Today I faced a minor roadblock and was feeling inordinately discouraged. A coworker reminded me of a story I shared with her many, many years back - so far back that I'd forgotten, but she remembered. It turned out to be just the right intervention.
I was in my first job, which entailed financing social policies in Singapore (e.g. supporting low-income families / families with eldercare and childcare costs / ensuring retirement adequacy).
I felt that we were simply not doing enough for lower-to-middle income families who had kids with special needs. Wasn't it clear as day? Why would anyone not support this? For a good six months I hit a wall. But I was young and crazy enough to spend additional hours outside my regular work, interviewing parents of kids with special needs and collecting macro-level data on how household incomes and expenditures stacked up for these families. I put together analyses of the financial impact on families and total budgetary implications of my proposed policy changes. Most days, I felt really discouraged.
Then one day, I was in a meeting with a very, very high up boss. He happened to ask what more we could do for families with disabilities. Within days, my proposal was sent around, approved, and announced. I even got to draft the announcement. Parents and teachers reached out to say they appreciated it, even though it was a small measure.
Remembering this story, I asked myself questions about the current situation:
Do you care about this issue enough to pursue it, even if no one else cares as much? Even if your efforts may never get recognized?
Are you willing to play the long game and invest right now, knowing that if it is the right thing, the right time will come?
Can you cultivate "restless patience", knowing when to push and when to wait?
I came away from these questions with a big YES. Suddenly, what seemed like a roadblock now looked just like a marker on the road, reminding me that resistance is not a sign of failure - it is a sign that I'm on the right path.
As I grow older, patience and perseverance have become larger themes in work and life, complementing passion and purpose. Looking back, almost every meaningful thing I've done in my career was accompanied by many challenges, and lots of personal investment while not knowing the outcome.
What are things you care about so much that you are willing to put in the work, even if recognition or impact are not certain?
How do you manage the ups and downs that come with this?