My first ever blog was called God The Chingster Can Moan. Not only did I enjoy writing about moaning but I also realised that people liked to read about it. It seems everybody loves a good old-fashioned whine. As we saunter through life we become hard-wired by certain influences in society, namely our mentors. I grew up in your archetypical working class environment known as the council estate. Nobody had anything, and everybody liked to complain about everything that they didn’t have. It seems that feeling sorry for yourself is a lot easier than feeling proud of yourself. Negativity comes easier than positivity. So you go through life thinking that everybody owes you something, like Veruca Salt waiting for the golden egg to drop on your lap.
I worked in the Rail Industry for 19-years, and apart from the last few I really enjoyed it. Veruca Salt would have fitted in well because there was a lot of people who felt the railway owed them something. The company that I worked for continually struggled to make a profit. Each year the pressure from the top would become more intense. Customer service and staff morale were secondary considerations when it came to making money. Each morning when I arrived at work my conversations with my staff would be the same.
“What’s f^&king good about it?”
I remember one guy who used to work for me as a shunter, let’s call him Norman. Norman was a really nice and loving family man, but he was also the first person that I shouted at for complaining. He didn’t break any rules, he wasn’t late for work, he didn’t go home early, and he wasn’t insubordinate. All he did was complain, albeit all of the time! When you think about it, Norman was in a little bit of a pickle to begin with. Not only did Norman suffer years and years of societal conditioning like everyone else, but he also lived his working life surrounded by colleagues who complained a lot.
Norman and I would talk a lot about his complaints. Most of them were valid and constructive but there was often nothing that I could do about them. He was looking to me, as his boss, to change his life and I couldn’t do it. Here lies the point of this story. If you want a successful life then you need to take the necessary action in order to achieve it. You own your life. Not your wife, your parents, your boss or some other poor person who you might be able to blame.
YOU OWN YOUR LIFE.
While Norman was busy complaining, his main customer Corus was trying to implement a major change in their industry focusing on the people. The change process sailed under the banner of The Journey. During one of the speeches made during a Journey briefing session one of their orators said,
“If you keep on doing what you are doing, then you will keep on getting what you are getting.”
I gave this advice to Norman but his behaviour never changed. Interestingly the same people who complained that the Railway was treating them so poorly mocked the attempt by Corus to put people first! Norman continued to believe the company he worked for was awful and the people who ran it were inadequate and inept. Imagine feeling that way. Imagine going to work every day for the rest of your life thinking like that. I sympathise with Norman up to a point. The way he was treated was appalling. But the buck stops with Norman. Nobody runs Normans life except Norman himself. He did not have to ask his superiors to change things for him because he had the power to change things for himself. All Norman needed to do was to leave. If he had handed in his resignation, the cost cutting monster that was the company would have bitten his hand off.
Most of us have been conditioned to blame somebody else for the parts of our life we do not like.
People look to their boss to give them a fulfilling career, they look to their wife to give them a loving relationship and they look to the heavens for great weather. That is fine if you choose to live life on a roulette wheel. If they choose to be the silver ball then don’t complain when you land on double zero. Instead of choosing to live life on the roulette wheel, take charge. Leave your horrible job and get a better one, leave the woman who is making you miserable and find one that makes you happy and leave the cold and rainy dump where you live and move somewhere where the sun shines.
People like Norman don’t realise that they are the problem. Norman had been creating his own outcome without even realising it. If he did, then he would be elated to know he could change his future – not his boss – but him. If you still think I am being a little harsh then consider this. If the job were the main factor for Norman’s attitude then everyone doing the same job would have the same attitude. Nobody would ever amount to anything other than being an unhappy shunter. Yet I know shunters who have come through that yard to become train drivers, managers and a whole host of fabulous things outside of the railway. If it were just the job that was the deciding factor, then nobody would get out. Everyone would feel and act exactly the same. The people who became train drivers, managers or prospered with different companies chose to take responsibility for their own lives.
They got it and they acted upon it.
Norman decided to complain instead of taking action because complaining was the easy way out. Trying to offload his burden on me was easy. Leaving the company to find a new job was difficult. Norman was scared to change anything. He was filled to the brim with fear.
“How can I leave? I have bills to pay.”
“This is all I know.”
“I am too old.”
“I have no qualifications.”
“I have to pay for my kids university fees.”
When he was telling me all of this all I heard was:
I just wanted to shake him. I wanted to shake all of that negativity out of him. I wanted him to remember that he controlled his life, he controlled his thoughts and he controlled his actions. He was walking around with his eyes closed shut and I so desperately wanted him to open them. All he needed to do was to realise the damage his negative thoughts were causing, and to start practicing more positive ones, and it would have made all the difference.
I understand that there would have been risks for him to take, had he decided to change, but what is the alternative thought process – that there is reward without risk? If you want something better from life there is always going to be an element of risk. If you are not prepared to take the risks then shut up and stop whining about your current predicament because you are settling for it.
You can only complain about something if you actually believe that there is something better in existence. If there were nothing better then there would be nothing to complain about. So next time you complain about something, stop and think! What exists that is better than this? Then go and get it! Remember YOU control YOUR LIFE not your mum, not your boss and not your wife.
It is very difficult to try to convey to you, in words, how destructive it was to work in an environment where 90% of the people hated being there. Blaming the people who were responsible for the miserable working conditions is futile because to do so misses the point. As somebody who wishes to help people improve their lives I cannot think of a more frustrating scenario than listening to somebody continually complain about their life and yet failing to do anything about it.
From a writing perspective I don’t think about the topic and then find a memory. Instead as I am reading literature a memory relating to the topic pops into my head. So as I was reading about – taking responsibility for your life - in Jack Canfield: The Success Principles I thought of this memory and made a mental note to write about it and this blog post was born.
Photos Courtesy of gfpeck, Shirokazan; Guillaume Cattiaux (CC & flickr)