This week I was faced with listening to someone use the word "rock star" to describe high performers in their organization. I understand the connotation behind this: the multi-platinum albums, the sold-out stadium shows, the cover of music magazines. These are signs of success. But I unfortunately have seen other sides of "rock stars" in my life: the egos that can't be stroked enough, the over indulgence of alcohol & drugs, and the unwavering narcissism. As a result, the positive connotation evades me and I cringe when I hear it.
But the "rock star" moniker is popular with a lot of people. For me, I prefer to say that someone "rocked", or for someone to tell me that "I rock". That connotation relates to a moment in time as opposed to a lifestyle. Because let's face it, I don't rock all the time.
I also don't do anything alone. I am not a singular entity ("rock star") that creates, performs, manufactures, promotes, and distributes everything on my own. I'm part of a team of people. I am one element in a massive interrelated compound of the world in which I live.
And so are you. Even if you live and work on your own, you are also part of a compound. Your home that was constructed with running water and electricity, the road paved outside your street, and the computer you use, are just a few examples that would not exist or continue to exist without other elements outside of you.
This is true where I work too. Even though I work for a small agency, our HR office is a busy consortium of projects. Our office knows its role in the agency and works as an example of leading practices. But I don't do this alone. I can't do this alone. I have an HR colleague in my office that excels in all matters of HR but never stops questioning, "Is there more? Can it be done better? Is this still a 'leading' practice?" That element creates progress and fosters growth in me, our office and in our organization.
I also know that I contribute as an element. But like any element, I am made of particles too. In science, chemical elements consist of one type of atom. An atom is neutrons and protons surrounded by electrons. For me, my atom is made up of books, movies, and music. These three inspire me to create, progress, and contribute.
For example, I just re-read William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White's "Elements Of Style" and I felt recharged as a writer. In the span of 85 pages, everything one needs to know about writing is here. Aside from the grammar rules and stylistic guidelines, there is great advice. My favorite is, "[the writer] must sympathize with the reader's plight (most readers are in trouble about half the time) but never seek to know his wants. The whole duty of a writer is to please and satisfy himself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one."
It is truly a balancing act. As a writer, you write for yourself. But writing is to be read. Reading is decoding. If the writer doesn't adhere to principles of composition, even the writer may not be able to decode what he or she wrote.
Occasionally I have seen that in my own writing. I've re-read posts, or miscellaneous correspondence, and wondered what was I trying to say. Hence, I wondered did the reader understand?
This is why I only "rock" and am not a "rock star". I am not shining brightly all the time. But like an atom or an element, I am spinning constantly. I am facing other elements and forming compounds. Sometimes it forms awesome things like oxygen or water. Sometimes it forms basic but useful things like propane or ethanol.
Elements also form different types of rocks. Igneous rock is formed from the cooling of lava. Sedimentary rock is formed from the accumulation of minerals or organic particles. Metamorphic rock was another type of rock before being subject to heat or pressure.
So if you truly want to rock, think about your elemental state. Are you an element of composition like carbon? Are you an element of change like oxygen? Or are you element of value like gold?
Either way, no rock forms on its own. All are composed of elements. All are an accumulation of time, resources and energy. All are formed by work.
And for those who are about to work and rock_I salute you...