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January 15, 2016

Life Swap: On Being Jeb

January 15, 2016

Jeb Banner has quit coffee.

Had I known this, I might have chosen Jimmy Fallon for my Think Kit “Life Swap”. (Fact: NO ONE has more fun at work than Jimmy Fallon.) However, since this is a temporary (and entirely literary) swapping of lives, I go with my gut, pass up the latte for some dandelion root tea (God help me) and queue up Jeb’s Very Vinyl Christmas 2015 in order to completely emerge myself in this exercise. In truth, it seems fitting that I’m not caffeinated, as my energy and Jeb’s are significantly different. I’ll need to take it down a few notches in order to enjoy the scenery on what is sure to be a walking meeting of the minds.

Before I type the first word, I ask myself a few questions that Jeb often asks of himself:
Should I be doing this? (Writing a blog post pretending to be my boss)
Is this a good use of my time and abilities? (The reader will be the judge of that)
Is what I’m doing serving myself and/or the business? (We'll see)

As my first leap into the mind of Jeb Banner, I choose to embrace the fuzziness and begin to imagine my new self.

ME AS JEB: I start the morning camped out at a table in a quiet Broad Ripple restaurant –– a morning ritual of (usually coffee) and quiet examination. A gluten-free loyalist, I’m likely ordering my usual as I unpack my journal and a pen. I’m intentionally turning yesterday over in my mind, starting to put language around what before were only thoughts. Like a potter’s wheel, I’m feeling my way into something, and hoping that my hands won’t betray me so that others will see the vessel as my mind first imagined it.

My handwriting is chicken hieroglyphics, but I can read it and no one else needs to. Right now, they’re unfinished thoughts, messy and exciting. Something is building in my gut, and I don’t know what it means exactly, but it feels comfortable baking there, so I’ll trust it to rise before perhaps shaping it into a blog post, a song, or a Serial Box talk. I don’t rush to understand.

’m following the flow of my own energy, seeing where it takes me. 

(Note to my real self –

– you should try this! ).

I walk back to SmallBox and to a calendar checkered with blue Check-in’s and green Monthlies and orange Board Meetings and an after-hours junket of side projects. Much of my workday is spent talking or listening (framed by questions asked but not always answered). I wish it were more doing, more building…but we’re getting there. I forget sometimes that the meetings on my calendar that show up as "Talks" ARE doing and building, laying foundations before the bricks and mortar, but still, I’m like a six year old boy confronted with a mud puddle and a stick…let me at it!!!! Let’s Play!

Our Business Development Manager has just sent me a calendar invite for a meeting with a potential new client. (Author’s prerogative). Cool, it’s always exciting talking to others, uncovering what’s at the root of them and then cultivating new seeds of thought. But please don’t expect me to “sell.” I don’t enjoy selling. I like teaching (and learning), and solving and creating. I make a better union leader than a shop foreman (Power to the People!), so I surround myself with those I trust will bring balance when I wander off into the what-ifs.

(Authors note – I wish my title were something more like Ambassador or Liaison, then people wouldn’t get so nervous when I invite them to a meeting.)

Today is no different than any other day. (Unless you’re trying to be someone you’re not). I find myself energized by work that feels additive, and drained by low-value work that makes up the have-to’s of running a business. (MISSING MY COFFEE). I meet with others like me, and those that dance to a different beat. I struggle to keep pace with other’s energy and have to remind myself that the beat can be set by the bassist or the drummer. While making space for others to improvise, the best part of my day turned out to be a spontaneous monument of butcher paper, haphazardly erected in the hallway and covered with neon post-its. An artifact of asking the right questions and being okay with the fuzziness of not yet having the answers.

For me, there is a continuous, but necessary tension between distraction and focus, like that required of a trampoline. Pulling out on the edges in so many different directions, allowing jumps to become jack-knives and summersaults and sometimes a splayed out nap of an idea resting between the taunt springs that hold me up. I could play here all day.

AUTHORS FINAL NOTE: This Think Kit prompt gave me an excuse to search out and try on someone else’s perspective (but not enough time to explore his vast vinyl collection). It’s not only an exercise I recommend, it’s a practice that supports SmallBox' philosophy of people-centered work. Pick someone you work with every day and try it for yourself.  But don’t attempt it without coffee.

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