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Surround yourself with the right people

‘No man is an island..’ or so the saying goes.

Left to his own devices, every person has to choose between excelling in what he’s doing or stagnation.  And more often than not the environment which surrounds us plays an important part in which path we choose every we are faced with the decision to improve or vegetate.

Consider the work place.  When I moved to my then-new job, around three years ago, I must admit I was not prepared for what I could describe as the cultural shock of my life.  Having just left a very cushy, but totally soul-draining job with the government, I had been conditioned to work in a way which most government employees would instantly recognise.  For instance, I had trained myself to:

  • Procrastinate – never finish today what you can easily leave off till tomorrow, or the next day!  This had inherent perceived advantages, like the fact that if I finished one thing, I would then have to start some new, possibly more aggravating task.
  • Seek Security – this was easy.  Never stick your neck out; mind your own business; be almost invisible.  Be even less adventurous than a sloth.

Essentially, I had turned myself into a 9-to-5 machine that never looked beyond the next paycheque.

And of course the environment played it’s part too.  Eventually, most of the staff were subject to the great evil of De-motivation.  No real work was being done; the same memoranda kept being rejected and re-tabled at the same weekly meetings; people were more interested in internal bickering and scandals than anything else – you get the idea.

It didn’t take me long to realise that I was essentially stuck in a rut.  That I had to search for alternative employment before my market value went so down that I would not be worth employing anywhere else.  (As a side note, the entity where I worked started breaking down soon after I left.  Once I had set the example, and went out there to get another life, other people followed.)

So anyway, I moved.  And what a shock it was!  The signs that life from now on would be different were not subtle at all.  The company strived to be the best. And best, in this case, involves every aspect of life.  New recruits go through life coaching during the first weeks of employment.  They are taught to love and respect themselves.  To push themselves beyond their limits to achieve their dreams.  They are trained to refuse being second-best.  Conversely, they will not accept second-rate work from anyone.  ‘Dressing sharp’ becomes second nature – dressing for success really works; looking like you’re in control is really 70% of the way to actually being thus.

And it’s also a healthy environment.  Being surrounded by people striving to be the best actually awakens in you the desire to compete – to be the best.  There is nothing more satisfying in a job than healthy competition which makes you try to achieve ever more.  And so we have the best people for the job, a fun work place which is not stifled by endless bureaucracy, and the best in IT software and hardware to bind the magic altogether.

But back to the shock in my life.  Whereas before I was content as long as the systems worked, I now operate according to a different mentality.  A system now needs to work, and do so in the best possible manner.

Being a Systems Admin, I was inclined to put my machines before the users and belittle anyone who  dares criticise the way I set up something to work.  This, btw, is the way most sysadmins tend to see things :P  Nowadays I consider the users to be my ‘clients’ and it is my primary duty to ensure that everyone has that best hardware, software, even the best training possible.  This in turn ensures that ever user has the inclination and disposition to give his/her best.

It was not easy to begin with.  I remember, for example, a feeling of unease on my part when my new manager started actually listening to what I had to say from day one.  Coming from an environment where my word was challenged and even subjected to mild ridicule from above – all signs of an unhealthy, almost bullish environment typical of where I had been working – I found myself sceptical, even mistrusting of someone who actually believed in me.

With time I realised that my previous employment had infused me with this poisonous attitude – if I wanted to survive I needed to change my ways, and drastically.  It wasn’t easy, as I said.  But it did have its rewards!  Like making an enormous amount of new friendships and, most importantly – and quite unexpectedly – I could feel my self-confidence increase to a point were I now feel empowered to achieve anything I want!

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