I’m hunched down lower behind the wall. My line of vision puts me right in the range I am targeting but I am inconspicuous enough not to be seen. My blood is pumping faster and I can begin to hear it in my ears. I engross myself in what’s in my hand so I don’t look quite so obvious or on edge.
My cover was blown ten days ago. But somehow I’m not exiled yet. I didn’t have a choice; I was about to take the ultimate risk. And I needed to secure my escape. It isn’t known to all personnel. Only those who need to know. It’s only a matter of time before the entire operation comes to a screeching halt and my future will hang in the balance of both the estimated and unforeseen.
There’s something insidious about leaving a corporation. Particularly when it’s a common assumption that once you sign on, you’re there until your career is over. People are drinking the Kool-Aid over here, that’s for sure. They hook you with that employee stock. I began to refer to whatever is in your account balance for that portion of your compensation by the end of the six-year vesting period “the price of your soul.” And I don’t think that’s far off. Especially for what I do.
Interviewing for another job while working full-time at a large scale company is the most privileged, first-world, non-lethal form of espionage an American can engage in. You develop a cover story for those who would not like the truth. You place your trust in a few individuals to ensure your security, most likely other people who would do exactly what you’re trying to if they were in your shoes. It feels sneaky, slimy, and back-stabbing. And yet, I am sorry for none of it.
There’s a strain of this trait in most of us. We may not like to talk about it, but it’s there. It’s a part we tap into when we don’t want to state our intentions out right. All the while, we are more focused than ever on achieving our goal. It’s the part that’s kind of selfish, sort of devious, but so pleased with itself.
Ambition is seen by some to be a negative. It leads people to “walk over others” to get what they want. People operate not on feelings of consideration, but drivers purely of self-interest. It may be an unpopular opinion, but it’s one of my favorite traits about myself. I aim high. I do not doubt myself. I simply evaluate how willing I am to get to the place in question.
Ambition makes people into warriors. Maybe for themselves, maybe for others. More often than not, it turns them into both. It instills this fearlessness. I wouldn’t say it’s true that these people have nothing to lose. But they are fully aware that they can achieve anything if they are willing to fall flat on their face trying. Who else can you bet on if not yourself? And if you don’t think you can, then that’s part of your problem.
With my age, I can be seen as cocky, or arrogant. People have called me cavalier, or impulsive. I’m a zealot of sorts for Malcolm Gladwell. Not only his novels, but his contributions to my favorite publication, The New Yorker. As someone who was born on the East Coast and raised by savvy Wall Streeters, I think it’s fair to say I was born with this instinct. My most recent re-read was his novel Blink. He describes the usage of snap judgements; where they can go horribly wrong, but also where they’ve been brilliantly right. I had a snap judgement about my job about three months ago.
I went to Akron, OH for a period of approximately thirty hours for a project I had never been involved in, due to a flighty decision by a questionable upper-management personnel that “someone from construction had to be there.” I was notified I had to leave with about four hours’ notice. I had to find a dog-sitter for my pit bull/Boston terrier mix immediately. I had no knowledge of the scope of the project, or knew anything about the work that the project entailed, which was chemical plant refinery construction. I was not notified I would be spending most of the day in zero-degree wind chill weather. In the course of those thirty hours, I got a horrible cold with a 104 degree fever, I lost my wallet and my apartment key, and was leaving the next day after my return to drive 8 hours back home for Christmas. I remember so clearly sitting in my rental car on the way home from the job site, “Why the hell am I doing this to myself?”
That instinct of a warrior, of a survivor, said get out. No project is worth this. No client is worth this. No career is worth this. No sense of sanity is worth this. I am worth so much more than this. And I went with it. I like to say to people with a lot of how my life has gone that “I’m just going with it. When I don’t like it, I’ll go with something else. It’s all I can control at this point.”
It’s that instinct of the subjective definition of survival that drives people to want more. I’m not sorry for it. Hell, it’s what has got me what I’ve wanted with my life so far. And I don’t know about you, but there are very few things in life worth being afraid of. Especially anything blocking the way of whatever it is you want. You’re strong enough for it. You’re worthy enough for it. So go get it.