Weekender: Shirley Manson on the Need for Agitation

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Welcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, some debris of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just some debris (versus an entire compost)? Because it’s the weekend!

When I first entered the work world, I remember feeling a constant wave of anxiety. Questions like, “Am I making the right decisions?” and “What more can I do?” kept repeating in my head. I’d been told that a career is not a sprint but a marathon, but there was no way for me to absorb this advice with all the pressure I was putting on myself. Turns out, I wasn’t alone in these sentiments.

In a recent interview, singer and actress Shirley Manson was discussing when she and her band Garbage first achieved fame in the early 1990s.

When I was young, I literally felt scared 24/7. 24/7 I felt anxious and angry and frustrated and all the things that come with being young…It’s a great engine. That’s why young people achieve stuff…I think being chill is so overrated. A sense of agitation is good.

It is comforting to know that an internationally-renowned rock star had a similar experience as many of us. Even more comforting is that this fear can be harnessed to propel us towards success. Manson frames this as a by-product of youth, but it doesn’t have to be.

It is hard to keep the engine stoked, which I am managing to do. I still manage to be enthusiastic and I’m not cynical and I’m not tired or bored. But that is a challenge. How do you keep yourself as stoked as you were when you were young?

Like Manson, many of us aren’t quite in the dawn of our careers. This does not mean were are anywhere near the twilight. For anyone in the in-between, there is a persistent challenge to remain engaged. This cannot come from a supervisor or any other external stimulus. We have to dig deep and find the inspiration within ourselves.

Look for new challenges, new end goals, and new ways to develop and learn. If you aren’t feeling agitated, make yourself agitated. Think of everything you want to accomplish in your career and how little of it you’ve gotten done up to this point. Push yourself just far enough that it is motivating without becoming debilitating. It’s a long way from “being chill,” but it’s better then being stagnant.

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