Us Humans Are a Messy Work in Progress

Have you ever made pottery?  It’s a risky business because you never know if the finished product will come out the way you want.

Carving pottery on the wheel.  Courtesy of Courtesy of Lennart Tange, via Flikr

Carving pottery on the wheel. Courtesy of Courtesy of Lennart Tange, via Flikr

Making pottery is very messy.  The potter is ruthless.  He kneads and pounds and kneads and pounds until all air bubbles are gone and only then can the clay be put upon the wheel and soothed and shaped.  But still more hard stuff is coming because sometimes he has to cut the top off to examine the sides and make sure they are the correct width.  If it survives this, sometimes the potter will carve decorations in it.  And this is all before being thrust in the kiln to be fired.

It’s hard work to make something useful.  Making pottery in ancient times was not to make decorative items to be admired.  It was to make something useful and any item or any part of any item that didn’t turn out as expected was cut out.  But cut out never ever meant permanently discarded.  The potter would take those pieces and re-work them.  He would re-shape and re-form them into something different.

Remember that.  Just because it was cut out didn’t mean that it was worthless.  It was re-worked, re-shaped and re-formed into something new.

Friends of mine are going through a rough time at work.  A change in management is coming and they’re feeling a lot of fear.  You see, they have been through two reorganizations within the last three years.  Two because the second one had to undo terrible damage done by the first and now with this pending change some of them are having flashbacks to what was.

One of the team members told me that he was applying for the vacancy because he’s been wanting to get into full management for a while now. His current position requires a kind of leadership but now he wants to do more.  He’s been trying to break loose from his current position and grow but every time he tries to do so, he fails.  That has to be incredibly frustrating but I say there is something to realize in all that.  I say that there is a reason why he has not been able to move.

Over the years, he’s experienced first hand the downward spiral of morale and how it affects not just the work product but the psyche of the employees. And from this experience, he has gained character, wisdom, compassion, empathy, perspective and strength.  He has been transformed by his experiences.

Courtesy of Courtesy of Tobyotter via Flikr

Courtesy of Courtesy of Tobyotter via Flikr

He may or may not get the job but the bottom line is that he had to go through the painful shaping and fire of terrible management practices to hone his beliefs and skills and what he believes is a better way in managing people and for him the best place to do it was in a place in which management is lacking.  I firmly believe he’ll be a much better manager for it wherever he ends up.

Forming ourselves is terribly hard work and growing is not easy or fun.  Most times it hurts and all we want to do is escape.  But take a look at beautiful pottery and imagine what it had to go through to look like it this.

Think of your own transformations.  Did it hurt?  Most likely.  Are you a better person for it?  You decide.

Want to read a little more?  There’s a great guest post on Jeff Goins blog just a few days ago about this very thing.

Take care now.


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