I am beginning to understand what happened to young Alice in Wonderland. She poked her nose in where it didn’t belong, and before she knew it she had left the known world and was falling, falling, falling into a whole other territory. Curiosity is a fine thing, but Alice needed some work on her balance and her boundaries. Perhaps you are thinking I am a kill joy. Afterall, if Alice had kept her balance there would have been no story for us to enjoy. Of course you are right. The fall into the unknown is the device to begin her journey. But I can’t help thinking that Alice may have had other things she wanted to do that day. Other adventures of her own choosing.
Recently I accepted an invitation to provide some training, on a casual basis, at the place where I used to work. “Where’s the harm?” I thought. I was missing being part of a team and the feeling of being an expert. Having allowed my creative self plenty of room for expression my analytical mind was ready for a wander around the magical land of databases. And of course I was glad of some casual work to provide income to support me while I build up my own business.
It was a good feeling to be welcomed and to have my knowledge appreciated. I had returned to familiar territory, which was also unfamiliar after 18 months absence. I began to remember what I used to know and sharing what I thought would be helpful. When I looked up from the training task I found myself at the edge of a large project in its early stages. Like Alice, I got curious and poked my nose in. “That looks interesting”, says I. Once I had stuck my head in a small distance, I could see a whole lot of potential directions. Questions to be Asked. Issues to be Investigated. Gaps to be Filled. So I started asking, and investigating and hurling my body into gaps. “What a good consultant I am,” thinks I.
And then, like Alice, I realised I had lost my balance and I was falling. Instead of being a visiting trainer sharing knowledge of the old system, I was plummeting headlong into the new and offering to do things that weren’t in the original brief. I saw the magnitude of the project in front of everyone, and toppled into it, until it surrounded me like an enveloping fog. Soon I was thinking about work 24/7 and feeling like I didn’t have time or energy for my own projects. My part time hours seemed too short in the face of everything that could be done. I had started to feel responsible and my whole being was organising itself to get to work sorting out this project that seemed to have no boundaries to it. Wait a minute. Isn’t this why I left?
Learning Experiences. Gotta love ’em.
Fortunately for me, I have access to equipment that Alice lacked. I have insight into what’s happening, and a jet pack with an eject cord. I can pull that cord and fly back to where I need to be – a visiting trainer sharing knowledge to help other people with their major project. I don’t have to fall to the end of the tunnel and spend a whole lot of time wandering around another universe.
This is my first time in this consultant role, where I am brought in for a specific task. Its a whole different mindset than being a permanent employee. Its about being focussed on the agreed project, and delivering well on that piece of work. Being a consultant means staying on the edge and maintaining perspective, even if it means missing out on some of the things that are going on around you. The training aspect of my role suffered because I got caught up in the bright lights of a big shiny project that others were working on. I need to reboot and regroup and get back onto the path that I originally agreed to, the adventure of my own choosing.