Managing Expectations

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Since starting my new job, I’ve been struggling with feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, and fear of failure. What I do everyday has weight. It impacts the lives of thousands if not millions of people, and I feel the gravity of that situation almost every day. At the same time, I often find myself at a loss for words in the face of the selflessness of the individuals I interact with the secure the resources that population requires. Combined, these two factors have made me more driven to succeed at this than I have been with anything in many years.

Sadly, that means that those feeling of anxiety, inadequacy, and fear of failure are something that is all too real. I know that I will develop a better understanding of my role as time progresses, and that, almost without trying, I will become better skilled at the minutia and the greater requirements of my work. That doesn’t mean that I am not currently setting unrealistic goals and expectations for myself. I want to go out each day and bring back big wins, find new groups and individuals who will buy in to our mission, and help better secure the life saving resource we manage together. I want to be better at this than I have ever been at anything, but I am not prepared for the failures that I know will be required to each that pinnacle.

For so much of my life, everyone around me has encouraged me to push myself to my limits, knowing full well that I could rise to those occasions. This new venture is a different beast. I am doing something that I am deeply passionate about, but that has many aspects that are almost completely foreign to me. I am still working towards a comfortable level of knowledge about our organizational mission and practices, and, until I get there, I will not be able to be as confident when I speak to new groups of people about those topics. I am also still attempting to find my footing within the boundaries of my territory, which contains the real ‘meat and potatoes’ of our service area. I know that the potential is there for it to be great, but I don’t feel confident in my own ability to realize that greatness.

The biggest issue, however, is that I am doing a spectacularly poor job heeding the advice of those who have been doing this much longer than I have (or possibly ever will.) When I started, I was told that it would take around six (6) months before I could be expected to be proficient in all areas of my work. That doesn’t sit well with my history of assimilating knowledge and mastering new concepts. I have always been pretty good and getting pretty good at things. This new venture, however, is proving to be a tougher nut to crack. That is made worse by the fact that all I want in the world is to be great at doing it. I have worked towards this position, towards the doors and paths it will open, for so long. Failing at it would be unimaginably difficult, so I set my own expectations unbelievably, unreasonably high. I am now making myself chase a level of expertise that is, for all real purposes, unobtainable at my experience level. It is really hurting me.

What I don’t know is how to fix it. I can’t simply lower those expectations, mostly because setting them wasn’t a conscious choice.   I can’t undo something that I have no actual recollection of doing in the first place. I know that I am being intentionally challenged by those around me for the good of the mission, and for the good of my own growth, but each time I fail to meet a goal, I take it as a personal failure. I don’t handle things like this well by nature, and letting down people who put their belief and trust in me is uniquely difficult.

Managing all of these expectations is, at this juncture, the most important personal challenge I can undertake. I have to find the point at which goals are realistic and obtainable, and come to understand that not reaching some of them isn’t going to cause me to reach none of them. Now, how do I accomplish that?

Only Love Can Do That

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The events of the days following July 4th, 2016 have been very troubling for me as a political and social observer. Seeing not one, but two black men be the victim of officer involved shooting events, particularly when those men seemingly were neither actively resisting arrest or in noncompliance with the officer’s orders, is incredibly troubling. We have a clear systemic issue in this country when it comes to the arrest of people of color, particularly when that racial identity is Black.

According to multiple sources (Wikipedia), the percentage of  Black men (4.7) are incarcerated is significantly  higher than the same statistic for Hispanic men (1.8) and White men (0.7). Furthermore, blacks are disproportionately more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, when those figures are expressed as a percent of their total representation of the population. In 2014, the statistics were 6220 arrests per 100,000 black citizens versus 2,709 arrests per 100,000 white citizens in the United States. The disparity in these statistics is nothing compared to this next one however: In 2014 ALONE, the rate of deaths at the hands of police, according to KilledByPolice, was 2.14 out of every 1,000,000 for White Americans compared to 7.27 out of every Black Americans. What does all of this mean? Being Black in America means you are more likely to be arrested, imprisoned, or die at the hands of a police officer. That last one is a scary thought, but many researchers indicate that your chance of being struck by lightning is 1 in 3,000, so maybe that can provide a little perspective. Doesn’t make what happens on the streets of many cities in this country acceptable, however.

That goes double to retaliation at police forces. The idea of judging a group of people for the actions of the worst among them, and then choosing to implement a punishment outside of due process on those individuals, is, simply put, unreasonably Un-American. It is also counter to the point of this entire conversation. #BlackLivesMatter is not a movement of retaliation for the inexcusable deaths of Black Americans. BLM is about pushing the populace and the government to recognize that the statistics I shared above aren’t okay, and that we have to make changes in the way we approach race in the country. Addressing the core issues at play is the only way we can make things better. So where do we start?

Well, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” So let’s try that for a little while. My hope in writing this is to shed some light on the realities of what is happening every day in America. We live in a time of unprecedented media coverage, of 24 hour news cycles and constant social media influence upon our understanding of world events. Statistically speaking, you are less likely to die now than at any other point in human history, but it feels like we are all under attack all of the time. That has to stop being the case before civil discourse can bring us back to seeing the peace we really have right now. We shouldn’t be shooting each other, no matter who gives us the gun. Being a police officer isn’t about power, it is about protection. Being Black shouldn’t mean you feel less of that protection.

I understand there is reasoned distrust there, and the system is unfairly balanced against the very individuals we need it to help. The reality is, however, until we can all get our collective heads back in the game and stop doing things like what happened in Baton Rogue, Minnesota, and Dallas, we aren’t moving forward. I implore everyone who reads this to take a step back and think through the numbers, the news, and your personal relationships. We are all better than this. “All men are created equal.” That phrase that defines us as Americans and that had to be drug forward by good intentions and a hope of a better life for Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians, and all other backgrounds, religions, races, and creeds. Let’s all work together to make sure that is more true today than at any other point in human history. But: Only Love can do That.