It Never “Is What It Is”

It’s been a crazy week, everyone. Long days at work, long conversations with new friends, long hours of staring at a blank page and willing words to appear.

The foremost issue weighing on me right now is trying to balance being in an old-school corporate environment with my personal eccentricities. Translated, that means I’m feeling a lot better, so I’m doing more of the things that make me happy and comfortable. My colleagues are none too thrilled to see my personality shining through (this week has been namely my shoes sitting under my desk and me . . . not at my desk).

My therapist put it this way: Richard Branson (whom I admire more than most entrepreneurs) has enough money to do whatever he wants and be considered an eccentric genius. I, on the other hand, am broke and unknown by comparison, so I have to toe the corporate line until I make my mark.

I cannot count the times I’ve heard the line “it is what it is” in the last 17 months. Guess what? No, it really isn’t.

I’m a millennial. I’m people-centered, not profit-centered. I was raised by a society that encouraged everyone to conform to being unique. If I weren’t unusual, if I didn’t push the envelope or toe the line, I wouldn’t be this successful at 23 years old without a bachelor’s degree to my name. This is what is so hard for me to reconcile. How is it that I have succeeded for so long by being different, by standing out, but now they expect me to fit in the corporate box? Do they not realize that the reason they have the things I’ve given them is because I’m different? Why was it alright before, but is so unacceptable now?

Why can’t they see that the girl with hot pink hair during her architecture days is the same girl who scored 100% on her entrance exams into the company? Did they not realize that the reason I moved up in the company was because I was rebelling against a manager who allowed an agent to berate our customers? Do they not understand that the tattoos and the mismatched socks and the cocktail gowns are part of the same person who did detailed analysis of department trends and created the most successful special operations schedules in the last 15 months?

I wrote an 800-word rant about all of this, but decided I like my job too much to post that version online. I’m just frustrated. I know that I am a millennial going up against 81-year-old traditions. I know that I am in an industry that considers profit to be the bottom line rather than customer service. I know that anyone who gets upset that I dare make that statement is denying what the term “the bottom line” means in a corporate environment.

(For those unaware, the bottom line literally means the last line of the corporate income statement, which displays the profit or deficit for a set time period. How unfortunate it is that “the bottom line” doesn’t refer to the customer satisfaction of the services rendered by the company. Remember, money does not guarantee happiness.)

The most frustrating thing to me is the recognition that this incredible corporation literally pioneered automated processing. They took the entire travel network–airlines, travel agencies, hotels–into the future. They created the future five years after the first fully automated digital computer was invented. That is not something done by traditionalists or people who say, “It is what it is.” That is done by dreamers, by the unique ones, by the people who are eccentric and absurd.

So don’t tell me “it is what it is.” Don’t tell me that I have to fit in and do exactly what a hundred-thousand people have done before me. It’s the risk-takers that succeed in this world, that create the future. We, as a team, as a company, as the largest airline in the world, can either create that future or become a footnote in the history books.

And so what if we fail? Every person who has ever made a difference knows that if you do not risk failing, you will never have the opportunity to succeed.

I know there are people who will believe I am out of line to say these things on a public platform, but I love my company. This is the best job I have ever had, but I know we have made mistakes. I firmly believe that hiding behind that mantra of “it is what it is” may be the biggest mistake of all. Our passengers, our crews, our mechanics, our agents, our people deserve the best we can possibly give them.

Thank you for reading.

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