A Competitor's Dilemma.
by Jennifer Sey
I've been advised by the powers that be at work that I need to consider “moving geographies.” What they mean by this is that I need experience in another country, another region of the world, if I am going to ascend the ranks in a global organization.
I have extensive experience in the US market. But I have not lived and worked abroad. In today's global marketplace, experience in an “emerging market” such as China, India or Brazil is indispensable. I am only recently in the ranks of junior executives that would need to commit to a major move such as this to make the cross over from “junior” to “senior”. When I was recently confronted with the question – Would you consider moving to Shanghai? - I stopped dead in my tracks because I had to seriously reconsider my general approach to work and life as a whole.
Here's what my approach to life has been so far: Go! Keep going and going and going until I can't go anymore. If they say, “Jennifer, you're simply not qualified,” I prove that I am. I set goals that feel somewhat out of reach and then accomplish them. And I set the next one before I've even gotten to the first. If someone suggests, “You're simply not ready!” I use that to spur me forward, to prove them wrong. It lodges itself in my belly and creates a manic energy and drive that makes it impossible for me to give up until I've won, thus dislodging the skepticism (theirs and mine) from my gut. I am competitive. It is blinding. I never question whether or not I want “to win”. I just throw myself headlong into the game. And expect to win eventually, if only by attrition. It is not others I seek to beat; in fact, I rarely consider the others that might be playing. It is only myself I want to trounce.
Does this make me crazy? Maybe a little. But only to people who aren't intensely competitive by nature. To those of you out there that are competitive to the core, you understand what I'm talking about. Is it a self-destructive impulse at times? Absolutely. But it is the only way I know how to be. And at 40 years old, I've finally learned to just accept it as a truth about myself. I can't yoga or breathe or therapize my way out of it. And oh how I've tried. Not adhering to it is not being true to myself. And creates more physical discomfort than following the go go go path.
So when I am asked by the very most senior executives at my company, “When will you be ready to make the move to another country?” and my gut tells me “Maybe never,” I cause myself serious pause. Because acknowledging that I may never want to move to Hong Kong means I may never want to get to the next level. To go from Vice President to Senior Vice President. It means taking myself out of the game. It means admitting that this is the end of the road for me. It is a white flag of surrender that, to me, has always felt like weakness. I don't view it that way in others, mind you. In others, I view stepping out of the game as having different priorities, as winning by being true to one's own path. Only in myself does it feel like giving up, because it is not the path that feels like mine.