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2021-04-22 19:42:07 (UTC)

Prompt 117: Best in the World

117. Michael Jordan became a sports and pop culture icon in the 1990s when his Chicago Bulls won six National Basketball Association championships. If you could be the best at something in the entire world, what would you choose and why? What would be the pitfalls of being so famous?

Late in 2019, I started adopting the practice of affirmations. I'd heard about them through an insightful audiobook I'd been listening to that year, and resolved to give it a try. My personal affirmation is to become a world-class instructor. Were I to become the best at something, it would be the best non-profit educator for adults that the world has ever seen.

Why choose this? To sum it up: I've become convinced that nearly everyone - if not absolutely everyone - has a unique set of skills, abilities, native talents, and interests. It just so happens that whatever's in me has an urge and aptitude and care for adults who want to do stuff with their lives. As my adult life persisted (it's weird to say it like this, but I choose that word deliberately), I wandered my way into a job and a way to make a living that I find I'm pretty good at, and am most definitely appreciated: both by coworkers as well as the clients I have assisted over the years.

For 12 of the past 14 years, I've worked at the same non-profit employment agency. It has steadily grown and persevered, "beating out the competition" for grants and recognition, throughout that time. After two years away I returned full-time to the job in 2015, and took on a more senior role. I'm now seen as the lead facilitator, managing the day-to-day procession of classes, documentation of student performance, follow-up, tech support, and pretty much everything needed by my director for execution of the training program.

During the pandemic, my efforts and end-product(s) were instrumental in keeping our organization operational. In everything my supervisor and the executive director asked of me, I delivered, met their expectations, and in some cases far-exceeded their original hopes.

Am I now at that plateau of a "world-class instructor?" That's doubtful. However, I am living every day and performing on the job every day as I believe a world-class instructor would. I end every work day unashamed of my efforts, knowing I didn't sleepwalk through the day, "phone it in," or otherwise waste the day and leave the rest of the team to pick up my slack. For one thing, there's no one in our staff who can. Much like others on our team, I do things as part of my responsibilities that are unique to the role I have, and there's really no one who can do what I do.

In my recent Earl Nightingale reviews, I recall him articulating something I knew in my gut but never thought to put into words. It's something to this effect. There are three things that will help you keep a job:

1. There's a demand for the work that you do.
2. You are at least competent and functional in the work that you do.
3. It is difficult to replace you in the position you hold.

When looking at my position through those three lenses, and if I ranked them in terms of impact on my situation, number 3 would definitely be at the top. Some of that is beyond my control (while number 1 is almost completely out of my control). Number 2 is the one that I have the most control over personally, and it's the one I strive to improve upon the most.

There are times I wonder if it would be worth returning to school and pursuing a post-grad degree in education. Typically, I balk at this primarily at the anxiety that emerges when I consider taking on debt (I've been debt-free for over 10 years now, and I like it a lot). I also wonder at the impact it would have on my current standing. The general trend with other staff here, for example, is to earn a post-grad degree, then move on to a higher-paying position (the one exception currently being our grants manager - a legit professor - who left higher-ed behind because he didn't appreciate the scene. He's also a former semi-pro skateboarder and doesn't fit the typical "academician" mold. He's a really cool and hard-working guy.) I suspect the urge to either make more money, or pay off debt, is the reason people leave their current situation.

I could objectively look at this, saying: "If I want to move, and the most frequent reason for people to leave this organization is to make more money, then why don't I move to where I can pick up that additional education and then be paid more with those credentials?" Something like that. The main idea behind it is that I would do the same thing as my other former coworkers: grab post-grad education and start working at a better-paying place, a place more to my liking and at an organization that can afford to pay me enough to provide for my standard of living and pay off academic debt at the same time.

I don't have a solid answer to this at the moment. But I have a suspicion that inertia is edging me in that direction, ever-so-gradually.


Back to the prompt: "What would be the pitfalls of being so famous?"

What would be the downside to being a world-famous adult educator? Perhaps needing to do a lot of travel: to speak, present, lecture, teach, and so on. To avoid burnout from this, retreats and recreation, primarily in solitude, would be in order. I feel like I need to do this presently, particularly after a rather stressful training cycle. It happens.

One interesting thing that I think strikes anxiety or outright fear in a lot of people - adults, in particular - is the idea of being proven wrong. As an educator, particularly in the non-profit sector, that possibility does exist, though it's not a certainty. Additionally, since I personally started as a job coach working one-on-one with clients before presenting and facilitating learning for groups, I've had a fair amount of experience in this field and am standing on the shoulders of several giants. It's unlikely I could make many missteps, and it's very unlikely I would make enough to ruin my career completely.

When I began practicing affirmations, I conjured an image in my mind about how it would look to be a world-class instructor. The image I had was me standing at a podium on stage, in a large auditorium, theater, or arena. I'd be in the spotlight, delivering a speech or something like that. I imagine something similar to a TED talk. I'd be enlightening the audience in some kind of academic or social subject, in some way connected to workforce anti-poverty initiatives. Literally hundreds of people would be in the audience, and I'd graciously thank them all for providing the opportunity to be there in front of them, sharing the knowledge I'd gathered and distilled over the years.

Hopefully, I'll have an opportunity to do something like that in my life. Were I a true disciple of Earl Nightingale, I would acknowledge that there's simply no denying that something like that... however magnificent and/or unlikely I think it might be... It is impossible for it to NOT happen. I just need to keep moving towards it.

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