The Carrot or The Stick

[Dutch Lock Down Day Three Hundred Forty Eight]

When I was nine, the teacher wanted to teach her class a lesson.

She left, closed the door, and watched us from the window in the back of the room.

Chaos ensued.

But first the news:

Kids were talking to one another, laughing uproariously, throwing things at one another and getting up from their seats to walk about the room.

We were supposed to be quietly coloring at our desks.

At one point, I was finished with the crayon I was using and wanted a different color, I looked up at all the chaos and figured I wasn’t doing too bad, comparatively speaking, so I got up, grabbed another color, and sat back down to resume coloring.

And I was caught.

All of us were, actually. She took notes while watching us for the five minutes she was away, then came back and scolded the entire class with specific transgressions.

I was humiliated.

And my absolute fear of breaking rules was born.

On the other side of the coin, I so totally BASK in praise.

When I was twenty-one, finishing my last year in university, I received a series of awards and stipends for the year for improvement, performance, and mentorship.

Not only did I receive recognition for my work, I received respect of my peers, approval from my professors, and real actual money.

My absolute addiction to praise was born.

Yesterday I did not get caught for breaking the rules, nor did I get praised for kicking ass. I received my bonus for mediocre work done over the past seven months and I’m still struggling to process.

On the one hand, I agree.

My accomplishments were mediocre. Thx for recognizing the things I accomplished!

On the other hand, I’m struggling with depression and confidence.

My accomplishments were mediocre. Damnit.

Let me be clear – I’m not saying all this to fish for compliments or to prop up my ego – I’m writing this out because I’m still processing. Because I’m trying to shift my brain from falling into a depression or reacting with humiliation to being motivated to do better or dive towards the next accomplishment.

And it’s hard.

During undergrad, I auditioned for a ballet project that I should’ve blown out of the water.

I bombed.

And it was because during auditions my brain would get in the way of my body, literally, and I couldn’t dance to save my life. The pressure would strip me of years of training until I could hardly stand on my own two feet.

Since I knew the choreographer personally, I scheduled an interview later, “How can I do better?”

She expressed surprise that I bombed so majestically as well – she had seen me dance in classes and knew I had the skills needed to succeed – but she didn’t want to award a terrible performance with a part in her project.

What if I did the same thing on stage?

Fair.

To address it, she recommended I audition as much as possible.

For anything and everything – whether or not the project sounded interesting at all – get used to feeling that pressure and shrugging it off to give the best performance possible.

And I did.

I didn’t exactly fail my audition yesterday as much as get a part in the corps.

This analogy only makes sense if you understand ballet, I suppose.

The principal dancer is the one who does the main solos of the grand ballets. The soloist does the duo or trio roles while the members of the corps are the background dancers in large groups.

Typically, when one first joins the company, one joins within the corps, then after a few years of hard work and demonstrated performance, becomes a soloist, then a principal dancer.

I fully expected to be promoted as a principal dancer yesterday and I was reminded that I’m only part of the corps.

Despite being sick so much last year, despite taking care of sick littles so much this year, despite only pulling out one impressive project, despite all the kickass speaking gigs – I expected the key to the city.

And it wasn’t there.

And that sucks.

But also?

I’m going to audition my ass off now.

And by audition, I mean dive into projects that make a positive impact on the direction of DevRel at Equinix Metal.

Because what I’ve been doing so far isn’t working out as well as I’d like.

Avoid the stick of depression and humiliation. Dive for the carrot with everything I’ve got.

My accomplishments were mediocre.

But I can do better.