You might have noticed the absence of posts the past couple of weeks. There are two reasons for this. Reason #1 is that I have been rethinking FFFF and formulating Plan B, since Plan A has not been a huge success. Or even close. Like not even in the same county. Or hemisphere. It’s all good, however, because I have successfully fooled myself into having high hopes for Plan B. More on that tomorrow, which just so happens to be April Fool’s Day. What better cosmic timing for launching a fresh start?
Reason #2 is that I have a day job that requires me to work hard and a lot. Inconceivable as it might be, writing does not earn me any money. Yet. Until it does, I get jobs to earn money. In the past couple of weeks, my current engagement has gone from a really-busy-but-mostly-normal day job to a day-nite-wee hours-early morning-lather-rinse-repeat job.
This is okay with me. I love-love-love my job. If I have to work and earn a living to be able to afford my lifestyle and The Horse and the Internet satellite dish on my roof that allows me to blog and toy with fiction and buy handbags on-line and, come to think of it, do my day job nights and weekends from ranch, then I might as well be enjoying it.
I love my job even more that it has been a wee bit crazy lately, roughly equivalent to the wee bit crazy that is the resident population of Napa State (Mental) Hospital. Crazy amount of work, crazy fast-paced environment. But not criminally insane. I don’t think. Yet. So yes, stress. But that kind of stress that comes with riding the rollercoaster at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Exhilarating, terrifying, screaming fun. What’s not to love?
My career orientation has been project management, since 1986 or so. Mostly systems engineering and IT projects, with a few others sprinkled in here and there. Federal, State, County and commercial projects, small, medium and large. I have been a contract consultant “hired gun” in this for about ten years, prior to that an employee of a large beltway bandit for most of the time.
A Project Manager is something like the Ringmaster of a three-ring circus. (Remember, you are on my planet now. So bear with me.) The Ringmaster’s goal is to deliver the Greatest Show On Earth, or whatever the audience of customers is paying for. A talented Ringmaster not only delivers the show, but creates and maintains non-stop delight, amusement and awe in the customers so they want to come back again and again and tell all of their friends and co-workers about it.
The show has to start and finish on time. Performances need to be going in all three rings simultaneously. For each ring, the schedule of acts is performed in sequence, with careful timing of the finish of one act to the start of the next. Each act needs to be performed with experience and precision and showmanship, and without injury or death.
The circus environment, the Big Top, must be constructed for efficient, repeatable set up, maintenance and disassembly. There are the logistics of finding performers and putting them in costumes and scheduling their acts in the show. There are risks and costs to be managed to ensure the Circus makes a profit and gets good reviews from Circus critics and doesn’t have lawsuits from the dancing elephants getting loose and trampling the audience.
There is sawdust and popcorn and hot dogs and cotton candy and clowns and acrobats and heavy labor and quick thinking when something unexpected happens. Like when one of the tamed lions temporarily forgets it is tamed and eats the lion tamer.
This job requires spinning a lot of plates, and knowing which ones to let fall, and how to let them fall gently with forethought, without breaking them, so they can be picked up and set spinning again later. It requires juggling, swinging on a trapeze without a net, and careening around the ring in a teeny tiny toy car with 13 other clowns squished inside with you. All at the same time. It requires energy, cheerful enthusiasm, the ability to make order, or the appearance of order, out of chaos. A healthy sense of humor. Calm in the midst of frenzy. Friendly co-existence of humility and arrogance … enough humility to make the success of the Circus the most important thing, enough arrogance to inspire energy, confidence and a vision for a better Circus with more and happier customers next season.
Stress, yes. But perhaps you can see now how anxiety, the disordered sort that I suffer, has not even been a twinkle in my bloodshot eye the past few weeks. Except maybe for a touch of claustrophobia that struck after one too many hours in back-to-back meetings in a conference room in San Francisco’s Financial District. But even I can do claustrophobia if it’s in a San Francisco high-rise. And my boss, who is a Grand Master Ringmaster and someone who I want to be like when I grow up, was very understanding.
So, it should go without writing that I have been living, thanks to God’s grace and provision, fully and full-time in my top train the past few weeks. Hoping it lasts!
P.S. Stay tuned for FFFF Plan B.