Once upon a time, in a decade past, I sat in the corporate world as one of three women in a major department full of men. One of the three women decided to take the route of using her “assets” to gain recognition in our old boys club. I once shared a hotel room with her when we travelled to another region, and she wasn’t at all subtle about her life’s mission of either being the boss, or marrying one of them. This meant to get anywhere within the department, the other female and I would be starting out at a -100. This was going to be like attempting to win the butterfly stroke through quicksand. Still, we pressed on.
Even with the decks so clearly stacked against us, we were determined to become recognized as high performance professionals. We worked our very long salaried hours and plus more to cover when our budget fell short for our perspective staff. We made sure our quarterly numbers were coming in where they needed to be. We took days to write and polish our monthly reports to corporate. We ran an orderly office with a professional staff of 8-10 and kept the spit shine on them. However, we got nothing. Meanwhile, Tits Magee and the boys came and went however they pleased. If I logged in to my computer 5 minutes late, my office phone was ringing at 7 minutes after with my regional manager on the other end reminding me that corporate was watching. Despite this constant anxiety of hoping the big guys would notice my low turnover rate and high quality of professionals that I was hiring, at the next big meeting us two shlubs so worried about performance were regaled with stories of the other managers shenanigans for the entire 48 hours. My Sunday 4 hour drive home was me self consumed with resentment. Which is why I didn’t see that cop before he got me and handed me a non-reimbursable travel expense.
Everywhere I looked nothing seemed very fair. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I was polished, professional; my staff adhered to the rules. We either excelled or at minimum caused absolutely no headache for corporate. We were solid. Still if I fudged up just an inch, hell hath no fury than a regional manager who would pop up out of nowhere to talk to you about it for a few hours. Needless to say, my best efforts where nowhere close to being acknowledged and it didn’t look like they would ever be.
Fast forward to three years ago, Scarlett and I found ourselves at a little farm that advertised itself as a “co-op”. In addition to the usual feeding of the horses, the barn owner insisted in having all the piles of horse poop picked up with a pitchfork daily. She had the beautiful pastures to prove that picking horse shit up by hand every single day makes for a lush grass so I didn’t think too much of it. I would use a hiker’s backpack and carry Dylan around while pushing a wheelbarrow full of poop from 5 horses up and down hills. I was also assigned once per week pasture mowing, as well as tack room/bathroom cleaning. Her very detailed chore grid hanging in the tackroom showed timed results of each chore and added together all chores would come to 5 hours per week. That is way more than fair and much of what I was used to so I was surprised at what would unfold over the course of a year.
After about one week, I was on the mower one day when the owner came running out of her house like it was on fire. She began to scolded me about finding dust on the toilet tank when she went to inspect my work. She went on to warn that if I wasn’t going to do a good job then I can’t stay. I assured her that I had done the job that she asked, and she then concluded that it must be the fact that the window had been open and that I should close it next time. I should also remember to clean the window, and the sil, and the tracks.
After this event I was mad but I was determined to get this mean lady to like me by showing her that I’m just as detail oriented as she is. I wanted her to praise me for being the most meticulous horse owner on the planet so I elevated my ranching, and tack room cleaning skills, to a place I didn’t even know existed. I spent double the 5 hours per week cleaning and organizing. Dylan would follow me around while I manicured every blade of grass, polished every inch of the tack room, and raked and picked up every pile of poop plus more. We would make games out of it and actually have a ton of fun. Unlike my corporate experience above, I had the presence of Dylan this time, and that seemed to be the magic ingredient to keep pushing though. Just by being with me, he encouraged me to take breaks to play and teach him about nature, horses, chores and responsibility. In those breaks I would find enthusiasm and I would get happy, and this would carry me through. From there I started to pay attention to what I was learning. I began to add to my skill set. I then started to get a deep feeling that all of it was preparing me for something. Still, the better I got, the leaner and more accomplished in my work, the more work would get piled on me. For example, that time the barn owner added mowing her personal one acre lawn to my list of duties.
Everywhere I looked nothing seemed very fair. Nothing I did was ever good enough. I was an exceptional horseman. I adhered to the rules and I went above and beyond despite feeling very used. This time it was Scarlett that grew resentful. My immaculately trained dressage horse became pissy, brooding, and spiteful. She wouldn’t let me on her back and she began to act like a wild emotionally neglected teenager. It was because of her that we were asked to leave. After all that work we got kicked out anyway, and needless to say my best efforts were never acknowledged.
