy in “Cat’s In The Cradle.” 

I’m not that guy. 

I’m going camping with my boys this Friday. I’ve been to the opening two games in Rugby season to watch my sons play. I’ll be at my daughter’s graduation. So, what happens if the network blows up in the middle of graduation? 

Too bad. 

No, not in an “I don’t care” way. Just that we can each only do what we can do. Will I be able to respond as quickly during a graduation, or a campout as I can when I’m at home working in my garage? Of course not. But, here’s the thing about being passionate about your clients and phone agents. When you have a reputation for excellence, then, when you cannot respond as quickly, people understand. Oh, they still want it back up and running as quickly as possible. But, they understand that are doing the best you can, and if your best is the best, you catch a break.

I just go and do the things that are important to my kids when I’m home. If I get a call, I get a call. But, I could just as easily get that call while in my garage.

Emotional detachment

I don’t love my job. Not really. I love my wife. I love my kids and grandkids. I love my mother who will be 70 this month. I love my friends. I love most of my family. 

I like my job. There’s a difference. If I lost one of my kids, I’d be devastated. If my best friend were gone, I’d grieve. When my mother passes (may she live many decades more) I’ll be an emotional mess. 

If I got laid off tomorrow, I’d be disappointed, but I wouldn’t be devastate. I quit marrying my employers a long time ago. The emotional pain was too much and it was unneccessary. Last year I talked about Company Loyalty Only Ever Goes One Way. The employees are loyal to the company, but the company cannot reciprocate that loyalty. It’s a corporation, it’s not a person. If we lose my account, the company will have no more need of me in the role I’m in. They would look at the cost/benefit analysis to keeping me or laying me off. It wouldn’t be personal. They wouldn’t do it because they were mean. It’s economics. 

Likewise if someone came an doffered me a 40% raise to leave my current position, and assuming it wasn’t a non-compete environment, I’d go in a heardbeat. 40% more would make a big difference to the people I’m loyal to. 

In the mean time, I do a good job and try to bring excellence to my position. But, love it? Not hardly. It’s not who I am, it’s just what I do. I’d tell my therapist that, but my client scheduled a meeting over my therapy appointment. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 
Follow him on Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss) or email him at rbliss at msn dot com 

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