I have always erred on the side of self-deprecation. Rather than giving myself credit for my highs, I make fun of my lows. But this week, something sparked. It was more than the 12 ft diameter, 154 ft long rocket booster that I watched burn for more than 2 full minutes this morning. It was something a peer said to me. A peer that I’ve respected for years. Mind you, I was going on 4-5 hours of sleep and two full Fat Tires, but I remember the gist of the conversation.
We were talking about changing jobs and opportunities that have come across both of our paths recently. He asked me point blank:
“What do you think it is about you that makes people so interested in working with you?”
Partly because I was caught off guard. People rarely ask me personal questions like this. Rarely.
And partly because it made me uncomfortable.
Immediately I grabbed my crutch and leaned on it with all my weight.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I laughed. “Maybe it’s because I’m cute? And since I’m about to turn 40, my cuteness has a finite life so I better milk it while I can, right? And I’ve put on 20 pounds in the past two years, so there’s that…”
Oh. My. Goodness. What the hell?
He saw right through the bullshit.
“Oh come on. I mean, maybe that’s a little part of it. Being cute doesn’t hurt, of course, but surely it’s because you’re reputation is really good.”
I just, well, I was shocked to hear that. Not just from him, but from anyone honestly.
He went on.
“People enjoy working with you and you are good at what you do. You have a really strong reputation.”
I stopped giggling.
And I thought for a second. And laughed. Again.
“Well, I’ve never googled myself, so it’s good to hear my reputation is positive.”
He kind of glared at me (I totally deserved the glare).
Then I kicked the crutch away.
“Honestly, I think it’s because I work really hard and I care about what I do.”
“See, that’s more like it,” he said.
And I promptly changed the subject.
You see, I just came out of a pretty rough ending to a job where all of my success and efforts over a full three years were obliterated in one immature, ridiculous exchange of private messages. Several bridges were burned and while I may have lit the match, I didn’t stoke the flame. I own my shit and that shit is not mine to own. Until yesterday, I hadn’t gotten over the loss, but this conversation pretty much faded all of that mess from my rearview.
As I’ve thought about this exchange today, I realized there’s so much more to it. To me.
Sure, those things I said are true. But there’s so much more.
I care about people and their causes and I just want others to be successful. And I don’t care who you are, CEO or mailroom clerk, I treat everyone the same. I’m passionate about space exploration and while I may not be a true rocket scientist, I’ll always do my best to preach the gospel. And “that’s not my job” has never been a phrase I felt, thought or said.
Most importantly, if you respect me, I’ll respect you back.
So, thank you John. While you may not have intended for your words to have an impact, they did. And I truly appreciate it.