I’m often asked if the things that happened to Jana Lanning in my recent novel, Anywhere But Here, actually happened to me. For those of you that haven’t read this novel, Jana Lanning, the protagonist, is denied admission to graduate school, finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, helps her best friend get married and move out of town, and has to settle for a job that she’s overqualified for – and all of this happens within two weeks of getting her undergraduate degree. Then to make things worse, the office where she works starts a merger with another firm and Jana finds herself on the wrong end of office politics that are the final straw in her battle with depression. The thing people seem the most interested in are the office politics. People want to know if the happenings at Dixon Financial are reflective of my job before it was transferred to a new agency a couple of years ago.
In response to that I’d say not entirely, but I can’t deny that some things that happened to me early in my career are reflected in people and events that take place in the book. I know that’s cryptic, but bear in mind two things: The people and events are fictionalized and that was accomplished through a mixture of my personal experiences, experiences I’ve seen and heard of from other people, and instances I’ve read about in books, magazines, news and other media. It came from a vast pool and I’ll admit that I had experience with being on the wrong end of office politics – heck, how could you write about it even from a fictionalized perspective unless you lived it in some way – but it’s also a universal issue that anybody working in an office environment is going to be on one end or the other of. And sorry folks, but there are probably going to be times when you find yourself on the wrong side, at least from the perspective of the majority.
My purpose in both writing Anywhere But Here and this entry isn’t to bash my former workplace. These things happened a decade ago, and I must admit that I said and did things that weren’t wise and didn’t lead to the best resolution in the situations I faced. I certainly learned from those experiences and in retrospect, I’m glad I learned those lessons early in life or I certainlywouldn’t be where I am now. The purpose is to share lessons learned, because this is something that I believe everybody in the workforce faces at some time. It makes you feel isolated and lonely when it happens, but the truth is that you aren’t alone. Lots of people face it but few talk about it because frankly, it’s embarrassing.
I used to think that people playing office politics were selfish jerks that like to hurt people, but experience has shown me that it actually grows from a root of fear. People that play with power are insecure and doubt their own ability, so they create an elaborate game of turning people and things to their advantage. I’ve found that there are 2 good ways to identify a person that is likely to use power to their advantage:
1.They cling tightly to cliques that are made up of people that are higher on the chain of command than they are; and
2.They don’t associate with anybody on the chain of command below them unless it’s absolutely necessary - and those people better give them what they want immediately or it’s insubordination.
It’s the people in category #2 that usually find themselves on the losing end of office politics because any wrong word or deed will be met with fierce retaliation. I won’t say that I never see office politics anymore, but I have found that I find myself in these situations a lot less since I’ve been reclassified to a mid-level position. I’d like to think this is because I’ve proven that my knowledge and abilities are valuable, but it’s more likely that I learned valuable lessons on how to deal with these types from previous experience – and people know it.
So what’s the secret to dealing when you’re the victim of office politics? If you’re right, stand by that. Don’t ever cave in and take the quick and easy way out because that’s a temporary end. If they’d turn on you once, they’ll turn on you again. Caving in only shows that you can be taken advantage of, and they will milk that dry, plus the consequences of doing wrong will follow you a lot longer than standing up for what’s right. They might not like you, but they’ll respect you and at least know not to let you catch them with their hand in the cookie jar again. If you aren’t right, correct yourself immediately and stick to your guns in walking down the right road. And whichever situation you’re in, it’s imperative that you have patience. Truth will show itself in time and it will be end game then. It might take months or even years for things to come around, but they will and you’ll be better off for it. The reward will come in patient endurance, and it will be something that nobody can deny. Sure, there are people that are so stubborn that they’ll refuse to change their mind no matter what happens, but don’t worry about them. Leave them in their ignorance and move on because it’s highly probably that they’ll be gone in time themselves.
I believe Jana Lanning in Anywhere But Here is a good personification of office politics gone wrong, because she’s the one in the weakest position. She didn’t do anything wrong and in fact suffered for doing right, but recent personal losses kept her from taking a stand in the right way and the right timing. The people that create these situations are masters at turning things against you even if you didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s exhausting to constantly defend your own character. Unfortunately, she found this out too late and suffered the consequences of crossing the wrong people simply by being who she was and not deferring to people doing things wrong. She was right and had proof of it, but she didn’t know how to present that truth in a combative work environment. That happens sometimes, and it’s awful. I think the worst offence in the world is to have to suffer for other peoples’ mistakes, and office politics are the ultimate example of that.
I think this is why eople tell me that they find Jana Lanning so likeable. She’s a good person that doesn’t deserve the hard knocks that come her way from people taking advantage of her shy nature, youth, and inexperience. She makes the same mistakes that all of us made in our early adulthood and we understand her confusion at why life is kicking her around. Reality is a hard teacher, and it’s the only one that can do the job once school leaves off. Remember the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire” from the 80’s? That strange, new world opening up is the exact thing that Jana faces, and we understand exactly where she’s coming from. She, like the rest of us, has to learn to find those gems of opportunity in the rubble of defeat to rebuild a new life from shattered dreams. In some ways, we may even relate to her right where we’re at, because life is always teaching us lessons.
