I am amazed at how quickly October sped by us! I missed a couple of blog deadlines and was amazed that two weeks had simply vanished.
We have just honored our veterans, held a celebration of our newly tenured and promoted faculty, and had our first lasting snowfall. Wait! Didn’t the semester just start?
Some things that contribute to the sense of time passing quickly have flown at us from external forces: political changes at the national and state level, environmental concerns, challenges in reducing the achievement gap, funding all day kindergarten…and on and on. Some things are internal and even personal: taking on too many classes, trying to manage home and work life, stressing over the upcoming holidays, holding off that sinking feeling when you see your debt rise.
I hear people say that they have to handle all of this internal and external stress and more because there is no one else to manage it. Or worse, no one else can mange it as well as they can. Even when confronted with health issues, some folks continue to drive themselves to “do it all.” This can lead to positive and negative results. On the plus side, I suppose there is a lot that gets accomplished so that others are free to accomplish other things. On the negative side, the person becomes a hoarder of information and activities, allowing no one else to participate or change a task to meet new needs. The hoarder has convinced him/herself that no one else can do this task with his/her special talent and will not let go. The hoarder is indispensable. And usually, that hoarder also complains of working too hard. I guess that is so the rest of us know how indispensable he/she is!
The interesting thing we can learn in our lives is that none of us are indispensable. I hope that does not depress you.
Let me explain: corporations, schools, institutions of higher learning, name-your-entity…cannot depend on one charismatic individual. If they do, they are doomed to fall apart once that person is gone. Oh sure, we can help the institution move on, make some gains, even become world famous, but the health of the institution and the health of all who follow us depends on all of us making a healthy contribution without stifling others. Taking the path that says “I am Indispensable” is a delusion. When you leave the task or the job you have hoarded so carefully, your impact is likely to be no more than the ripples that happen when you take your thumb out of a bucket of water. Life goes on. The institution goes on, and the hoarder’s influence forgotten. New people take the hoarder’s place, do their best, and move on.
Well, I happen to like this metaphor. It keeps me honest and rooted in reality. It also helps me focus on what I can and should do that IS a real impact on WSU beyond having my thumb in the bucket for the next few years. It means kindness, compassion, caring. It means listening, involving people in the life of the university and communities it serves. While my thumb is in the bucket of WSU, the ripples I want to make have much to do with moving our campus to be the most welcoming, civil, sustainable, and prosperous place. And when my thumb comes out and the next person steps up, I imagine the bucket to be just as full if not more so for the coming generations. I am not indispensable, and I can do my best to the good of all. How about you?
-the concept of “bucket and thumb” are discussed in the book: “Awake at Work” by Michael Carroll http://www.awakeatwork.net/