Attached to my keys is a keyring, purchased when I lived in America. It reads Failure is not an option, and I referred to it throughout my part-time PhD and during my APC. Whilst it appears to be useful motivation, reading it is very different to really believing it, but read it enough and this starts to change.
If you’ve ever watched Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove (or indeed Tom and Jerry) you’ll know that later in the film the character Kronk faces a moral conflict depicted by his conversation with his Shoulder Angel and Shoulder Devil. I often imagine my own inner critic as my personal shoulder devil, persuading me that failure is very much a reality and to therefore avoid anything with the potential for failure – but if we all did this, we wouldn’t push the boundaries of knowledge, innovation and society.
We are often our own severest critics, something I know from personal experience. During the Sisterhood Summit, Marion Ellis discussed the concept of the inner critic with Jess Baker, something I’d been previously been discussing with my twin. For me, Jess Baker’s conversation couldn’t have been better timed.
As surveyors we often forget or are unwilling to announce or celebrate our achievements. Perhaps we consider it as ‘Business As Usual’ and as ‘part of the job’. Or maybe it’s the ingrained British culture of ‘not blowing one’s own trumpet’. My time in the United States was a complete contrast to this, where people were actively encouraged to celebrate their successes – no matter how small. As a British introvert this was excessively uncomfortable. However, being immersed in this culture – and with some practice, this began to feel strangely normal. But such things take continual practice, and several years living back in the UK, this skill had gathered dust and was covered in cobwebs. My inner critic was shining whilst my ‘American self’ was in deep hibernation.
This summer I made a decision – to begin practicing. I wanted to take control of my inner critic and reflect on my achievements. It was uncomfortable, the skill feeling rather clumsy. As part of this, I decided to self-nominate for the Young Surveyor of the Year Award having attended and been inspired by the 2017 Awards. Not only are we best placed to know what our achievements are, but engaging with such awards is an excellent way of helping us to reflect on these achievements.
When I sat down to write my self-nomination, I found it easier to think of it as a way of promoting the profession but I felt entirely lost about where to start. Luckily the form and its questions were structured in such a way as to guide individuals through. Once I started, however, I found I easily ran out of space against the word limit.
What I learnt from the process is that the concerns of my inner critic need re-framing. Had I listened to my inner critic rather than to the encouragement of some of the inspiring individuals around me, I wouldn’t have entered. Had I not entered I wouldn’t have been pleasantly surprised to be shortlisted. I don’t consider myself particularly unusual as a surveyor, but I take joy and pride in what I do and having an opportunity to express this is essential. The process also highlighted the importance of other people and teams – none of us can achieve successes without the contributions and support of others, in the workplace, at home and everywhere in between. We can’t go it alone.
As surveyors, many of us recognise the RICS motto of Est modus in rebus– ‘there is measure in all things’. Having started a little late at my senior school, I had the fortune or misfortune (depending on your point of view!) of not having to attend Latin classes. Regardless, I think that perhaps we need to better understand how this motto relates to ourselves. Are we able to fairly measure ourselves in relation to our performance, both in terms of our successes and failures? I think we can, but we need to starve our self-doubts but to be realistic and avoid distortion. Further, by increasing the visibility of ourselves and our achievements we have the opportunity to become role models – something that is important in recruiting the next generation of talented individuals to the profession, and thus promote the profession.
Est modus in rebus – I hope that the measure of my achievements past, present and future help to inspire others and shine a light on the profession. But also where such achievements are recognised as just one part of a much wider whole, where that whole is greater than the sum of its parts.