And stop pretending you want them in your life
This story starts how many other stories also begin: someone advice me to do something I deep down knew I shouldn’t do.
But first, in order to make my own choice, I had to understand something before I could move on. I also had to understand nuances. Understanding nuances is the definition of mastery.
This is what was happening: my work had gone bad for over 6 months. I was burned out. I felt used, pushed. I was overwhelmed and wanted to quit everything and scream at everyone.
My partner noticed my behavior in one of the last meetings I held. Due to COVID, we were working in the same room. She also went to the kitchen with me thereafter, held me. I was shaking out of anger.
I told her I was about to collapse. I told her I couldn’t bear with the situation any longer. I confessed I wanted to scream, yell, punch.
She remained calm, stoic. Don’t burn bridges, she said.
This is the story of how I learned to burn — at least some — bridges. Forever.
Don’t burn bridges, she said.
What she was trying to tell me was, basically, to remain open, because nobody knew who needed who in the long run.
What if I needed to work with them again.
What if… they became rich and famous and could land me a job.
What if… they became my business partner in the future.
What if my future success depended on their benevolence.
The more I think about it, especially now, that I managed to put everything into words, the more silly my fear looks like.
Don’t get me wrong. My partner is wise, smart, clever. She understands things on a deep and practical level. I admire her. She is able to foresee: a quality I sometimes can’t find within me.
See? I was mad because I had to do the work of 3 people. They didn’t bother. We all acquired a big chunk of responsibility at some point and they decided to wash their hands. They were too busy to contribute to the project, but they kept asking for equal pay.
I was making the same as them, but working 3 times more. I had to talk to clients and explain why everything was taking longer… as if the team just suddenly shrunk.
Don’t burn bridges, she said. And for the longest time, I didn’t. Back in the day, my last thought before falling asleep was, indeed, don’t burn bridges. And the first thought in the morning was, what if…
What if I ended up working with them in the future? What if I needed them for my success?
Can you see now where I was mistaken?
Let’s continue with the possible future scenarios. With those “What if” that didn’t let me sleep in peace:
What if I crossed paths with them again?
Well, if they ended up being the same kind of people, the same kind of professionals would I want to work with them again?
What if they changed. What if I changed?
Hard to say. Future changes are unpredictable, but there is a big chance we will all change. In which case, then let our future selves deal with their future problems. We are here, now. Eyes on the price.
And in the present
Why would I have to pretend I care for them, or for what they thought after all that happened? The situation was unfair. They knew it. I knew it. Even my partner knew it and probably their partners knew it too.
So it meant to me I had to act accordingly: I could not simply pretend I wasn’t bothered by the situation I was in. I could not betray myself. I just couldn’t do that.
There is no reason I should just carry such a heavy bag on my shoulders, everywhere I go, just in case. Just because the future is uncertain, just because we might never know if we need people we dislike…?
You have met them too
Try to remember. You’ve probably met that annoying person who was trying to convince you that creating a network was the most important thing for a career.
We all know the system is wrong.
We all know the system is wrong
Why don’t we act as if we are cognizant of it? Let’s just be honest with ourselves and others. Let’s just act as if the system is wrong. Because it is.
The present is real and helps to shape our future. But it’s only one variable in a sea of possibilities. We are fearful because the future is uncertain. But it is so. Are you fearful of how liquid the ocean is? T
There is no certainty in the future. There is no way we can predict it, control it, manage it. Burn bridges, don’t be scared. But experience is a good adviser, and I know I don’t want certain situations or certain people in my future life. Burn bridges, so it’s them those who cannot find you anymore.
And you’re not a pack mule. So don’t keep carrying things on your shoulders for the what-ifs.
Burn bridges. Travel light.