So no, I didn’t start out in life exactly like Jana did. I actually did marry my college sweetheart, but I never made it to graduate school because I found other things that I believed were worth more in my life than higher education. I never struggled with depression, but I knew (and still know) many who do battle that demon, and I hope Jana’s struggle helps people with depression understand that this is a battle they can win if they stay in the fight. But yes, I did go through an office merger in my early years in the workforce, and I found myself prey to the power plays, albeit in much different circumstances. All I can say is that wisdom comes from experience, and I gained plenty in those few years.
And lest you think it’s impossible for poor Jana to face so much at one time, I call your bluff. Too much smashing my life to bits was the catalyst for my next novel, Splinter – but that’s one for a future blog entry. I’ll address it closer to the release date in mid 2013. Until then, enjoy Anywhere But Here and my other books - information on them and links to buy are on the other tabs of this website. I hope you find entertainment and inspiration in them.
That’s all today.
All this political debate gives me a headache. Truth is, I’m not happy with any of the candidates and there’s been so much arguing and nonsense flying around that honestly, I ceased to care. It was that or let it run my blood pressure up and folks, it’s not worth that.
Why are we in so much debate over what America needs? I think it’s because America itself doesn’t have a uniform set of needs. America is made up of individuals and our needs vary as much as the socks behind the
dryer – they don’ t match and they come from all over the place. Here are 10 things that my corner of America needs:
1. Jobs and a better economy. Well, duh. Maybe that’s one thing we agree on.
2. Three day weekends and four day work weeks. Because a 2 day weekend just isn’t enough time to do all you want/need to do. Heck, most people argue for Fridays but I’d take Mondays. Just one more free day would be a blessing for us 30 and 40 somethings with iPhone calendars that look like they have chicken pox from all the dots for meetings/appointments/commitments and etc.
3. Less reality TV and more sci-fi and fantasy. Ax the talk shows too. I’ll be generous and leave the soaps, news shows, and syndicated sitcoms for variety.
4. A federal mandate that we go digital by, like, tomorrow. Paper sucks and takes up too much space. We’re
killing trees folks! Computers aren’t the devil. You can learn it. Stretch the brain and save yourself papercuts.
5. Make telemarketing illegal. Period. Forget the do not call list. Just make it all a felony.
6. While we speak of illegal, is there a logical reason why gas needs to be over $2.00 a gallon? Oh, spare me the economic mumbo jumbo. I said logical. I contribute to some oil executive clearing multi-billion dollar profits every 2 weeks when I go to the gas station. Now how are those profits related to supply and demand (besides the demand for the executives to have big profits)?
7. Write off pets on your taxes. Because too many people abuse animals and I think those that make the
investment of providing them with the care and life they’re supposed to have should be rewarded.
8. Along those lines, I think the penalties for hurting animals should be exactly the same as they would
be for hurting a human being. A dog, cat, bird, or horse is just as alive as I am. So why a $20 fine and slap on the hand for hurting them and death penalty case for hurting a human? The people that hurt humans usually started by abusing animals. Throw them in the slammer for killing an animal and they won’t be out there to hurt kids. Or anybody else for that matter. Because we got the hint that they completely disrespect the sanctity of life when they hurt an animal and we did something about it sooner rather than later.
9. Terraform Mars. Because at 7 billion and climbing, it’s getting a wee bit crowded on the third rock from the sun. Ok, that's not confined to America, but we should be leading in research, development and planning to extend our reach to the stars.
10.Get rid of standard time. We’re only on it for 4 months a year. Chuck the twice a year clock reset and leave it daylights saving time year round. Because really, nobody likes it being dark at 5:30 p.m. in the winter anyway. Face it, we’re trying to phase it out anyway. Let’s just do it already.
So that's it - 10 things I think our candidates should be talking about instead of the nonsense they're spewing every day. But of course, that's just my opinion. And we all know that doesn't count - until election day, anyway.
Happy Friday to you folks. Have a great weekend.
I'd like to expand on something I said in my last blog entry about how "the villians make the story." We don't actively think about, but it's true that without the villians there would be no story - not in real life or in fiction. That's one thing they share in common. After all, where's the excitement in just another day? There's not much, is there? In fact, we have a term for long periods of time without resistance. We call it a rut.
