Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Seat at the Dinner Table

It’s said one of the most rapidly fading traditions from the Nuclear Family days of America is the act of sitting around the family table and collectively enjoying a meal, shooting the breeze about their day. It’s in these moments the fabric of the family is laid bare, as well as how each person regards themselves within the family unit, and in turn within society. With my own family, I can remember few times we’ve ever sat down together for such a thing, and none of those times have I ever felt I belonged, causing me to reevaluate what it means to be part of something, as well as the concept of unity. In any group I’m a part of, I am strongly against leaving anyone out of the equation or leading them to conclude they have no use, which is a large part of what continues to spur me on in my journey to be a better leader and team member. In my studies and experiences around these fields there are two key questions I feel build on what makes a team grow and prosper: what does each person ask of their team, and what do they ask of themselves?
As a matter of principle I set the bar high for both myself and those I choose to work with, leading to as much disappointment as amazement at the things accomplished, which is to say quite a lot. Though they’ve brought great things to me over the years, these standards have also weeded out many I’ve met in my life, including several very interesting people I’ve come upon, but didn’t bother to get contact info from due to differing mindsets. The question of just how easily I could give up my standards and let myself become more like the people I’ve grown apart from, drifting along life’s shores is a constant presence in my life, especially in times of crises when such a choice is right within my grasp. The desire to belong is a force with illogical influence over us, growing more so as global society becomes more connected, but even with that close enough to smell at some points, but even with all I’ve sacrificed to live up to my principles, it’s not possible for me to fathom letting them go. It would be utterly hypocritical for me to scrutinize the world I live in and those I work with so harshly for setting such base level standards that they still fail to live up to, and live as if having standards is worth as much as dirt.
I still have a ways to go to reach the kind of heights I wish to reach, but even if it keeps me away from a good chunk of humanity, the vast amount of improvement just reaching for it has given me hardens my commitment to this lifestyle. The few moments of ‘This is incredible’ I’ve gotten from those I work with have become worth much more than any amount of ‘Oh, that’s neat’ I might get if I ask anything less of them. This may create much struggle for me and those I work with, but I know that struggle will make us better and allow us to appreciate the time and effort we put into a project once it’s done. If anything, the journey having high standards creates is the thing sticking with us for much longer than the end product, especially when the process begins over again and we proceed enriched by our travels. Who knows, maybe someday I might to share some of my tales from the road around the dinner table with the people I grow close to, hopefully serving some tasty BBQ.