More or less since 2016, I’ve had a tough time following the news. It got even worse in 2020. I’ve managed the chaos and destruction in the world the way people manage Tinder – swiping left to ignore all the darkness, swiping right to focus on the beauty. There is a lot of darkness, but there is still so much beauty in our world.
But I was watching Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth interviews with Bill Moyers a couple of weeks ago. In the second episode Campbell talked about the idea of embracing all of it. All of reality. All of the beauty and all of the darkness.
Can I do that?
As I was wrestling with that question I had a conversation with my very sensible brother. He said, “Hey, the world has always been messed up. I just finished reading the Old Testament. One good king, four bad kings, wars, plagues. It’s always been this way.”
Of course he’s right. Disasters are omnipresent. And then it hit me. I SO KNOW this – but I know it for the corporate world. When I was running our messy, dynamic global PR team, I always asked my senior peeps, “Are we OK at this five minutes in time?” Because I knew that there’d be a catastrophe at minute 6. We all knew it. We accepted it and planned accordingly. We were resilient and good humored about our jobs, because we had to be. We were happy to stare reality in the face, smile and gut our way through whatever came, together.
When I had my day job, I lived by the 30:40:30 rule, which came to me in a flash one day as I sat at my desk wading through my inbox. Here it is:
- Expect the bottom 30% of your senior job to be hideous – intractable problems, overwhelming pressure, unbearable dysfunction. This part of the job is endured, while one remembers that they give you money to show up every day.
- The middle 40% of the job is mundane, ordinary stuff – conference calls, weekly meetings, e-mail. While not offensive, it’s not stimulating either.
- You can hope for the top 30% to include some great stuff – the pleasure of watching your young team grow and thrive, working on an engaging creative project, meeting and working with great teams around the world.
I knew that as a senior person it would be ridiculous to expect my whole job to be fun. The 30:40:30 rule helped me set my own expectations about work. It made everything easier to face.
Could I apply the 30:40:30 rule to my life now? Last weekend I decided to give it a try. I took out a huge sheet of paper, drew two lines to create three sections and started. What do you know, the ratio came out about the same. There are some breathtaking things in my life that I am SO grateful for (flowers, the blue sky, BTS’s amazing concert in Busan!). There are plenty of ordinary things (waiting in line at the pharmacy). There are hideous things that strafe my heart (grief, an omnipresent fear of failure). But on the whole it all balances out.
Doing this exercise gave me clarity and strength to think about the year ahead – I’ll stare reality in the face, smile and embrace whatever comes.
Wishing you whatever strength you need as you look forward too!
As always, I’d love to hear from you via Instagram at lisa_poulson_writer.