Lessons in inadequacy

A few weeks back, a couple of grad school friends trekked to Everest Base Camp.  I viewed the pictures of them looking fit and happy while slumped in my office chair feeling slothlike and boring.

This past week, I stood on a pier at the Norfolk Navy base and watched as the USS Carr, a Perry-class Navy frigate (FFG-52), came home to port on it’s final cruise before being decommissioned.


My sister-in-law is one of Carr’s senior officers, and one of just two women on the crew.   She was returning from a 6-month deployment, during which Carr intercepted $114 MILLION DOLLARS worth of drugs.  Yes, you read that number right.

The homecoming was sweet and fun to experience.  There were young mothers holding up babies that the fathers hadn’t met, and lots of tearful hugs and greetings.  I did my part and held the banner welcoming my SIL home, and felt honored to be a part of the whole thing.

My dad was lucky enough to be a “Tiger”; he got to board the ship in Florida and sail with it up to Norfolk.  My brother and I had the same thought as the ship approached – we could see his smile from hundreds of feet away.  Among the many tales he told, the one that stuck with me was the professionalism of the crew and the respect and camaraderie they showed each other.

Later in the visit, we got a tour of CARR, and my SIL knew the function of every button and dial.  She told some amazing stories, and we marveled at how 200+ humans could live in such a small space without going insane.

Yesterday, on the plane flight home,  I read a book called It’s Your Ship, a leadership book (also written by a Navy captain; I’m getting more familiar with the Navy lingo these days, just ask me what a CHENG is) about building a strong team and getting results. The author had a clear goal for himself as he captained his ship, and he achieved it in grand style.

Today, I returned to the office to the kind of meeting with your boss that, no matter how supportive he/she is, essentially leaves you feeling like you have fooled the whole world into thinking you know what you’re doing.

Suffice it to say that all of this adds up to some feelings of inadequacy at the moment.

Now, since I know my Dad is reading this…no need to fret, Father.  I’m exhausted and it will all look better in the morning.  Especially because tomorrow I will be on my way to Cookiefest 2012. More on that later.

But really, as much as I try to always be positive (with varying levels of success), there are times when I just wish for the clarity of mission and purpose of a Navy ship. I would like to be able to say that we have one goal, and point us all toward it with singular purpose. I realize I am simplifying things; my SIL would probably say that a Navy ship is a pretty complex place.  I get that.  Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

But sometimes, trying to match mission with revenues is hard.  Trying to balance productivity with customer service is tough.  Sometimes, I wonder if it would be easier with one product, one audience, one goal.  Sometimes, looking at the world around me, I doubt myself, and I doubt if the work I’m doing is valuable.  Do I really I accomplish anything sitting at a desk all day while people are hiking the Himalayas and preparing for (or fighting in) a war?

I’ve read enough management books to know this kind of self-examination is normal. Deep down, I know the work we do is important.   And I know myself well enough to know that I’ll soon find my mojo again and it’ll be off to the races.

But until then, I guess all I can do is retreat to the kitchen with a couple of good friends and the bake the hell out of many dozen cookies.  Or mostly, I’ll assist as they bake.  At Cookiefest, at least, I don’t mind being inadequate.  I still get my share of the booty.

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