Own Your Ceiling
We all have hopes, dreams, goals, aspirations and intents in our careers.
Some of us will achieve them all. Some of us will achieve more. Some of us will fall short. None of these things are “good”, none are “bad”. They are just … there.
I have achieved more than I could ever have imagined as a small country town boy from a small nation at the bottom of the South Pacific. Some of my work experiences are simply unfathomable to that child. And so maybe that taints my mindset on this, but here’s the thing … I own my ceiling.
# Owning the ceiling
What do I mean by that? I mean that I know my limits, I hit them and don’t feel constrained by them. In fact they are liberating. I worked hard to get to where I am for sure, I worked the system, I spent 15 years at Microsoft and Google, trust me that teaches you how to work a system and all that comes with those large ecosystems. But I also came to realize that I would not make a certain level (I don’t have the ability to be successful) … and then in a moment of clarity I realized … I didn’t want it. Not because I couldn’t, if I’d wanted it that would have driven me more.
No, I didn’t want it because I wouldn’t be happy. And so this is why I advocate to find your ceiling, and own it. Revel in it. It really is fun.
# Reveling in your limits
A little inside baseball. Large companies have levels, it’s a ladder you climb. The further you go up, the more you get paid, the more responsibility you get, the more is expected of you. The Director bands are very broad spanning several levels. So are the GM levels. There’s some jiggery done to help alleviate that, but the fact remains. I was comfortable in the Director bands, and realized that was my ceiling. I never wanted to be a GM, way too much skin in that game for my liking.
Side note: titles mean little. Outside of the large Microsoft and Google systems I’ve had titles like VP and Senior Director … they have the same expectations as the Director and Principal bands in the large companies. Don’t be fooled by that stuff, it’s what you do that matters, not the label slapped on it.
Anyway, back to the reveling. I reached my ceiling, and it was the most joyous moment of my work life. Because now I didn’t have that part of my brain being taken up with “get to the next thing”. I could take that capacity and apply it to frankly better things. Like helping others, and taking joy in my work.
I’ve been honest with my current boss (she’s awesome and amazing) … I am not open for promotion. Reward me by letting me do my best work and supporting me. I find myself being a real partner because I’ve “been there done that” and I take so much joy from being able to offer help, support and guidance to her and others for success. I can roll with the punches, not worry about silliness, I have the luxury of choice, I can and would walk away if silly stuff happened. And every day, I can spend that capacity I previously spent on ladder climbing on others who need it.
There is nothing wrong with accepting what you have and being happy with it. Remember, work is work. Life is life.
Be Awesome. And nice.