One of the advantages of being self employed, is the opportunity to manage your own diary, working when you'd like and taking time off any time you fancy it. In reality, of course, and especially when you're still in your first year and looking to not only establish yourself, but to build a solid foundation to replace the financial stability that working for a large corporation gives you, you tend to do quite the opposite, taking on every opportunity and attacking it with enthusiasm and gusto, working evenings and weekends to build your network and reputation. That has been very much my experience, and since the turn of the year, it's been non-stop, with only a couple of days off for my London trip with Harper. When you're doing what you enjoy and what you're good at, it doesn't feel like hard work, but the hours are certainly long and the breaks have been few and far between!
This week, after several weeks of work being pretty full on work, I decided to leave the afternoon of the Wednesday entirely free of meetings. Of course, free of meetings doesn't mean free of work, because there are always planning, networking, business development and admin activities to fill the time, but having no meetings scheduled means a freedom to flex when you do those. Choosing the Wednesday was strategic, too, because today sees the cinematic release of Top Gun: Maverick, the long-awaited sequel to the 1986 classic! Cheesy and ridiculous it may be, but the original was a formative film from my youth and I was overly excited about this incarnation!
And, as it turned out, that excitement was well founded. The film is excellent! It finds the perfect line between nostalgia, humour, emotion and action, with the latter being particularly strong. The flying scenes are absolutely remarkable and it's a real spectacle seeing it in the cinema, something I was too young to do with the original.
As usual, however, I digress.
Driving home from the cinema and thinking about the titular character, I began to consider the lines that exist around rules and regulations and how the way in which we relate to these can have a dramatic impact on the way in which we're categorised by others. Let me give you some examples to illustrate the point:
If you are seen as someone who always obeys rules and regulations and expects others to do the same, you're stereotyped as a jobsworth. Despite the fact that this seems like a fairly sensible approach, particularly in jobs where there is a high risk of loss or injury, being branded a jobsworth is never a compliment.
If you frequently break the rules and bad things occur, you're seen as a liability and a loose cannon. This is behaviour that might be tolerated for a short time, but over the longer term, either you'll be out the door or people will distance themselves from you, so as to avoid
If you break the rules but manage to pull out successful outcomes, much like Tom Cruises's character, you're branded a maverick
Fiction LOVES a maverick. Besides the inspiration for today's blog, many others from literature, film and TV spring quickly to mind. Inspector Rebus, Laidlaw, Jack Bauer. Most superheroes could be branded this way too. Iron Man, Batman, Mr Incredible.
A stubborn streak of independence, creativity, innovation. Always seeking to do new things, stretch possibilities and test boundaries. Looking at situations from different angles.These are the traits that we assign to the mavericks we encounter or observe. Another is perseverance; keeping the faith and staying the course in spite of external obstacles. All traits that we see as positive and desirable!
So how do you know when you're being a maverick and when you've crossed the line into loose cannon territory? I suppose, much like beauty, it's in the eye of the beholder. If my job is to set and uphold the rules and I believe deeply in their value and importance, anyone who breaches them is a loose cannon. If I don't trust the rules and the rulemakers, those who bend the rules but for reasons that I agree with are mavericks and people I look up to and admire.
It seems to me that it's alignment with values that is the determining factor. Do the values of the person align with my own, and do I value the outcome that they achieved or sought to achieve, more than I value the rules they broke in doing it? Intent vs impact. The impact was to break the rules but the intent was to achieve an outcome that aligns with my own values, so I support or agree with it. If they broke the rules in order to do something that doesn't align with my own values, I see them as dangerous and their behaviours as undesirable.
And that's why values are so powerful and so important to understand and be aligned with. When we're triggered or react instead of responding, it's often the case that this happens because we feel that one of our values is being compromised or is under attack. And do we know which value it is? Are we close enough to our own values to anticipate this triggering happening before it does? If not, maybe it's time to spend a little time reflecting. Get a cup of tea (other beverages are available), a pad and pen and a quiet spot and start scribbling. What are your values? What really matters to you? How do you know? What do you want your life to look like. There are lots of great prompts here!
Spend some time on it and you'll be surprised what comes up. And then, spend some time in the cinema, shovelling in popcorn and watching Captain Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell doing what he does best! You won't regret either!