I don’t consider myself a boat rocker. Traditionally, I’ve been happiest when the waters are calm and everyone rows together; when feathers lay flat, not ruffled; and when panties stay put, not all tied in a knot. You know, business as usual.
But recently, for reasons I am still working out, I became professionally less satisfied with business as usual. The status quo of my nurse practitioner J-O-B stopped working for me. Instead, I moved into the status of “I don’t know, but something’s got to change.”
Why did this happen? it was turning a certain age that, rather than a number, felt more like a free-fall to 50. Perhaps I looked around me and saw how many of the professionals I know are stressed out and unhappy. Perhaps I realized I was one of them, having fallen into the traps of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” and “Everybody is happy when nobody is happy.” Perhaps I listened to one too many podcasts that talked about claiming your life, living your dream, and the ultimate white-glove-thrown-down challenge of “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right” (nod to Henry Ford for that quote). Perhaps it was none of these things or all of them and more.
Whatever it was, I needed a change. Exactly what that change was going to be, I was not sure because I love many aspects of my work, especially caring for people that have had bariatric surgery. But in my regular job I was pulled in many different directions, not all of them bariatric focused. So I started to wiggle in the seat of the boat called “My Job.” My wiggling was quiet at first. Subtle. I wiggled mostly at night, when everyone was sleeping. I wiggled first by getting clear(er) on what professionally makes me the happiest: Being a nurse practitioner who takes care of people who have had weight loss surgery. Then I wiggled some more by listening to the voice within that said; “You have more to give and you need to find ways to give it creatively.” This led me to creating a website dedicated to people who have had weight loss surgery and then launching my podcast: Weight Loss Surgery Podcast. All this while working my high stress, high demand day job where I usually wear many different hats.
Time went by: Days turned into weeks then into months. My wiggling continued and became more confident. So much so, that I started to stand up in the boat. I started to develop sea legs. And each time I stood up, my sea legs would get a little stronger, and I would stand a little taller.
One interesting thing about standing up, is that the higher up you go, the more you see. Each time I ventured up by posting another podcast episode, or blogging, or tweeting, or commenting on Facebook, I would see more people on other boats who were also standing up. Some looked like they had been born standing up. Others looked more like me, a little unsure, unsteady, dare I say it, excited yet afraid. But then our eyes would lock from across the ocean of social media: Blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, email lists…and we would smile at each other as if to say, “You too, huh? How’s it going? The air is fresher up here, isn’t it?”
The other interesting thing about standing up in a boat is how it effects your fellow colleagues, or boat mates, all of whom have agreed that sitting is the position of choice. Eventually, no matter how quietly and smoothly you stand, no matter how careful you are to not rock the boat (too much), you will rock the boat. Be clear on that. And because you are rocking the boat, you will be called out and your convictions for standing up will be tested.
This has happened to me over the past year but especially in the last few months as I have stood taller and stronger and made legitimate requests for what I wanted out of my work and what I would offer. My standing up rocked the boat and created waves that tested me and my colleagues. Some days the waves felt fun and exciting to ride. Other days they felt more like scary Tsunamis.
Along the way I’ve learned some lessons. Lessons I would like to share with you in case you too are considering rocking the boat of status quo in which you sit. Perhaps that boat is called “Your Job,” or maybe it is “Your Health,” or “Your Intimate Relationship,” or “Your Family Dynamics,” or maybe it is telling your family and friends that you are going to have bariatric surgery, or maybe it’s even as broad as “Your Life as You Know It.” Whatever your situation, when your soul is restless and needs change, rocking the boat is what will happen. The following seven lessons will help you along your way as you transition from sitting with the crew to standing up on your own two legs.
1) Get clearer on what you want and why you want it.
I say get clear-er because boat rocking is a process, not a project. As such, you will not have all the answers now or ever, really. Nor will you know exactly what it will look like or how you will get there. But if you are clearer on what you want and why you want it, then at least you have an idea of the direction you are heading. Or, as my friend Srinivas Rao likes to say, when you get clearer on what you want in life, that clarity becomes like a compass that guides you. And honestly, when it comes to venturing out into your one true life, a compass is better than a road map anyway.
