Sustainability: The Key to Understanding Me

Life is filled with those little a-Ha! moments.  My most recent a-Ha! moment occurred in a meeting with my boss.  She related to me a story about her last job.  During the story, she raised the question:

What makes you happy?

I feel like I’ve been asked this question before. And, I’m pretty sure I’ve come up with all sorts of answers.  However, in this context, she was talking about work.  In my professional career, what makes me happy? Within seconds of her raising that question, my brain fired off all sorts of ideas and thoughts.

It was then I realized what makes me the happiest is sustainability.

I like building systems, processes, procedures, what have you.  I like knowing that I’m creating something that will not only work but will last.  In that a-Ha! moment, I realized that’s how I’ve operated for most of my life.  If it doesn’t work or something is ineffective, I either discard it or modify it to make it work.

As such, I think of all the resources at my disposal: time, energy, people (and their particular sets of skills).  How do I make these things work for me to create something that will last?  Couple that with my tendency to quickly assess what skills people bring to the table and assigning tasks that play to people’s strengths.

How did I not know this about myself?

Other simple truths I’ve realized as a result: I’m not always the “ideas person” but I can turn that idea into a workable, customizable model.  I think when I realized that, there was an internal sigh of relief.  Sure I have ideas about things but that’s not where I expend my energy.  That’s not my strength.  And, there’s nothing wrong in admitting that.

One of my favorite quotes growing up comes from Irish dramatist  George Bernard Shaw:

“You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never                  were; and I say ‘Why not?'”

I mistakenly thought that this ‘why not?’ was my raison d’etre.  Turns out it isn’t.  You have the people that say ‘why not’ but my question is how?

How do I do it?

How do I make it work?

How do I make this sustainable?

That’s the question that drives me and pushes me further.  I credit my long-view thinking to my archival brain and my history-centered heart.  What will people remember about me? What will I leave behind?

How does what I do positively benefit other people and institutions?

I look back on my somewhat short career and I think on those things that still exist.  A project I started that paved the way to another project.  Or a social media strategy that is still in use today.  I look back on those things with a sense of pride.  I did that.  And in doing that other people benefit.  If it benefits just me, then I’m not as fulfilled unless others are reaping the benefits.

The question I pose to you dear reader is what makes you happy?  What drives you?

Understand that and you understand the key to who you are.



About Ashley S

I'm an archivist!
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3 Responses to Sustainability: The Key to Understanding Me

  1. Pingback: Gifts and the gift | NixoNARA

  2. nixonara says:

    Wonderful post, LOVE your insights and candor! Inspired me to write about what we do and why! You are featured, among others I admire. Thanks for continuing to be a bright light for me.

  3. Pingback: In Defense of Outreach – Ashley D. Stevens

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