Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about energy. Well, not as much thinking about it as paying attention to it. And by energy I mean those positive or negative feelings you get when you’re working on something or interacting with someone. You know, those good or bad vibes you get from people, or that happy hum you get when you’re having fun, or that icky heaviness you feel when you’re struggling with something.
Earlier this holiday season I sold my pillows at a couple of craft fairs, and I loved the energy. Local, creative makers, getting together to sell their stuff – the energy was great – positive, supportive, and encouraging. There seems to be such mutual admiration amongst makers. You hear comments like: “Beautiful!” and “I love what you’re doing!” and “What a great display!” and “Wow, that must have been a lot of work! How did you do that?” I’ve had vendors help me with my display, assure me that my prices weren’t too high, and high five me when I sold three pillows to one customer. We chit chat about etsy, selling retail, packaging, and other craft fairs to try. I sold more pillows than I thought I would at these past sales (hooray!), but even if I hadn’t, I got so much out of them. Most importantly I got the validation and excitement to move forward with my craft.
Last summer I spent a long weekend selling pillows at the Seattle Street Food Festival, then on Monday I went to the office to do my web development job, and the contrast in the energy between the two places of business was extreme. At the craft fair I was outside in the sun and fresh air, people were having fun, and I was proudly (yet nervously) showcasing my work. Back at the office the lights were off and it was silent. My coworkers were all in their cubicles, staring at their screens with their earplugs firmly planted, not even acknowledging my presence. Don’t get me wrong, these are good people, it’s just that this is how they like to work.
For most of my life I’ve worked in the IT department, and in my experience the energy has not always been that great, especially at my last job, where it was pretty darn negative. In the IT department I never got a lot of “Wow, I love it!” or high fives when I succeeded. Nope. It was all about requirements to fulfill and problems to solve. Not a bad thing really, but there was a lot more “The data is a mess!” and “The site is down!” and a lot less “Wow, that’s beautiful!”
Unlike the craft fairs, the IT environment at my last job often felt competitive rather than supportive. People talked negatively about each other. Feedback was given only at performance reviews, and not by the people you worked with or were helping, but by the person you worked for. And the drive to do better was tightly connected to the drive to make more money, please your boss, and move into the next pay band.
When you look at the work, though, there’s not that much difference between the process of building a website and making a pillow. You go through the same basic steps: brainstorm → design → prototype → build → test → deliver → repeat. And I really enjoy doing both kinds of work. So why is the energy so different? Is it the culture? Or my personality? Or both?
When I took my alchemy class a couple of years ago, one of the first things we learned about was energy and frequencies. I remember learning that the opposite of love isn’t hate; the opposite of love is fear. That the highest frequencies are love and enlightenment, and the lowest frequencies are fear and shame. Like frequencies attract and are harmonious, unalike frequencies cause dissonance and are uncomfortable. That made sense to me.
So is it possible then that the difference between the craft fair energy and the IT energy was love versus fear? Or was it the way my personal frequencies were interacting with those different environments?
Here’s the thing. It’s not like I spend every day at a craft fair selling pillows. These sales happen only a few times a year. They are a lot of work, driven solely by me, and when I finally get there, it’s like my performance review. Based on that review, I make adjustments that are, hopefully, lucrative adjustments. This pillow business is run 100% by me, and my success or failure is 100% up to me. That is not the case in the IT department of a large corporation. And that, I believe, is a big reason these environments feel so different.
The other day a mom friend of mine who wants to get a job said “I just don’t know that I can work for someone else.” And I said, “Well, I don’t think anyone likes to work for someone else. I think we all need to work for a purpose and not a person.” Often, though, these are mutually exclusive options. Either you work for yourself and your own mission, or you work for someone else and their mission. It is a very lucky thing to find a job where you work for someone whose mission you embrace completely.
At a craft fair it kind of looks like the vendors are just standing there not doing much, doesn’t it? But really we worked our butts off just to get there, making stuff like crazy, doing work we love, not because we’re making so much money, or because we might get a promotion, but because believe in the work. It makes us happy. We’re not trying to impress our bosses. Our only competition is ourselves, as we strive for uniqueness, perfecting our craft, and finding the people who connect with and value what we’re offering.
Can I apply that same mentality to web development? I think I can, and I think I am. I really love making websites for people. I really love pushing though the challenges of figuring out the tough stuff. I love working with the business owners. And I love being my own boss. But I think it’s important to pay attention to the energy, and strive for the highest of frequencies.
Christmas is in two days, I haven’t been working much since the kids got out of school, and it’s a totally different vibe right now. The weather has been horrid, we’ve been sleeping in, making (and eating) a lot of cookies, spending time inside, going outside only to get in the car to go shopping. I’ve been feeling a bit anxious, but I know that will all change tomorrow as we celebrate Christmas Eve, and then Christmas, then do some skiing, hang out with friends, and ring in the new year. I’m really excited for 2016, and to keep the good vibes coming. But I’ll roll with the bad ones too.
Wishing you all the best energy this holiday season and in 2016!