Embrace the hurt at work

Sometimes things get uncomfortable at work and at play. The key is to recognise whether it is short-term hurt or long-term injury and deal with it accordingly. In this article, I discuss the realities of short-term hurt and how to embrace it as part of your journey. I will also give tips on how to recognise if the hurt is more significant and when to move on. Starting a new work challenge can hurt, but so does everything new. Starting a new workout, a new diet, or starting a new job. Anything that takes work usually requires a bit of pain before you get momentum. This doesn't mean "sucking it up". To the contrary - you have to acknowledge these things. But, sometimes the path to something better can hurt as well, and knowing you are on it can make a huge difference.

I loved starting Jiu Jitsu but was injury prone (and always injured) in my first two years. I’m talking three black eyes, 5 stitches, a torn meniscus, syndesmosis, intercostal tears, a calf tear, a constantly frozen neck, dislocated fingers, inflamed rotators in both shoulders and chronic antihelix inflammation. Sounds like fun, right!?

Like most new things, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu requires a fair bit of conditioning. It's usually not as extreme as what I went through, but nonetheless, most people would be sore for a while. It’s no different to starting running or lifting heavy weights. But how much it takes to get used to the rigours of grappling can be a surprise to even the fittest of people.

It is the same with starting a new job or anything new that requires stepping out of your comfort zone. Often we give up when it hurts, but sometimes the hurt is a sign that we are doing it right.

Growing pains in practice

Like doing a combat sport, everyone is hurting one way or another early on in their work life. We all get uncomfortable in our first few years of doing anything. And we start to slow down. Whether it's injured pride when your work is corrected or the realisation that your writing isn't up to scratch. The first time you make a mistake on a client document and your partner picks up on it, or if you don’t make budget. These are all things I did. I also took them far too much to heart, but recognise now that I shouldn't have. As a driven perfectionist, that can be difficult. But, if you learn anything from this article, it's the importance of being patient and putting your "mistakes" into perspective.

The pain of the new

Starting out as a recruiter at EA after leaving legal practice was painful.

I left my family and friends in Brisbane and moved my life to Sydney, where I knew almost no one. I left a job I had worked and studied hard for, to start in an industry I had never imagined I’d work in. At no point did I ever see myself becoming a recruiter. It hurt to leave my family and friends and to give up on private practice. I felt sick about all the hard work I felt I was walking away from. All the status wrapped up in how I thought I would be perceived, how I saw myself, and what I thought was expected of me. But just like starting out in anything new, I did it for my own reasons and for the promise of something better.

Doing basic research sucked. Cold calls sucked even more. Working for someone who watched my screen all day was horrible. Making placements and not being paid a commission when I really needed the money hurt the most. It was a steep learning curve. As much as I could see the results coming, it was still hard to believe it when I felt sore every day. I made it out the other side, but it was a serious challenge.

In some ways, I dodged that hurt with practice. A big part of Beyond Billables is to acknowledge that sometimes you need to see things through. For me, I could have spent more time as a lawyer. I could have recognised that the things that hurt were actually growing pains. And, yes, I did tap out a bit earlier than I should have. I don't regret it - I made the most of what I had in front of me - but I could have tried a different angle, had I been more self-aware.

Patience

What it boiled down to was learning to be patient and accepting that with change comes short-term pain. It’s summed up in one of those annoying quotes about nothing coming easily and how it will only make you stronger.

I hate those sayings. I want things to come easy. But they don’t. So, learning to be patient and embrace the pain as a necessary evil helped make things better.

There are lots of ways to mitigate it as well.

Finding an outlet where you can express your hurt positively is important. For me, that meant re-engaging with sport as a means to finding something positive. For others, it might mean checking in with friends or taking some time for yourself. It doesn’t deal with the underlying issue, but an outlet is the first step in gaining clarity when you are hurting.

The physical act of doing something new can also be a great catalyst for making a change in other parts of your life. New experiences give us confidence, open our minds to possibility and encourage our better selves. The great thing about sport and fitness is that there is a real reason for this. The reason being the magic chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.

Mistakes hurt

Everyone makes mistakes and pays a price while learning anything new. In work, it usually means you have to suck up your pride, take your medicine and get better. On the mats, it means you have to see it through and embrace the learning.

I made some big, stupid mistakes when I started out as a lawyer. Nothing too embarrassing, but I didn’t understand the environment and made life harder for myself by trying to impress. Learning to be patient and taking your time to pick up skills is critical in practice. I wanted to do things quickly, knock over the problem and move on to the next thing. This was a problem in a profession driven by 6-minute fragments of time and the ability to bill for them. It also led me to be a bit impetuous, in that I rushed through my work and made silly little mistakes. Usually, they were minor editing mistakes, but they annoyed people nonetheless.

When I first started running, I went too hard too soon. I went from running 5km to 10 km in two weeks and wound up with stress fractures in my feet. I was impetuous again and so I paid the price. When I returned to running, I increased my distance by no more than 10% a week. It required patience, but I subsequently went from 5 km to completing my first half marathon. For me, it’s a good reminder that, no matter how big the goal is, my approach determines my ability to withstand the pain points along the way.

Self-awareness and "Long-term injury"

Sometimes we work through the initial hurt and realise that we have a "long-term injury" and need help. That could mean changing jobs, leaving practice, or putting in place a strategy to deal with it.

It's hard to be self-aware in a vacuum. I didn't have the mentoring I needed to help me realise whether I was being impatient or needed to make a change. At Beyond Billables, we aim to help you reflect, give you options to consider, and empower you to take action. Everyone is different. Every pain point is different. But through action, creation, exploration and reflection, you can find your own way to ease the pain.

The take-home

The thing is, everyone has very similar pain points in work and life. For me, there’s been a revelation in recognising that you are not alone in the hurt. In fact, it’s pretty normal and you just have to get through it. Lots of people start Jiu Jitsu, feel sore, pick up an injury, and call it quits. Lots of people go through the same hurt in a new job, don’t see it through and end up as unhappy as they were before.

  • Starting new things can hurt. Sometimes it’s meant to hurt. Sometimes we make it worse than it needs to be.
  • Try to be patient and give yourself time to work through it.
  • New things result in mistakes happening. Learn to manage them.
  • Look for an outlet to help you deal with change, re-engage with your physical, creative or social self.
  • You’re going to get wet if you want to swim. I’m not sure why martial arts had to teach me that but some of us are physical learners I guess!