That's not to say that problems are desirable. Heck no. I could do with fewer "adventures" in my life, truth be told. But the fact of the matter is that we grow when we have resistance. It's the tough times, struggles, and pain in the butt people where we learn and grow the most. That's not a truth many of us want to face, but it is a truth. Look back over your life, and I'll be the times you learned the most were during your greatest struggles. It was true for me. I took a lot of lessons from those instances I described in my last entry. I learned how to stand up for myself, how to stand up for what's right, and how to deal with fragile egos (because frankly, a lot of those problems went to a root of fragile egos addicted to approval). I learned not to fear change and to have confidence in myself and my abilities no matter what other people thought or said about me, and that strength gave me the confidence to build a house, successfully move to and integrate into a new office, and to publish 4 books (and some inspiration for said books too). To put it bluntly, manure is a fertilizer and fertilizer makes things grow. If you learn from your experiences and use those lessons to better yourself then you will be prepared for greater blessings ahead. So think of the crap you deal with as the stimulus to grow your spirit and take you to new heights.
I know, that's not a pretty metaphor. Frankly, it stinks. (Oh, another bad joke). But it's relevant and you have to admit that it's not a cliche comparisome. And you won't forget it either, will you?
Anyway, back to the point ...
I believe the series finile of "Smallville" hit it close to the mark when Lex Luthor told Clark Kent "I used to think your friends defined a man. But it's actually enemies that define a man." I believe that's a bit extreme and one sided, but it has a grain of truth. Our enemies, or rather the people we find ourselves clashing with and struggling against, do have a certain amount of definition to our own lives because they are often dark images of ourselves. I've blogged in previous entries about how each of us tends to be a magnant for people that are our polar opposite and that the people we struggle with tend to have a common root issue - for example, with me it seems there are always jealous, petty people around. I can't seem to get rid of them. And the reason I struggle with them is because I want to be my best and help others be their best. Therein lies my own Lex Luthor. We all have one and if you look at the people you're in strife with, I'll bet you'll see that same dark image of yourself in them. The real story and lessons lie in how we deal with them. Do you fight to win, stand your ground, or swat them away like a bug and keep on keeping on. There is no one right answer becase it depends on who and what you're dealing with. I had to stand my ground and occationally fight the last ones in my life, but the answer for the present ones seems to be ignoring them. Just keep doing my thing and let them seeth and have their pity party all alone because I'm busy and have stuff to do.
That's why every experience is different. It's because you can have the same situation and a different answer due to the context of the situation. The last jealous people I dealt with feared confrontation and avoided it, so fighting forced them to do something they found so unpleasant that they'd back off. But the ones in my life now live for and absolutely love the fight and the challenge it brings. They hate to be ignored - so I ignore them. As I said before, different context = different solution. And the same principle applies in fiction as in real life.
Yes, the villians do make the stories. It's provides the catalyst to grow and learn in real life. It provides the plot in fiction. Because without villians, there is no story. There is no growth. there is no spark to life.
So don't be too hard on those pain in the butt people. After all, they can be quite useful if you know how to utilize them correctly. In fiction and in reality.
That's all for today. Take care and have a good week.
Yes, that's me with South Carolina Governon Nikki Hailey. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to speak at our staff appreciation picnic today. We hear so much about "dirty politics" that often we fail to acknowledge when a politician does something kind. Yet the truth is, they face challenges each and every day that few of us see, and they do it in an effort to work for the good of the people.
Truth is, I've gained a whole new appreciation for people that work in politics over the past couple of years. Through the legislative changes that resulted in my work move in July 2010, I got an inside look on what really happens inside the State House. Let me tell you, the "School House Rock" on how a bill becomes a law doesn't even scratch the surface! There are subcommittees, committees, floor hearings, and so much going on behind the scenes that it's a chaotic atmosphere crackling with activity each and every day. Senators and House Representatives have so much coming at them that they find it difficult to keep up. In fact, I heard one Senator say that during a one year session, it wasn't unusual for over 10,000 bills to cross his desk. He said that the ones people talk to him about are more likely to get his attention, and to get appropriate votes, because he knows what the people it will affect are really thinking and understands how it will impact them on a day to day basis.
Many people I've shared this with are surprised, but it's true. In the day to day realm of hearing and voting on bills, what it really comes down to is knowing what the people think. They do want to know how it's perceived by the people it will affect and depend on people attending and speaking at subcommittee and committee meetings to help them gain a better understanding on what they're voting on. In fact, the first question I've always heard in these meetings is "how does this affect people and what's their reaction to it?"
Sure dirty business happens in politics, and this is what makes headlines. In the day to day realm, they're trying to make the best decisions they can with the information they have available. So don't be afraid to contact your representatives. The State Legislature has a website with everything posted, from bills for consideration to schedules for meetings to biographies of Senators and House Representatives. Let them know what you think and how proposed bills affect you. Prepare a case and speak at a subcommittee meeting (anybody can speak at subcommittee meetings). They need to hear from you. They want to hear from you. They depend on hearing from you so they can fully understand the impact of the decisions they make. You'd be surprised at the big impact just a few voices can have.
Yes, I have a new appreciation for politicians and even lobbyest. While I may not always agree with them and their decisions, I do have respect for their office and the responsibilities they face. I support them whether I voted for them or not because they are our appointed leaders, and they need our prayers for wisdom and strength every day so they can fulfill the responsibilities before them. I hope you will to.