Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I am looking for the me that believes in the dissenting opinion, the me that loves feedback, the me that wants to improve, the me that can handle criticism.  That me is hiding somewhere, like my keys in the hidden recesses of my purse, under the wallet, the hair brush, the kleenex, the hand sanitizer, and the scarf.  I am wondering what compartment my me has drifted into.   Just as, when I rummage through my purse for my keys, I wonder why I didn’t put them in their signature niche,  now that I have lost my me, I am asking myself why I didn’t keep it tethered to its usual spot.

The me that’s used to having her work picked apart to make it better bolted when I opened the document my editor sent for revision.   That me left a bemused, forlorn stranger staring at a screen painted in the signature blue, red, and green boxes, lines, and fonts of Track Changes.     Overwhelmed, that stranger scanned the document to gauge the scope of the revision.  Her eyes widened and glazed over.  Her heartbeat accelerated, and her jaw dropped.  So much to do.  In so little time. No idea where to start.  No desire to start, either.  Enter the back burner.  I closed the document, and decided I could both feel sorry for myself and mull over a strategy while I  vacuumed.

I had to bribe myself back to the computer.  Come on, work for an hour, and put in a load of laundry; after another hour, read for half an hour on the deck.  Somehow, I had to make the task appear more manageable.  Usually, when there's work to be done and no creative idea to be found, I tackle the mundane, routine aspects of the task first.  After all, they have to be done anyway, and a blank mind doesn’t impede progress in that context.  The tough questions simmer; the chores get done.

I began, then, to clear away some detritus so I could see.  I accepted all the changes dealing with format and minor deletions.  That created more white space, and enlarged the comment boxes so they were easier to read.  On the first go-round, I could see that my editor has a keen eye, and a penchant for asking insightful questions.  She also uses neutral, professional language.  I just had to “put my courage to the sticking place,” in the words of Lady MacBeth, and get on with the job, one step at a time, like untangling a fine gold chain.  As I cajoled myself through the process,  I felt less threatened.  My equilibrium peeked around the corner, and crept back.  My strong me had returned like the prodigal son, and I could recognize myself again. 

If feedback on a simple editing job could unnerve me to that extent,  however, what  might I do in the face of comments with the potential to alter the course of my life?   Would I have the courage to see opportunity in honest feedback?   I thought of an article Rob Vanstone of the Leader Post had written about Riders special teams coordinator Bob Dyce a few weeks before.  Last year, Dyce was the Riders’ offensive co-ordinator.  During the off-season, however, as the team wanted to bring in George Cortez to work with the offence, head coach Corey Chamblin discussed with him a move to special teams.  Dyce put aside any negative feelings, and agreed to the move.   Attitude is the key, he says.  “You’ve got two choices. You can sit down and be upset and mad and sulk, or you can look at a new opportunity and grasp it and run with it, and that’s what I chose to do.’’  (Regina Leader Post, July 19)  Special teams have never been so special. Talk about a perspective to emulate.

In another football example, Brad Sinopli of the Calgary Stampeders also faced a momentous decision in his career.  Quarterback at the University of Ottawa, he joined the Stampeders in 2012 as a third-string quarterback.  He was released at training camp, and then rejoined the team three weeks later.  In that role, he dressed for nine games.  At that moment, head coach John Hufnagel presented him with a new scenario, too.  Sinopli could retrain as a receiver, or be released from the team.  We’re talking about the 2010 Hec Crighton Trophy winner as the most outstanding player in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) football. Sinopli had to decide what was more important to him—pursuing his dream of being a quarterback, or playing professional football, no matter the role. 

In the end, Sinopli decided that playing receiver was a new opportunity, and he might as well take advantage of it.  “For me, that’s in the past now,” he said,  in an interview with Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald (July 13). “This is where I am now playing receiver. I mean, I can sit back and look and dwell on, ‘well, I’m not a quarterback’ and all that stuff. But that’s not the case. I’m playing receiver.”  Sinopli chose to see the recommendation to play receiver not as a criticism of his quarterbacking talent, but as an insight into his ability from someone who interpreted his skill set in a novel way.  In the July 12 game against Montreal, Sinopli made a highlight reel catch the nation is still talking about.

Both Dyce and Sinopli had the courage to step back, and to focus on opportunity rather than criticism.   The result has been personal and professional development for each inividual, and a winning record for the team.    These two athletes inspire me.  They remind me of the strength and equanimity necessary to listen to someone’s comments about a process and/or a product in which you are very invested, detach yourself, and search for the elements that will improve your performance.  If I don’t want to lose my me the next time a revised copy from an editor shows up in my inbox,  I can apply strategies that crystallized from this experience:   smile, clear some space so I can see what needs to be done, and scrutinize the comments for pearls of opportunity from which to grow.

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