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The Second Emotion

I heard something on the radio while driving in this morning, that caused me to really consider who I am, and what’s going on with me at this stage of life. “Anger is a second emotion. It’s the second emotion. Its origin is usually fear; the first emotion.”

If I had to be totally honest with myself (which at times—if I’m being totally honest—is hard to do), I would say my anger, particularly associated with work, most likely does come from fear.

  • Why do I raise my voice and vent when things go off-plan?

The easy answer is I’m mad that the contractor isn’t doing what the plan(s) instructs. He/she can read just like I can. Why’s it so hard to just build the thing like it says so in black-and-white? I’m going to have to explain his/her actions and rationalize the decisions made in the field. This.Isn’t.My.Fault. That’s the anger. It rears its head on every single project.

But the fear is…deep down, I’m afraid I’ve missed something vital; something not discussed and now I have to work harder to figure out what I feel like I should already know. Did I miss a discussion? Did I miss a detail in the sheet I looked over 12 times? Did I ignore a key component during the meeting? Do I have the right set of plans? I’m afraid of letting down my peers. I’m afraid of being labeled as a fraud. I’m not as smart as others think I am. That’s the fear. And most times, it runs the show.

Sometimes, that fear causes me to take that anger home. It comes out in my attitude toward my wife, or my son. It means restless nights when I should be sleeping. It means second-guessing calculations from the day before. It reminds me of just how imperfect I really am.

But really…that’s okay. Sometimes you give your best efforts and someone will still find fault in those efforts. There is no such thing as perfection in my business. And that’s just it, isn’t it? At the end of the day, we get angry—not at others, but at ourselves—because we want perfection. We can’t control everything, and so things will never be perfect, in spite of our best efforts. If something goes sideways—as things tend to do—my deep fear becomes, “How could I have avoided this?” When in reality, some things are simply beyond my control.

So today, I choose to fight back against the anger; against the fear. I will remember that I do the best I can, and my best consistently proves to be enough. And despite whatever challenges will surface today, my best will be enough.

Because secretly…

I’m batman.   

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