Pause Programming

While crossing the Pacific Ocean recently on one of my many journeys to Asia I paid close attention to the instructions on the screen. The sudden halting to the movie or music comes with a flash on the screen: Pause Programming. On this trip I took note and followed the directions. Usually this sign means nothing to me but on this trip I was trying to make a difficult decision about my career. The symbolism worked for me. Let me explain.

In the movie that is my life things move along rapidly almost without time for reflection. That isn’t a bad thing in normal times but what if I don’t know about the emergency landing instructions or the oxygen masks? There is value in knowing ahead of time what an appropriate exit strategy is. What should trigger a job reconsideration? When should I trade-off loyalty for self-preservation or even for happiness? What are my values and what would compromise them? Giving this some serious thought ahead of a major crisis on the job is wise and saves a lot of time when time is in short supply.

Do I know what cabin I belong in? While in flight you can’t move out of your cabin without breaking the rules. There are always exceptions to the rules so sometimes it is a good idea to seek out the better wine in business class. Doesn’t hurt to ask. But during a “life programming pause” it is important reevaluate my aspirations. Is my goal to be an employee or to work for myself? Do I want to work on a business or in a business? Is my job the focus of my life or do I want to have several things to juggle and develop?

When turbulence comes along in a career it is best to have a plan. Certainly it is a good idea to buckle in and face the issues. Dealing with crisis is a true test of one’s character and it is a test of a company’s real capabilities. Turbulence in a career is both a threat and an opportunity. If you are prepared and safe (financially and with strong networks) it can be either a non-event or a chance to grow.

Finally, when the movie is paused for the landing instructions and for information on the gate and other connecting flights it is good to listen. The career analogy here is to manage transitions before getting there.  What is my financial situation?  Can I afford to start my own business? Can I take a break and train in a new area? When can I afford to retire and what does that retirement look like? Nurture the network. Who do I know and what do they do? Where do my interests lie and then what can I do to prepare myself for a transition?

Bottom line advice:  Pause programming every once in a while. Don’t be caught reacting without the knowledge that is available if you pay attention. Keep yourself up to date on the rules, options, gates of life, destination details. Be ready for change because it is going to come up. Don’t go through life without thinking.

Thinking is the hardest work there is. That is why so few people engage in it.          HenryFord

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