Today was a very rough work day. It wasn’t the length of the day: I don’t mind putting in 11-hour shifts if that’s what gets the job done. It wasn’t the productivity of the day: I got what I needed to built. It wasn’t the solitude of the day: I got to work with several fantastic people.
It was the inefficiency of the step after mine.
At 6 p.m., I submitted my interactive to the copy desk and left for lunch. At 7 I was still waiting. At 8:30, I sent an email asking what the ETA was. At 9:15 I got an response asking how they were supposed to copy edit something they couldn’t modify.
For those three hours, I was moments away from tears. Here I’d cranked all day at my top pace on this graphic, trying to get it out ASAP for inclusion with stories about the international event it corresponded with. And I was crippled at the end by something I had no control over. My hard work, postponed meals and aching back were pointless now.
As opposed to in two days, when the graphic would have been forgotten anyway.
That realization hit me hard. There are very few things in this industry that have a shelf life, obviously. But you hope that despite the quick turnover, the things you’re doing mean something…to someone…
There’s a song that I’ve loved for as long as I can remember, because I identify strongly with it: “The Impossible Dream,” from “Man of La Mancha,” a play based on Don Quixote. The very end of it goes like this:
And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable star.
My favorite rendition of this song reprises that chorus, adding the line, “And I’ll reach the unreachable star.” But that isn’t what the song is about. In fact, nothing in it suggests that Don Quixote thinks he can win against “the unbeatable foe.” But he’s going to try anyway. The process of trying is success in itself.
In the churches I go to, we call this “being in process.” You aren’t where you’re supposed to be, but you can’t get there — you aren’t ready to be there — until you deal with a whole lot of things you don’t understand. Dealing with those things gives you what you need to be that person you were made to be. (And often, when you get to where you think you’re supposed to be, you realize you’ve still got a long row to hoe.) Ultimately, it’s not really about you anyway. The important part is how you treat others along the way, how you deal with problems, how you serve.
As someone who has always been laser-focused on grabbing the brass ring, it’s tough to come to the realization that the ring isn’t the important part. The carousel ride is the important part.
Or, as another favorite quote of mine puts it, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”
So how does that relate to frustration over a silly graphic that took less than 9 hours to make? I got to work with great people. I was challenged to think about something in a way I hadn’t before. I got some great constructive criticism. And I had an excuse to eat cookies for lunch. Sounds like a pretty good day to me.