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Three professional stages: from “Me, me!” to “Yeah, ok!”

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The most arduous task in life generally and especially in the professional field is to learn how to live. This is a tricky science to assimilate because it requires the right personal attitude and development. Just as Romano Guardini wrote, there are lessons no one can pass on; they can only be experienced. Among such lessons in the deepest and fullest sense are suffering, contradiction, success, failure, treason, and love.

From before adolescence, we warn of the colossal burden of the ego. The behavior of others–both ancestors and contemporaries–are seen to lack wisdom: they wouldn’t have known how to appreciate the opportunities life offered. As insights come to light, each of us believes to have discovered something radically new, particularly as far as feelings go. This is demonstrated through deeds, if not words, and in any case, repeatedly echoing the “Me, me!” of the title heading these lines. This sensation is almost always strongly felt in the early stages of career change. If this bragging isn’t tempered, then these first sorties may lead to clashes with peers.

After a while, disappointments set in. However much you crave to please everyone in everything all the time, it’s unrealistic. The seeds of discontent begin to germinate. People aren’t as great as thought in the beginning. By art of magic, we suddenly see selfishness emerge with brutal crudity in the behavior among some of the people we mix with. Not too many years further down the line a fair few professionals fall prey to “Me! Yeah!”

There is a serious risk that the desire for a better world is abruptly displaced—upon reaching the foothills of the coveted summit—by the inclination to no longer bother with transforming the coordinates we had comfortably mapped out.

A third phase then dangerously looms up, one that I call “Yeah, ok!” No matter the chronological age, cynicism spreads—a pathology I define as the malaise of those who assure hope is the last to go.

The biggest hurdle for a professional in his first forays is to call attention to bragging in someone else who did well in their early days, regardless of whether this was through name, title, effort or simply luck.

In the second phase, empathy helps to lessen the insane irony of dashed hopes for those close to the professional who is back again (without having even gone…).

In the third phase, be reminded it isn’t wise to look down on those who start out with the same conceit one once had at the beginning. As the classics have indicated, sic vita, mors ita, die the way you live. In other words, we age the way we have lived. Kindness or bitterness of those in the twilight of their professional or real lives is not harvested then, but instead right from the beginning of the most important undertaking we each have: our entire life.

HR managers, and generally anybody who has control, must not be trapped by arrogance, sarcasm or even disappointment.

Learning to live and professionally develop in a healthy way demands respect for other people’s time. This teaching is complex because it urges us to avoid what we don’t want for ourselves: let others live their own lives, and don’t live their life for them. Contributing to the development of peers, subordinates or superiors is one of the greatest satisfactions of he who can ultimately proclaim, “I confess that I have lived”.

Javier Fernández Aguado

Javier Fernández Aguado es pensador y speaker; considerado uno de los mayores expertos contemporáneos en Gobierno de personas y organizaciones, además de ser uno de los conferenciantes más solicitados a nivel internacional. Es es Director de MindValue, firma especializada en servicios profesionales para la Alta Dirección, miembro del Top Ten Management Spain y Premio Peter Druker.

Javier Fernández Aguado is a thinker and speaker, considered one of the leading contemporary experts in managing people and organizations, as well as being one of the most sought after speakers internationally. He is a Director of MindValue—a company specialized in professional services for C-level management, a member of Top Ten Management Spain and the Peter Drucker Award.

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