HAVE I REACHED MY CEILING?
I remember several years ago, being anxious about a conversation I needed to have. At this point in my life, I was the Creative Director at our church, with no real direction. I was the "idea guy" which in a lot of ways was amazing. My job was essentially going to every meeting I was invited to and giving my "best ideas." Once that meeting was over, I didn't have to do much at all. It was a weird limbo because I was the creative director over our weekend services but not really a director of anything. It was the easiest and most challenging job I've ever had.
My current boss(lead pastor) wasn't my boss at this time a few years back. He was just a friend and my pastor that I had a lot of respect for. At the end of the day, I needed his unfiltered advice and opinion about my future at MISSION. I didn't care if he said I was washed up, I just needed someone to speak some truth into my life. So, after a few attempts to get together, we finally just hopped on a phone call, and I was finally able to get this question off my chest, "have I reached my ceiling at MISSION?" A little silence at the other end, nothing to worry about until I received a response. "Paul..." Never a great thing when someone calls you by name after you've already been speaking for a few minutes. "Paul, do you want the answer you want to hear or the answer you need to hear?" I answered "both" because I didn't want to be that guy who says "just tell me what I want to hear."
Long story short, he told me that no, I haven't hit my ceiling at MISSION(whew) but what I needed to hear was that I was focusing on the wrong thing. Then he asked me a question and challenged me to think differently than I was currently thinking. He asked me if I would be ok if I had reached my ceiling and I honestly couldn't answer that at the moment. Then, he challenged me with this thought. He asked me if I believed the floor could grow from under me and since that moment, I have looked differently at what influence truly means.
I was looking for the fast and easy way of gaining influence. Position, the higher on the ladder, the more influence you have. But do you really? Sure, when you get a promotion, you instantly have a "better" title, more to oversee, more people to lead but this is a fast and easy fix that is far bigger and more complicated than we can imagine. He challenged me to stop looking up through this imaginary ceiling that I had hit. I was tired, my neck hurt, and I could only see in one direction. When he asked me to look at the floor, I began to realize that those I wished to "influence" were around me, below me, they were in every direction and already looking at me for influence. Once I began to see this, the floor started expanding, the walls that I felt so tightly confined in started moving and eventually, without me even noticing the ceiling started to grow above me. So how do you change your focus from the ceiling to the "floor?" Here are a few simple ways I found.
1. Be a learner - Don't be a learner for the sake of getting farther up on the ladder. Be a learner so that you can invest in those around you. Be a learner for the sheer joy of expanding your knowledge of something. Be a learner of something good for you, that supports a passion not just something for your job or "self-help." Take joy in learning and passing it on. This I promise will help you start thinking a lot less about your ceiling and more about helping others break through theirs.
2. Be a connector - I hate connecting for the sake of "connecting." Being a #connectbro is the last thing I want in life. What I do understand is that without connecting, there's no way for me to stop focusing on myself and my situation. Connecting with others and connecting others is crucial for you to experience a fuller and thriving life. Connect with your peers, connect with those who are younger and older and be a connector, someone who is always thinking about who this person you're connecting with would connect great with. That's a lot of connecting, and Grammarly(the editing software I use) isn't happy about it.
3. Invest - This is something that brings the first two together, but spend your time investing in people around you. If you want to stop focusing on the ceiling, you need to spend your time looking around and down. Invest your time and talent in people around you, and you'll experience greater joy than any promotion could ever give you.
At the end of the day, whether you or I want to say it, hitting your "ceiling" is entirely up to you and me. When we start expanding our influence around and down, the ceiling naturally goes up, and we won't even notice.