If You Do it for Them, Do it for You
Updated: Feb 28
Still in my 20s, my first job right out of graduate school was at a well-respected Fortune 50 corporation. I worked hard my five years there. Decades would pass before I learned to work smart.
One day, a senior executive asked me to help with the operational details of a proposal she gave me three days to write. It was an intense 72 hours of feedback and rewriting. On Day Two I left a stage performance I was attending with my boyfriend at the time. At 11 pm. I rode the subway home to Manhattan from the Brooklyn Academy of Music then worked through the night.
At 5 am I made my way from Lower Manhattan to Penn Station to catch a New Jersey Transit train. Exhausted, I fell into deep sleep. I awoke at the end of the line. In the train yard. Panicked and delirious, I stumbled from train car to train car to locate the conductor. “Stay onboard,” he instructed. “We’re headed back.”
What a colossal waste of time – attempting to “work” through the night so I could arrive at the office, one state away, at daybreak. What I viewed as getting ahead by upending my social life to pull an all-nighter, set me back. I arrived at the office no earlier than my usual routine. I had no baseline energy, never mind a productivity boost.
I realized how much I’d given myself away to employers; how willing to work 14-hour days. Yet, when time for me to do the work to advance my dreams (notably, becoming a professional writer), I’d give in to fatigue and “nap” for seven hours. Midday.
I’ve worked for employers while sick and sleep deprived. I’ve attended business meetings while grieving for my recently dead father. I’ve always shown up. For them.
These days, when tempted to place the agenda of others ahead of progressing on my goals and dreams, I say aloud, “If you do it for them, do it for you.” By showing up for myself I send this message to my heart and the habit-forming portion of my brain: what’s inside me matters. And I’m willing to do the work to express it tangibly in the world.
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