I hate being a cook in a crowded kitchen
I’ve recently experienced two situations that reminded me why it is hard for me to take initiative and jump immediately.
For the first, I was selected to be part of a group to implement and build an information exchange within our company. At first it seemed like there were many decisions to make and environments to be set up, yet I remained relatively quiet. Everybody had an idea of what to do, I just wanted to hit the ground running. Furthermore, it was hard for me to identify an area I could assist with – especially in the early stages of such an initiative. So I remained silent. Fast forward several weeks and now I find myself reminding the others and taking initiative to keep the information exchange alive (I’m not the only one, but when initial interest fades is when I like to step in).
In my second experience, I have always wanted to become more involved in the proposal writing process. So when an opportunity arose I seized the chance to learn how to read a request for proposal (RFP) and break down requirements. However, I initially became tense because everybody had so much input that I felt my words would merely enter a crowded field and get lost in the commotion. The follow up to that meeting required us to assign complexities to the tasks we broke out, of which I did.
In both of these situations, I learned that I am not the person to immediately take initiative when excitement is high and feelings are fresh. Why? Because everyone already does that. Why would I try to compete in an active playing field? However, when push comes to shove, and rubber meets the road, that is when I plan to be present. The journey gets tougher when the hysteria dies down, but long term initiatives require grueling and difficult mental hurdles to overcome in order to build a solution.
You may initially judge me as a disinterested individual that does not contribute much to a discussion. And indeed, I need to get better at fighting my own desire to wait out the excitement and step in when I feel I can be more useful. I do work on getting involved early on, contributing thoughts and ideas. However, to know and observe the true me you’ll have to find me a few weeks later, trying to think about how to keep the momentum going.
See, I have experienced many instances where we begin fresh and fade fast. I feel more useful when I can offer a fresh perspective, or a spark, as the momentum fades. Instead of riding high and crashing hard, I prefer gradually scaling up, even if it means moving slower. I will gladly take a disciplined approach over coasting if it means fulfilling the initial objective.
At home I act this way as well. If my wife and I are in the kitchen, and I’m cooking dinner, I prefer she cleans up as I cook. If she cooks dinner, I’ll help cut vegetables where I can, but instead of waiting around for something to do I start cleaning up the dishes that have accumulated. Or I will wipe down counters. Or empty the dishwasher. I will do something that will need to be done at a later stage (cleanup) so that when dinner is ready there will be fewer things to worry about later on.
Maybe I prefer being two steps ahead, but I enjoy working in a less crowded area where my efforts make more of a difference. That is not to say I do not desire getting involved early, I just know that in a matter of time enthusiasm will fade and a spark will be necessary to wake everyone up. I want to be that spark. I want to pick people up when boredom settles in. I want to keep the momentum going.
That is why I hate being an extra cook in the kitchen.