A coworker mentioned that things had been slow in their department this week. I nodded in rote sympathy. What you really want is just enough work, not too much, not too little, but too little is arguably the more painful. Not that I remember what that feels like.
But then later on as I was taking one of my head-clearing walks I thought, “But when it’s slow, doesn’t that just mean you have time to do the strategy- and project-work that you’re always meaning to get around to otherwise? Isn’t that just the chance we’re always struggling for to be proactive rather than reactive?” Looked at that way I don’t think there is such a thing as a slow day. If you’ve caught up on your projects and it still seems slow, it’s probably time to dream bigger.
I had lunch with a vendor this week. This is a guy who got his start as a salesman in our industry and claims to have had one too many brushes with the old corporate attitude of, “He’s making too much money; find a way to cut his commission.” He got tired, he said, of being held back. Conventional wisdom says that our industry has too many tradeshows and conferences and the only way to launch a new one is to back it with the name of a well-established organizer. This guy decided that no, actually there was a niche, and in the space of a year he, on his own, without any staff or reputation or recognized partners, has organized an upstart event that’s getting a lot of major attention. The evidence is certainly that, with enough room and enough freedom, he could accomplish a lot more than he was being given the chance to.
His story reminded me of a remark my new boss made when I started my current position. He said he believed in (to quote roughly) “and this is a bad phrase, because I don’t think you’re going to do this, but giving people enough rope to hang themselves. Or to accomplish something.”
Slow days are like a length of rope which you can make into a noose or a lasso, and when you think about it those are really the same thing. The difference is what you do with it.