2) Get clear on what you don’t want and why you don’t want it.
Sometimes it’s actually easier to know what you don’t want than what you do. The trick then is to own it. Own your “No” and then state it, out loud, to those who need to hear it, including yourself. You will get reactions; not all of them pleasant. Remember this is called Rocking the Boat for a reason. But the more you own your limit, your “No,” the more it helps you clarify your “Yes.” The more you clarify your “Yes,” the taller you will stand, and the more you will stand out to those who are looking for you and need what you have to offer.
3) Nobody will call you out or test your convictions more than you yourself.
Be prepared for the voices of self-doubt, insecurity, and fear of failure. Listen to those voices only enough that you acknowledge the caution they are expressing, but not so much that they force you to sit back down. When in doubt, refer back to #1 and #2.
4) Have compassion for those in the boat with you. Remember most of us were not invited onto the boat to be the designated boat rocker. Unless of course you’re like Steve Jobs whose first decree upon being hired back to Apple was to fire all the people that hired him. No, most of us were invited onto the boat to collaborate, to heave-hoe, to push-pull in unison, as a team. When you stand up and rock the boat, do not expect hugs, pats on the back, and Hallmark cards of congratulations. Quite the contrary in fact. You might be surprised by the intensity of the anger, finger pointing, and distrust that will be directed your way, even from those closest too you. You will need to be made of tougher stuff than that. Understand that when you stand up, it can make others feel smaller. When you get clear on what you want, it can highlight for others their own lack of clarity. When you give power to your “No”, it can demonstrate to others how few boundaries they have established to protect their own hopes, dreams, and desires. In summary, have compassion for them because their anger towards you has much more to do with them and a lot less to do with you than they would have you believe.
5) Be willing to do the work, your work.
Standing up, making waves, rocking the boat, this is the stuff of hard work. Do not sit back down when you get hit with effort shock. Keep going. Stand taller. Keep creating what my friends, Greg Hartle and Pam Slim, call, your “body of work.” Yes, you will have lonely days and nights. So what. The world needs you. YOU need you.
6) Don’t be afraid to Jump Ship (if needed)
Sometimes when you stand up and you get a different view, you realize the boat you are standing in is the wrong boat. Maybe it never was the right boat but you couldn’t see that while you were busy rowing with all your ship mates. Or maybe it was the right boat for a time, but no longer. That’s ok. You have options. If it’s time to jump ship, jump. Yeah, the thought of leaving the safety of the boat, even if it’s the wrong boat, is scary. But staying is not fair to your dreams, your desires, your potential, or your future self. And it’s also not fair to your fellow ship mates, who may be plotting to throw you over board anyway, so why not jump? Remember those sea legs of yours? Well, they can swim. They can swim to the next boat, or island, or anywhere you want them to take you, but if you don’t jump they will never get the chance to show you. So if jumping is what needs to happen, then do it.
7) It is all worth it.
Yeah, boats will rock, feathers will ruffle, and panties will get tied in a knot, but so what? When it’s all said and done, do you want to be forgotten as the person who kept the status quo, never made waves, rowed until your hands bled, and your life was spent? No, I don’t think so. I think you want to be remembered as the person who took chances, made waves, and rocked the boat because we only get one chance to have a life that matters and makes a difference.
I think this because I see you there, across the internet ocean. You are looking at me. Do you see me? I’m smiling and waving at you. I’m calling to you, “Go on! Stand up! Use your sea legs!” And trust me when I tell you the view is great, and the air is so fresh and clean up here!
As an update to where this post began, please know I am still at my same place of employment, and I am now 100% dedicated to caring for my favorite kind of patients: Bariatric patients. My work is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling! These changes never would have happened if I didn’t stand up and rock the boat.
Don’t be Shy. CONNECT WITH ME!
Sign up for my newsletter (top right)
email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
FaceBook: Southern Oregon Bariatric Center
Pinterest: Weight Loss Surgery Podcast