So many lessons in one little book! What are your unlikely sources of inspiration?
I seem to be on a journey of self-evaluation, not just at work but in life. In reality, work is part of life, and how you function in that sphere effects the others and vice versa. Yesterday I spoke about not being “that guy” online. You know, the one who goes to work all buttoned up, but at night rips the shirt off and let’s people take pictures? Ya, don’t be him. Please.
On the other hand though, I don’t want to just pin this on the gentlemen (and I think we all realize that situation isn’t gender specific). But for sake of theme, I’m going to pick on the ladies, and try to pinpoint another area that can, personally and professionally, be a dangerous slope to slide down.
One of my favourite books of all time is The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch. For those of you who don’t know, it tells the story of a princess (Elizabeth) who was going to marry a prince (Ronald), until their castle got burnt down by a fire-breathing dragon, and life fell apart. Clothed only in a paper bag, this young lady has the pluck and determination to chase the dragon, and get her guy back.
After much searching, she finally tracks the dragon back to his cave, which is full of bones and smoke. Scary. She slams on the door despite threat of death. Then she challenges the dragon to a number of contests–she’s obviously a bright girl–in an attempt to tire him out enough to go rescue her beau. Once her task is accomplished, and she’s beaming with excitement over her victory, she runs in to get Ronald, and the first thing out of his mouth is, “Elizabeth, you are a mess.”
Not even a thank you.
Elizabeth is obviously disappointed, but then she looks at Ronald and says [I'm paraphrasing], “Ronald, your hair is clean, and your clothes are really neat, but YOU ARE A BUM.” Then she skips off into the sunset–alone, happy, free.
What does all this mean to you as a professional business person? Let me explain.
Lessons from a Paper Bag:
When life falls apart–or your business hits a rough patch–you have the choice in how to respond. Do you make like Ronald, and get swept away, passively accepting your fate? Or, like Elizabeth, do you pick yourself up, grab the nearest paper bag and get moving?
Bravery doesn’t have anything to do with size. Don’t let your circumstance dictate who you are. There is no dragon too big for you to outwit or overcome. It’s a choice to put yourself up to the challenge. When you do, and you come out the victor, your confidence in your abilities will go skyhigh. Try it.
Appearances are deceiving. This seems obvious, but how often are we impressed by someone’s title, clothes, car, status, even when they haven’t done anything to earn our respect? Having success in life does not equate with being a nice person. Ronald is a case in point.
Unequal relationships in life and business spell disaster. From the beginning of the story it’s obvious Ronald’s aloof and into himself, while Elizabeth would do anything for him. Are you that girl (or guy)? Do you bend over backwards for someone simply to impress? Are you a “yes man”? It’s not healthy.
Don’t measure yourself by someone else’s stick. One of the biggest pitfalls we all face professionally, especially in the beginning stages of our careers, is looking to others for acceptance. We want to impress people with our skills and abilities. We take criticism as failure. We depend on people to tell us what we’re worth rather than knowing who we are from the inside out. It’s so easy to do, but you need to stop. Don’t be “that girl.”
I love the last page of this book, and I wish I could’ve found the image for you. It shows Elizabeth dancing off into the sunset–alone. That’s the kind of girl I want to be.
(Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be blogging about this theme because I think it’s really important. We all need to reevaluate from time to time. Start thinking about who you are, what you love doing, and where you’re going. I have some colleagues recruited to help. Stay tuned!)