“Discovering My Red Rubber Ball” is a blog series based on my reflections on the brilliant Kevin Carroll‘s book, “The Red Rubber Ball at Work.” In this installment, I reflect on the second theme, “Results,” and recount a story where I achieved AMAZING results upon asking for HELP (don’t worry, I tie in how PLAY affected my perception of RESULTS).
Make sure to check Kevin and his books, “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life’s Work” and the aforementioned “The Red Rubber Ball at Work: Elevate Your Game Through the Hidden Power of Play.” Both works are short, impactful, and fantastic.
HOW TO CREATE A MAGAZINE IN 6 + 1 STEPS! (Alternative Title: The Story of How I, a brilliant but hot mess, learned that in order to get RESULTS, you need ACCOUNTABILITY and PEOPLE and HELP and LOVE and SUPPORT and FRIENDSHIPS and WIZARDS).
STEP 1: Say YES (and run before they change their mind)
“Leah! Are you up for it?” (Read: Leah, since you are the only person with publishing experience and you are the only person who knows how to work Adobe InDesign… let’s not mention that we can’t find anybody else who likes to spend so much time in the newspaper room… do you want to do this project?”)
“Sure!” (Read: You’re giving me absolute control over making something? I get to practice ruthless dictatorship to appease my inner control freak? HECK YES. No take-backsies.)
*Leah is formally the new editor-in-chief of the university literary magazine*
STEP 2: Pat Yourself on the Back. Then Slap Yourself.
Good job, Leah! You did it! Your hard work as a newspaper reporter and then, editor of the Arts & Culture / Feature sections have paid off! They want to give you more responsibility!
Wait… responsibility? That means… I have to show RESULTS? I have to finish something that I committed to start?
Oh no. Do they know that I’m a starter not a finisher?
7 or 8-year-old Leah scrunches her face. She doesn’t like being told, “You lack discipline” or “You have so much potential, but you never tap into it” or “You have disappointed me.”
Yes, 7 or 8-year-old Leah knew she was a starter-not-a-finisher, but she wasn’t able to communicate why she couldn’t complete anything. All she knew was that she hated the wagging fingers of disappointment. She knew she wanted to make people happy. Soon, 9 or 10-year-old Leah stopped trying. She simply accepted that the rest of her life would consist of multiple wagging fingers of disappointment.
Oh. No. Brace yourself, Leah. More wagging fingers of disappointment await you.
STEP 3: Make a Plan.
Ok, I need to find a printer. Also I need to check out other literary magazines. Oh wait, how do I get submissions? Do I need to bribe people? I suck at bribery. Is a letter from the editor still a thing? Should I try to write in a humble-but-actually-vain editor tone? Probably, I’m good at faking it. Look at my college essay, for heaven’s sake. What else? SHOOT. Where am I going to get money for this? How am I going to distribute this? When are finals? How am I going to juggle all my other responsibilities with this? You know, my totally rocking social life is going to suffer… all those parties that I wish I was invited to… Let’s not start with my booming love life. How will this impact my perfected “Netflix and Chill” lifestyle? Can I do all of this by myself?
Current plan: Flip out. Then watch some Netflix.
STEP 4: Saying YES to help. (And more therapy via Netflix & junk food)
S: “Do you need any help with this project?”
Leah: “No, I think I got it. Thanks, though!”
S: “How is it going? Are you getting things done yet?”
Leah: “Umm… yeah. I have a list of things I need to do. I just… haven’t found the time… you know.”
S: “Sure, you’re a busy person. Let me know how I can help.”
Leah: “Thanks, but I have got everything under control.” (IRONIC FORESHADOW)
Leah: “I should be looking up printers and stuff… but HOUSEOFCARDSOMGICAN’TTELLIFCLAIREUNDERWOODISAGENIOUSORADEMONBUTIWANTHERCLOTHES.
Leah: “Oh gosh. I am getting nowhere with this project. Abort? No. FOCUS. Wait, I have homework and tests this week? Oh. No. I can’t even….” (…finish this sentence, apparently).
S: “Hey! How’s the magazine going? Need any help?”
Leah: “Umm.. actually, yes.”
Leah: “OMG… WE GOT SO MUCH DONE. WE ARE ALMOST DONE WITH MY FIRST CHECKLIST. NOW I CAN MAKE THE PHASE 2 CHECKLIST. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? ARE YOU A WIZARD, S? DO YOU PERSONALLY KNOW HARRY POTTER? CAN YOU GET AN AUTOGRAPH FOR ME?”
STEP 5: Sit Back, and Watch the Magic Happen. (Also sneakily integrate book into this step… let’s connect the PLAY with the WORK. Your welcome, Kevin.)
After S showed me that this was NOT a one-person job, I realized something: I assume that every project I take on is a one-woman show. While I possess the skills to complete a project on my own, I am not successful on my own. I need accountability.
Growing up, I did not have friends to play with. My brother, 4 years apart, was too cool for me. My neighbors, all senior citizens, were also too cool for me. So apart from school, I learned to play by myself. When I did have an opportunity to play with other kids, I would be so happy that I would accommodate to their play preferences (“What? You want to play badminton for 10 hours? Sure, I’ll play even though I hate sports with a vengeance!”). I learned to be an excellent follower. I never learned to play with friends on my turf. And this, I suspect, was the root of my problem.
And that is how I climbed another step on my ladder to self-actualization, how I came that much closer to attaining Buddha-hood. THE END.
Just kidding, but we’re almost at the end, I promise!
After learning this valuable lesson, I gathered the greatest editorial team ever assembled. A graphic designer (because pretty things sell); an art major (to curate the visual storytelling); an English major (for grammar); and S (why wouldn’t you hire a wizard to be part of your team?).
I practiced delegation. “You do this. You do that. You do this and that. And I do… uhhh… I just tell you what to do so TAKE THAT.”
2 things I learned from delegation:
- Things get done! If your team has talent and excellent work ethic, the stars align, tasks get done, and all you need to do is keep striking things off on your checklist.
- This frees more time to Netflix and chill. Hallelujah, praise Jesus!
STEP 6: Be Grateful. (You don’t want to mess with your karma).
When I got the proof back from the printers, I was floored. The magazine looked professional and delicious. It was so edgy and beautiful, and for the first time ever, I understood motherhood. (“My baby is perfect! Definitely a lot prettier than that ugly kid over there…”)
And while I received so many praises for creating something so astonishingly perfect, it did not compare to the gratitude I had for my team and OUR efforts. I wrote each person a card and bought them a small gift. I wanted them to know that I was thankful for not only creating the magazine, but also for teaching me lessons about teamwork, inclusivity, delegation, leadership, trust (and for freeing up time so I could Netflix and Chill more…. Maybe I have a problem).
BONUS STEP 7: Condense Your Story to 33 Words (because everyone reads the Sparknotes, never the entire book).
Results require accountability. It requires sacrifice. It requires humility. Because at the end of the day, if the result you are proud of is just the product, then maybe, it wasn’t completely successful.