This pattern of my diligence being overlooked went on to varying degrees throughout my life, both before and after the aforementioned examples. I would notice that despite working harder or smarter, other people would get rewarded for doing less or not as well. I would pray very hard to keep my attitude lighthearted and positive in public, and then allow myself to crash or rage in private. No matter where I looked, it seemed like everyone else could do whatever they wanted to do, whenever they wanted to do it, however they wanted it done with absolutely no consequences. Yet, the more that I did the more that I was expected to do, and if I didn’t live up to my average there was always some sort of fall out. In between my attempts at trying harder to be better and give more than 100% daily, I would feel defeated, pissed off, cursed and down on myself. I would act like I didn’t notice or care that I was doing a lot of heavy lifting for no apparent reason, but time after time and example after example I would grow more and more hurt.
What I came to realize after exhausting myself for the last time, is that I am part of the problem here. Nothing is going to change until I do, and so I did. Here is what I learned;
A. It is ok to match “energy for energy” – This becomes especially true in personal relationships if nowhere else. If you are giving more than the other person(s) then the relationship is entering into rough co-dependent waters rather than sailing smoothly on the calming, ever so pleasant tide of interdependence. It is more than acceptable to nicely but sternly ask people to do their part.
B. In business, always do your best even if no one is watching – Who cares if no one notices or pats you on the back. How you conduct yourself in business matters is vital to how people interpret your character. You are your own walking signature.
C. What people notice says more about them then it does about you – As usual, perception is an individual and organic thing. What you think someone should notice may not even be on their radar. My former corporate colleagues not noticing stellar performances of their subordinates so to concentrate on inappropriate play time says more about their cultivated characters then it does about anything else. If your presence isn’t noticed, then your absence probably won’t be either. Move on.
D. Sometimes people don’t know that they don’t know – Someone once told me that if they praise me for a job well done that I might stop doing well and that’s why they don’t acknowledge my work. I don’t quite follow the logic, but you can’t fault people for what they don’t yet know or understand. This includes you. Don’t fault yourself today for what you didn’t know yesterday.
E. You don’t really need outside accolades or recognition – The truth is that you actually need to be able to pat yourself on the back first before anyone else will do it. The more that satisfaction comes within, the less you care whether or not anyone else is willing to hand you a plaque with your name engraved on it. Do it for yourself your legacy.
When I look back on all of the experiences where I felt that my best wasn’t good enough, I can see exactly what they happened. At the minimum all of these instances made me a self-motivator. In all honesty I have this deep down tendency to want to be lazy. All of my drive to do more and do better in order to attain some sort of accolade may have come from a pretty egotistical place at one time. However, over the course living life, that self governance has become my modus of operandi. Was it frustrating working harder than my former colleagues? Did I feel some sort of way after being tossed from a barn – the kiss of death for an equestrian? Absolutely. It felt wretched to be honest. But when it comes right down to it, my drive to give my best efforts has nothing to do with other people. That need to give my best saved me from having to file bankruptcy after a divorce. It keeps me gainfully employed in a field where you are either meticulous, or you perish. It keeps my home, truck, and finances clean and tight so that my family is healthy and well cared for. As an added and much sought after bonus, it brought me the barn and horsey situation of my dreams where I have founded an actual equestrian co-operative based on fairness. I now have the freedom to be creative with my equine responsibilities and bring good people along with me so they can have the same. Every dirty day got me to where I want to be…as does all life experience if we’re willing to learn from them.
These days I am a lot more flexible in my pursuits and I encourage you to do the same. I’ve learned that the effort you take to drive and push, needs to be coupled with the power of just being, enjoying, and allowing. Some days you will not be good with the allowing part, but that’s what makes the other days where you are such a reward.
Lastly, when it feels almost unbearable that your best isn’t good enough, and you feel like you’re never going to get to where you want to go, take a break to play. Let joy in anyway that you can. Let gratitude in. In those breaks, I promise you that you will find the enthusiasm that you need to keep going. Pat yourself on the back for coming as far as you have. Know that your “best” changes daily. Your best yesterday was performed with the information that you had yesterday. Don’t get down on yourself for what you didn’t do 10 years ago, or even last week…you have new information now.
What you’ve got, the world now needs. Don’t stop. Don’t quit. It doesn’t actually matter if anyone ever notices your best efforts, but if it’s important to you then the surest way that you can get an accolade is to give one. Most people want to be acknowledged and most people are wondering why it is that you haven’t noticed their best efforts. Reach out to tell someone how well they are doing and don’t be surprised if you get an acknowledgement in return. And then another after that. And then another. You are a light in a foggy harbor for many. If no one has told you that today, then let me tell you. Your best my love, is more than good enough. It’s going to change the world.
Thank you for reading, it’s an honor to have you here ❤
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