Can roaches really survive a nuclear war?

RoachI’ve been thinking about how hard things have been at work this past year and trying to analyze it to see what I can learn. A year ago, I was given the most difficult writing project I have ever had. The assignment was to work on an extremely high profile product that needed me to do more work in a very short amount of time than ever before. Add to this the following challenges:

  • Working within a new development process that was not designed for writers (our version of scrum) and makes getting my job done much more difficult.
  • Finding time to train a brand new writer while still trying to meet aggressive writing deadlines.
  • Losing that writer due to layoffs just as she was trained and being shorthanded at the worst possible time.
  • Losing the other writer that was helping me at the same time I lost the first writer for five weeks.
  • Being given two new contract writers in Russia that speak English as a second language and needing to train both of them on the product and writing.

I had what I felt was an almost impossible task . More recently, even more bad things have been happening at work that don’t create more work, but make my job a lot less enjoyable. So, what am I to do and how do I survive?

As I was thinking about this, I remember hearing that cockroaches are tough, really tough. So tough, that they can survive a nuclear war. Well, thank goodness for Wikipedia. Here is what it says:

“Cockroaches are among the hardiest insects on the planet. Some species are capable of remaining active for a month without food and are able to survive on limited resources like the glue from the back of postage stamps. Some can go without air for 45 minutes. In one experiment, cockroaches were able to recover from being submerged underwater for half an hour.

It is popularly suggested that cockroaches will “inherit the earth” if humanity destroys itself in a nuclear war. Cockroaches do indeed have a much higher radiation resistance than vertebrates, with the lethal dose perhaps 6 to 15 times that for humans.”

This is amazing. I want to be like a cockroach (not be a cockroach) in my hardiness. However, maybe in a way, I already am. Yes, things have been hard from a work standpoint for the past year, but this past year has also been a great learning experience. I have had opportunities like never before, such as being a team leader, getting to design documentation with more flexibility than I have ever had, training a new writer, and learning to work with non-native speaking offshore writers. So yes, no doubt things have been hard and stressful, but things really have been good along with the hard. I am also looking forward to opportunities to help make our scrum process work better for writers.

If I go back more than a yer ago, things were really bad. I changed managers several times (no one really seemed to want us). This makes it difficult to understand what is expected of you, since each manager has different expectations and values different things. In one case, my manager and I had very different styles. These differences caused a lot of challenges. Eventually, we came to understand each other and even worked OK together, but the style differences made life extremely stressful. During this time, I had plenty of work to do, but my assignments were not overly challenging, I wasn’t given as many opportunities as I wanted to grow,  and I was kind of stagnant. Because of my experience and background, I was shifted from critical assignment to critical assignment. I was flattered to be thought capable of doing this, but it did make things hard (not in a good way). Just as I would be getting a good feel for things and have relationships established with others on the project team, I would change assignments. Those were not happy times and I wondered how or if I would survive the difficulties. At the time, I just told myself, if I just keep hanging on and go from day to day and week to week and month to month, something will change and things will get better. Well, it took a long time for things to get better, but they eventually did. In a way, the cost was high to get what I have now, but I am glad I stuck with it and saw it through the bad times.

Now, I am not saying that it is good to stay in bad situations. Back then, I was looking around for other jobs, but I was in the best option for me at the time. The economy was really bad and there wasn’t a huge demand for technical writers. I know because many of my technical writing co-workers that lost their jobs during that time went months before finding something else, and the something else they found was worse than what they had. So, I tried to pit myself in the best situation I could, but when that best is not so great, I just held on and waited. This situation has brought to mind one of my favorite poems:

“Stick to your task till it sticks to you;
Beginners are many, but enders are few.
Honour, power, place, and praise
Will come, in time, to the one who stays.

Stick to your task till it stick to you;
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it too;
For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life’s victories, after awhile. “

Here is one one my favorite quotes on this subject by Winston Churchill:

“Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”

I guess I can summarize my thoughts by saying that I need to be in the best position I can and if things get rough, ride through the bad times and things will gt better and never give up.


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