A Project Manager’s Game Plan for Dealing with Incurable Cancer

Other segments to this multi-segment blog/e-book can be found at https://carlpritchard.com/blog/

Segment Ten – Your Ridiculous Self

If you have never done so, or have lived in a vacuum for the past quarter-century, you need to take 30 minutes of your life and watch a little SpongeBob SquarePants. This eternally juvenile, naïve, character spends each episode of his cartoon life getting into and out of life’s little quandaries.  Whether it’s achieving the goals of his boss, Mr. Krabs or fending off the evils of Plankton, SpongeBob rolls merrily along with an attitude that should be the envy of us all. All in all, he’s ridiculous.

As I live with the challenges of my life (medical and otherwise), I’ve come to the realization that there are only so many ticks on the clock for any of us.  Sooner or later, we near the proverbial finish line.  And as it comes into view (however distant that view may be), it’s time to embrace our inner SpongeBob.

Somewhere, deep down inside of you, there’s an inner SpongeBob.  I first had a profound meeting with mine when I was a bartender at the Foxes’ Den in Salem, Ohio.  I was on my last three days at the bar before embarking on my radio career.  I was no longer worried about fouling up.  I didn’t fear every frozen piña colada that was ordered (which had to be iced, frosty perfection). I didn’t even worry about the bar manager (Nancy, not my wife) chiding me for missing some minor step in protocol.  I was laughing with my co-workers and the customers.  I was just relishing my last days as a bartender.  I was, in all candor, a little silly.

Carl, I wish we had seen this side of you before, said Nancy. 

I was puzzled by her remark.  Here I was, channeling my inner SpongeBob, and she was all right with it.  Up to this point, I thought she only cared about protocol and process.  Bizarrely, I learned that she was not all serious about everything (e.g., Squidward), but actually just felt like she had to act that way to get me to do my job. 

As I released my inner SpongeBob, she seemed to release hers, as well.

Lesson Learned: You are far more likely to get long-term favorable results when you are honest about who you are and what makes your world go around.  That doesn’t mean we don’t take our jobs seriously, but it does mean that we recognize that those around us become more comfortable when we are.

Workaholic Zealot

If you’ve ever seen an episode of SpongeBob where he is working at the fast-food restaurant (The Crabby Patty), you know he’s the best of the best as both a dishwasher and fry cook.  Again, I empathize with those roles as I’ve had both jobs.  I worked as hard as a dishwasher could work.  I looked for efficiencies.  I looked for ways to do the job better.  I tried to find tricks of the trade.  I was certain that no-one noticed.   Yet again, I was SpongeBob.

Jump ahead to 2020.  We were in Ohio visiting family when I ran into my old boss, Lowell S..  As I live and breathe, he said, Carl Pritchard!  Keep in mind that my work for him ended almost 50 years earlier.  You were the best dishwasher we ever had!

I had waited half a century for that validation, and there it was.  Suddenly, it didn’t matter that I was named the best of the best in project management by PMI, and that friends and family told me I was the best breadmaker around and that I was good at building stone walls and sheds.  I was a great dishwasher—48 years earlier. 

Look at the people you encounter today.  I just got off an extended electronic chat with my wireless provider.  The woman on the other end of the chat did her job extremely well.  She handled my concern in a timely fashion.  She was efficient.  She achieved my objectives. And I made sure I told her supervisor and that I filled out the survey.  Want to validate yourself?  Validate others. 

Lesson Learned:  Validation doesn’t take a whole lot of effort.  But if you can be specific about what someone does and does right, you are serving yourself, them, your organization and their organization.  It’s rare that you can find an activity that infuses positives all around.  It’s well worth the investment.

I attended a memorial get-together for a college friend via Zoom last night.  The woman who passed away (Diane) was an amazing human being, and about the only one in my college crowd who didn’t have any chronic health issues.  She died of an aneurysm, leaving us all in a state of shock.  As we shared memories about our collegiate experience, the focus tended to be on the borderline lunacy of the things we did. 

It was cathartic to be reminded of risks we took, laughter we shared, and the gifts and talents of all those who worked in Diane’s shadow.  (She was an amazing artist, who had the ability to play with light and shadow, rendering better-than-real realism).  Each time someone spoke, it was in praise and honor of someone else in the group.  By the time we were done, every person left that call realizing that it was the group that had converted the individuals into very special people. 

As a group of co-workers (imagine half-a-dozen SpongeBobs), there were plenty of things that we did that would have made our bosses at The Ohio State University cringe.  But even if they did cringe, they also had the benefit of having people with unique energies and capabilities at their disposal.  And every one of us believed (and still believes) that we represented the University well, and that OSU was lucky to have us. 

Lesson Learned:  As we work in groups and teams, let the teams release their inner SpongeBob now and again.  Being energized, enthusiastic and a bit weird can be a powerful combination for lifelong alliances and commitments. 

How firm thy friendship, O-Hi-O.

In the next segment, I’ll take a look at the massive 1970’s fraud that completely wheedled its way into my day-to-day thinking…in a good way!

If you have insights you’d like to share or comments or conversations, my e-mail is the best way to reach me at carl@carlpritchard.com.  I’ll always get back to you within 24 hours.  Always.  And if you think I missed the mark?  Check your spam folder.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.