Two years into my professional career, my son was born. It did not took us long to realize that he has Cerebral Palsy and will remain “Special” always.
He has been a big influencing factor of all my decisions and directions in life. Growing up with him, has been impacting my thought process, both on personal and professional front.
Here, I am sharing his influence on my professional life. What’s mentioned below is not a research or some sort of derivation of data collected from many special parents, it is just an output of my own journey.
I will not hide my being ‘’emotional’’ under the garb of comforting term like ‘’Emotional quotient‘’. Obviously, I became more ‘’emotional’’ after stepping into the special parenting world. Special Parenting world is full of emotional fluctuations – sometimes its incredibly positive, creating vibrancy, gets adrenaline pumping and sometimes gloom and stress. It has helped me, quickly adapt to different emotional states. This has greatly helped to talk and connect with my bosses, peers and wider team, who are at various stages in the emotional spectrum and help personalize the interaction.
There is a very interesting incident when one of my agitated colleague, reached out to me in a confrontational mode. He came with a closed approach expecting aggression/resistance and I turned that agitated interaction into an experience sharing session. He was amazed at one point I got emotional with wet eyes while giving him an example. Meeting ended well for both of us. Funny part which he later mentioned many times, was that immediately after that experience sharing session, he accompanied me to a customer negotiation and was surprised how I changed the gears and appeared a tough negotiator.
Emotional adaptation helps build many virtues required in Corporate world like Patience, Empathy etc.
Imagine you have prepared yourself for a conventional game (lets take Cricket). As you start batting, first ball is a bouncer. Then you are told that the rule of the game has changed and henceforth all the balls will be bouncers. It is sheer “courage”, coupled with competence which will help you survive the ordeal.
When my son was born and diagnosed with Cerebral palsy it was like that bouncer which completely knocked me out. But when ‘’bouncers’’ become your way of life you inherently develop a skill to hit boundary or dodge. This “courage” goes a long way to not give up easily to professional challenges too. This helped me to stay strong whenever there was a roller coaster professional spell. It has also helped me taking some bold moves – when you are prepared for surprising and unexpected turns of life, you also get courage to do unconventional things.
We all live in the society. Its my fact that societal acceptance of my son is and will remain a challenge. So, when I work with my son, I do not get too overjoyed at his success or deeply saddened for his failure as I believe that raising him is a marathon project and I need to keep running.
Whatever effort I am putting in the upbringing of my son, deep within there lies a sense of uncertainty and failure. How much of an effort I may put, my son will have limitations. So, when I put that level of effort at workplace, I am mentally prepared to not get the desired outcome. However, when I see results, and appreciation (even if very small) it is very satisfying. A balance seems to play in the world of special need, of not expecting result but feeling blessed at each small level of achievement. I recall when I won the biggest deal of my life (> $ 100 Mn), I was happy but hardly smiling (forget laughing) and my boss made that observation – “you don’t look very happy, you should be jumping right now”. Same boss was a bit puzzled when I had a straight face when we lost in a big, high-visibility competition and I took complete responsibility, though he knew that we failed as an organisation.
So, when the objective to excel is for self-actualization, what do you call that employee?
Growing up of a child is the most natural progression, but not in the case of special kids. Ever since my son is born, I have been in continuous state of longing for blessings – both at religious places and indulged in many charity /philanthropic activities. This has led me to a very Humane approach at work.
It’s a big ruthless professional world out there – they say, ‘cutthroat competition’. Without going into details, have closely seen ruthlessness of many industry leaders. I consider myself also very competitive and many a times got feedback that I am a result oriented, task master but have always ensured I am not hurting feelings of others. Even if sometimes in the heat of moment, if I say something harsh, quickly make it a point to apologize when I calm down. Many professional experts may not agree to this trait, but I have a firm belief that growth at the cost of others tears and agony won’t last long. Also, a right balance of gratitude and apologies will help make some good relationships at work, and at the end of it, its all about people, isn’t it?
I used to be a very possessive person, but again my son has helped me changed that trait. I remember that feeling when I first came to know about condition of my son ‘’Hey God. Why me?” However, gradually that feeling got strengthened within me that the string of our life is held by a strong force and we hardly have any control. Now, I firmly believe that the CEO of the world is God and he has distributed projects among us in the form of ‘’Life’’. Like a project’ life-cycle, let’s do our bit with full dedication and then move on. This realization has made moving into and at the same time moving out of roles/projects/programs very easy for me.
I always kept my colleagues amazed with my career moves when despite success, I used to volunteer for new challenges and move on. Almost, everyone was surprised when I left my employer of 18 years, despite being successful there, but that’s what I have become – I detached nomad, striving for new challenges…….