When Do You Give Up On Your Dreams?
I'm at a crossroads and it's time to figure out where I want to go and what I really want to do.
In Chapter 4 of Dream Lord Wars, Harley’s trying to figure out how she got into this mess and how she’s going to get out. There are no right answers and anywhere she turns, she is going to fail.
That’s something I’ve been dealing with a lot in the past few weeks. It’s been twisting me up. Between fighting my invisibility and not successfully meeting the challenges of my work environment, it’s been a challenge to see that I can make this writing thing happen. Again.
When Do You Give Up On Your Dreams?
This is something Harley’s been facing for some time. She’s had this aspiration to be a mechanic since she was a little girl, and when Aldo chose her as his apprentice, she seriously thought she’d make it. But the closer she gets to her test, the more she realizes that the game is rigged against her. If she’s told she had to meet one score going into the test, they’ll change the goal after she’s completed it. If they tell her she has to do one thing, they’ll wait until she’s completed that to tell her she needed to have completed another.
I think a lot of people feel this way. I know I’m at this point right now too with the Day Job and my writing career. I’m good at what I do, but sometimes being good isn’t enough.
Evaluating the Goal
The first thing I did was evaluate the goals I’d set up. I mean, I’d done everything right. I’d created large goals, broke them down into smaller ones, and then created measurable goals I could get done easily that would move me forward.
Day Job: Become A Project Manager
I have been working toward project management for nearly twenty years, and, boy has it been a fight. I had a lot of challenges ahead of me, and I laid them all out and knocked them down. They all basically revolved around gaining experience.
I had to learn how to start a job, create a schedule and a budget, how to plan for material procurement and arrival. How to get the guys to follow the plan. How to keep the crew on target. How to manage changes to the scope. How to keep cashflow positive.
I’m a big advocate for learning quickly, so I determined what I needed to learn first, and charged ahead. Gods help the poor fool who got in my way. My goals had to shift a little in order to reacquire success. Sometimes, it was because I hadn’t been ready, and I hadn’t known what I didn’t know until I’d failed because I didn’t know the thing. Occasionally, it was because I didn’t see a particular obstacle placed in front of me until it was too late.
The biggest challenge, though, was that the goal post kept moving for me. My bosses made it harder for me to get into the field to get the experience they told me I had to have in order to manage. They’d make sure my journeyman electricians would stick me on jobs that didn’t give me the information I needed. I mean, come on. An electrician needs to learn how to cut drywall, sure, but that’s not the only thing he should be doing all week. None of the other guys were cutting drywall for an entire week straight when that was all they time they were allowed to have.
When I’d been faced with those challenges, I did what I always do. I found other ways to get the knowledge I needed. It wasn’t field experience, but it was design and management practice.
So, here I am, nearing fifty, and I’m still seen as someone who doesn’t know enough because my twenty years experience isn’t field experience. I’m not providing a needed value in this arena.
So, is project management a viable goal for me? Or did I fail by allowing myself to be diverted throughout my entire career?
Dream Job: Publishing Books
Well, let’s look at my dream job. Let me tell you something. Publishing books takes a lot of project management. If publishing was compared to construction, the production of a book would be closer akin to business management. When you’re on a construction site, the only thing you have to focus on is the one job. You don’t have to think about the growth of the business based on that job. Or the marketing of your business using that job. Other people in the organization need to do that, sure, but not the project manager.
I’m sitting here and thinking that my publishing career so far has been a bust.
Until I review the goal progression. Looking back, I really was succeeding! I was a USA Today Bestselling Author. I was making enough from the sales of my books to pay the bills and write full time. As the bread winner at that time, that was a big deal.
So, when did I fail?
When I moved to Alaska. Moving up here, I found myself alone. I mean, I had Shane. Of course, I had Shane, but do you know what it feels like to be the only person for another? It can be quite suffocating. He had family and tons of places to be and all I had was a house.
Defining Failure Helps Shape Future Success
I think my failure in publishing has two parts.
First, I didn’t define a great goal like I did when trying to become a project manager. That seemed a lot easier to streamline. I wanted to publish a lot of books and make enough to live off of. That’s not a well defined goal.
Second, I failed to realize that I am a person who relates to other people and I write to be with others. That, frankly, was shocking and something I only learned because of the Day Job.
In my quest to be a project manager, I did allow myself to be pushed around a lot. Some of the backlash I received was due to the sexism in that industry. It’s hard to say it wasn’t, but some of that was because I didn’t have the backbone I needed. If a guy had gone to the field and had been told to cut drywall for the one week he’d fought to get field electrical installation experience, he’d have told his supervisor no. Then he would have gone somewhere and started installing. You know how I know that? I’ve managed male electricians. This is how they do things.
Reshaping the Goals
So, since I’ve failed at both, how am I going to use that failure to move forward?
In my quest to be a project manager, I need to understand that this is about the strongest my backbone has ever been and it’s still not enough. Part of that is because I realize when a fight benefits the team and when it weakens it, and I fight for the team. Not myself.
But try as I might, I’m not the strong backbone person, and I don’t think I ever will be. I’m Frankie Blunt, which is becoming a verb, adjective, and a noun, but that’s not the same thing. Project managers need to be firm at times and to stand their ground. I’m… flexible. That’s my super skill. Maybe I’m trying to cram myself in the wrong box.
So, maybe I need to move my focus. Thanks to publishing, I’m really good at looking at businesses and figuring out how to make them profitable. That’s a good focus.
In the publishing world, I’m not alone anymore. I have people I want to spend more time with who add incredible value to my life. Maybe what I need to do is to create the same types of goals I did when I was trying to become a project manager, and grow my business like I’ve grown other people’s businesses. Maybe I should grow myself and my authors like I’ve helped grow other authors. Maybe I should invest in myself.
Don’t Quit Dreaming
Failure is necessary to grow. If you do it right, failure is the material you pave your road to success with.
But don’t be so stubborn – like me – that you fail to adjust your direction if the path you chose doesn’t quite work for you.