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Locus of Control and a Meandering Path through Erik’s Work Drive and Direction

I find myself thinking tonight about locus of control. Strangely enough, it was a health class I took several years ago with my wife (the only Saturday class I ever took and will ever take) where the subject was brought up. Basically, from my interpretation, it’s who sets the tone for your day to day and your life in general. For me, it has always been myself. I don’t care what you do, I do me… I am affected by what goes on around me, but I refuse to let it define me. If someone calls me an idiot, I don’t dwell on it, I just throw the bird and walk away. If someone praises me for a job well done, I take the compliment, but just keep on trucking.

I have seen a lot of people in life who define themselves by what other people have told them, who pushes them, who motivates them, whatever…  The standard is there and they’re reaching for it, either because they see someone else as having what they want or they’ve been told what the “right” thing to do is. I’ve been inspired by a single person in life, and that person knows who they are because I’ve told them. For everything else, if there’s a carrot I’m chasing, it’s one of my own devising. My path hasn’t been put out before me like a yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City, it’s a general direction with no boundaries, so if I wander, but I’m still generally heading in the right direction (for me), I’m happy. It’s not about the climb, competing, or holding others back. It’s just me with my goals. The only person I compete with is me. I don’t go into a job thinking, “I want to be CEO of that company” or “I want to get promoted” or whatever… I go to work, I go to do a good job, to use my skill set, to expand that skill set, and hope to be appreciated and respected for doing that job in the form of a steady paycheck and being able to talk to people like a peer and a person, not a number.

In regards to competition, I think I must have confused and/or frustrated people many times in life… People wanting to play games and getting so aggressive about winning, be it a board game, video game, or just some sort of intellectual pursuit. If I lost, I didn’t care, it was a game, it was fun, whatever. If I won, cool, I must be getting better at said game. My tendency, though, when true competition was exhibited was simple ~ I wouldn’t play. Grades aren’t a competition; they’re a measurement of some arbitrary skill set. I probably didn’t always do well in school because I didn’t care. What did a grade do for me at the time? Nothing as far as I was concerned. That’s why I resisted college for as long as I did. It was something I was told I should do, but I didn’t really see a benefit for it. I didn’t want to be hired at a job simply because of a degree, and I didn’t know WHAT I wanted to do long term, so why bother with college? So  I could be pushed by obnoxious professors toward their political views and agendas? No thanks… When I did finally go to school, it was for two reasons… The main one was a desire for a specific job ~ I wanted to be a program manager for a video game developer. A headhunter and I were on the phone with a company (won’t name names) and they said they respected my drive and passion, but I needed to have some programming knowledge, so I could at least talk to programmers. Made sense. The second thing was my wife using a single class as a gateway drug to higher education. We started by taking a piano class together and I decided I wanted to start working towards something with programming. My concession was me taking a bunch of classes that made no sense for General Education or the specific degree. Social Psychology, Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, History, Anthropology, etc… Over time, those have really helped with my “non-day job” path ~ writing, world building, etc…

So, all of these things being said, where does my work ethic come from? I’m sure some of it is DNA. The rest, I can’t really say. When I work, I like to do things well. Though in some things I may be, I don’t aim to be the best. If someone knows more than I do, I have no problem asking for help, asking advice, or conferring with a peer. I have NO problem playing stupid if I have no clue. Am I embarrassed when I don’t know something? Never! If I can’t get to something even with an educated guess, why delay the inevitable? Just ask for help… No reason to feel shame for that. How can you have a ridiculous work ethic, driving you to work 50-60 hours per week at one job and 30-50 hours per week at another and still make sure you have time for your family and to clean and cook and watch enough tv to let your brain rot season after season? I can’t say, but it’s there.

I don’t know why I’m typing all of these things out except that I’ve become a bit introspective this evening… Something had me looking back at my own past and wondering what got me to this point I’m at today. I’ve been in the same “general” field of logistics, order management, program management, inventory control, etc etc etc for 21 years in a few weeks. The seeds were planted being one of the main warehouse guys at McDonalds one day, running the grill or registers the next, being the head trainer, memorizing everything (logic not terms, so it worked for me), then onto Waldenbooks, where I became a Sr Bookseller and the head receiving guy plus a keyholder, then onto Unisys, where I worked my way up from a cog in the machine to one of the guys turning the crank, to working at Cisco being Mr. Fixit on processes and customers that needed some help, supporting the customers I had, making sure everything was running smoothly, and doing as many ad-hoc things as I needed to keep things running smoothly for myself and anyone else who needed and/or asked for help. That role has now transitioned over to Belkin.

Some probably think I’m aggressive or driven towards that “carrot” of some higher leadership. No, I just like to make things work, improve processes, save time, be more efficient, etc… I’ve done the whole Lean thing, Six Sigma, and God knows how many other “flavor of the week” programs geared toward process improvement, and I’ve learned one thing ~ a TON of them are fancy terminology and odd formulas applied to a whole lot of what should be common sense. Could I teach a class on process improvement? Heck no, that would be like trying to explain how my brain works. I’m an odd mixture of the structure of one parent and the creative abilities of another, and I embrace the dichotomy, letting it work for me 100% of the time. Fortunately, when I applied that same work ethic and drive toward the comic book industry, it worked… If anyone has ever wondered how I got to where I am in comics (far from the top!!!!), it’s because of my work experience and this drive, sourced from inside, pushing in a direction continuously, and seeing what sticks.

Anyway, if you have managed to read to this point, you may have a little bit of a better understanding of me, what drives me, where I’m headed, etc… The main answer is that, long term, I don’t know. I feel like I’m heading the right direction now, and that makes me happy.

That, I suppose, is why I can look back on my time at McDonalds, getting hired at $3.10 per hour, and still smile at the experience, why I can still remember fondly interacting with customers at Waldenbooks, and introducing them to the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror I loved, working for a decade at Unisys and remembering this amazing group of people as co-workers as the standard for what makes a dynamic team, and still love what I do today with the right mixture of responsibilities, being able to depend on people, having a manager I respect , and enjoying the challenge of making some customers happy all of the time. In comics, I can still smile back at what pushed me into writing comic scripts, entering my fist competition and letting the work speak for itself, getting my first contracts with a publisher, and using my experience in a completely un-related field in publishing. Who’d have thought?

Have I accomplished a lot? Yes.

Am I happy? Yes.

Am I proud of myself? Yes.

Do I appreciate my wife’s support? 10000% of the time (duh).

To go back to the beginning, though, who put me on the path? Me.

Who keeps me on the path? Me.

Who do I aspire to be? Me continuing on my path in a positive direction.

Do I need someone else to be proud of me to make ME happy? No, but, as above, I certainly appreciate the people who do believe in me and are in my corner. Old friends, my family (few old, mostly new), and some amazing peers top that list.

Enough venting for one night, I think!

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