This picture speaks volumes.
Not her. I mean, yes, she’s impressive…
but there is a more telling message in this photograph.
Where I am located…in the background. Do you see me? Believe it or not, this is were I am the most comfortable most of the time.
As a Navy Chief, I considered myself as someone who led from the front, but the irony of this is that “leading from the front” meant being in the background. This was my way: allowing people the autonomy to learn and grow. Training people quietly on the technical aspects of Ordnance and leadership. Giving people the freedom to make mistakes and trip, but never fully fall. I was always in the background. I remember being aroung the corners during weapons evolutions or maintenance evolutions, or just hiding somewhere…watching. A lot of the guys who worked for me still communicate with me, and often tell me stories of “that time Chief P just ran up out of nowhere before we screwed everything up.”
Confession – although the “rack” of ribbons on my Navy uniform was accurate in terms of ribbons/medals, I was always out of uniform with regards to the amount of stars on them, which signifies the number of subsequent awards given of the same type. I never had the correct amount of stars on my ribbons or medals.
Why? Because most of them I didn’t feel as though I earned. I fail to see why I should receive medals and accolades and recognition when it was my Sailors working their asses off. Let me be clear: this is not false modesty – I truly did precisely jack shit. They did the work, all I did was provide oversight and guidance.
In the background.
Glory? Please. That shit is overrated. Trust me when I tell you, at the end of the day, the people you lead are not going to give a shit about what you did, or what you were awarded. Nor are they going to care what they were awarded – medals and ribbons tarnish and fade. What they will remember is the amount of care, passion, and effort you put into THEM.
They will remember when you made them feel capable, and competent, and empowered.
If you think coaching is about what YOU do, shouting from the front so that everyone can see how magnificent your are, you might be in the wrong profession.
In the world of athletics, I resigned myself, a long time ago, to the fact that I would forever be a mediocre athlete. I consider myself very competent in multiple athletic domains, but I am “outstanding” at nothing.
I can run fast, but not fast enough.
I can’t lift heavy, but not heavy enough.
I look aesthetic, but not aesthetic enough.
This was, frankly, quite the bitter pill to swallow – particularly if you factor in the amount of Ego Oriented thinking I was raised with. This isn’t for lack of trying. Rest assured that I broke my balls trying to be good at things. Some things. Any fucking things.
Turns out I was good at coaching. Leading. Relating.
The background is where I have always been. Recent events in my professional life have given me a lot of exposure, and a bit of a spotlight, but the truth is that I don’t like this. I behave awkwardly in the light and find myself trying to be everything to everyone, which ultimately turns out to be disastrous for everyone around me, but especially those that are truly close to me.
Sometimes I want to disappear.
Sometimes I want to feel normal.
And then…Nah. I realize that I need to put things back in to perspective and move back to the place that I am most comfortable.
In the background.