Ramblings of a failed manager, and a bonus video

This post is selfish, because it is about I, me, myself, but that’s allowed in blogs, right? I’m in this self-justification mood I sometimes slip into because I want to do so many things but cannot do them all, and I need to tell myself, hey, I’m doing all I can, okay? I tell myself to chill out rather than burn out. And to have hope that others will help if needed.

The trigger for my mood today is an email asking me about my “dementia old age home.” I get such embarrassing emails often: mails asking me about my “day care center” or “respite care center” or other “services” I must be offering, and which a desperate caregiver needs to use. I have to tell them that I’m sorry, I don’t offer any such service. Some visitors who look at this blog and at my Dementia Care Notes site assume there’s an office behind it. That, since there is so much matter on the web-pages, there must be an establishment behind it that offers much more. Offers real stuff, you know.

Let’s begin with the confession, folks. Creating stuff for the website, the blog, the other stuff I put up (articles, videos, presentations) are bulk of what I do. And I participate in various support groups and other online forums. And I spend time learning what I need to keep doing the stuff. That, and responding to mails and the consequent phone support for caregivers; I stay in personal touch with lots of caregivers, pouring out my heart and catching their poured-out hearts, and that takes time. Sometimes people planning to do stuff for caregivers contact me and I share my comments on their plans, or brainstorm with them. But I don’t offer day care or respite care or trained attendants and all that, I only hope others will.

For the curious amongst you, here’s this large enterprise and office that’s behind my work–me, the one person factory. Luckily a Nokia phone camera does not “capture” dust or X-ray the bookshelves packed with fiction and pop-science and other fun reads.

picture of Swapna office      picture of Swapna table

Back to the alleged topic on hand: what I do (or rather, what I don’t but could do). I keep getting suggestions on what more I can do. Like, set up facilities, become advisor to some new venture, write a few books on caregiving. I wonder how many people know how difficult it is to sell a book, and how many months/ years it takes to write a publishable book. I’ve published 7 books, and I’m stocked out of the masochism required to churn out another book.

Most ideas I get are good ideas, some are great ideas– and I value them and mull over each idea I get. Sometimes I change my to-do list to chop out something I was planning to do, and add in an idea someone gives me. But I can’t do all that people suggest; I could probably manage a fraction if I split myself into seven persons (yes, I’m a Harry Potter fan).

As things stand, I keep re-prioritizing and chopping out activities to remain sane. My battle with my to-do list and my want-to-do list is a constant battle that I keep losing…

Problem is, I lack several necessary managerial skills. As this is confession time, here’s an anecdote from the dark recesses of my past.

Over twenty years ago, I was this sincere software analyst who was totally naïve-in-all-matters-managerial, and I got a rather interesting piece of education courtesy a senior consultant: stuff that foretold why I’d never become a successful manager. I was doing freelance consulting for an engineering firm, and my desk was in the hall along with the draftsmen and junior engineers and senior engineers, each doing their own stuff, and one day, this senior consultant found out that an important piece of work had not got done. Slipped through the cracks.

I was on the adjacent table when this gentleman consultant (he had the obligatory paunch and walrus moustache) called all the persons concerned, and started talking.

I was listening, of course 🙂

He said, (nodding his head at one person and then the next and so on)

अरे भाई, आपने  इनसे  बोला  ड्राफ्ट  बनाने  को, और  फिर  इन्होंने  इनसे  बोला, और  इन्होंने  इनसे  बोला  और  इन्होने  इनसे  बोला,  पर  भाई, ऐसे  तो  ठीक  नहीं  है, किसी  लेवल  पर  काम  भी  तो  होना  चाहिए! मैं  तो  मेनेजर  हूँ,  पर  आप लोगों  में  से  किसी  को  काम  भी  तो  करना  होगा.

(rough translation, but it does lose part of the flavor: dear chaps, you told him to make the draft, and then he told him, and he told him, and he told him, but guys, this is not okay. There has to be a level at which the work actually gets done. I am the manager, but someone from amongst you also has to do the work.)

So yes, I’m not a manager because I’m not all that good at moving the work around. Consider me old-fashioned or pathetic, but I end up getting my hands dirty with actual work every time.

And the work is not visible as major work and it’s because of the way work gets noticed in today’s online world.

See, work gets noticed online because of how actively people make it visible. Many people help others by locating relevant sites, videos, pages etc., and then posting about them on Linkedin, Facebook, twitter, various online groups, etc. And that’s marketing, that’s networking, that’s an arena of work by itself, and people do spend hours a day doing that.

Spreading the word is important work. It directly benefits people. Reaching out the right and relevant material to people who will benefit from it takes time, it takes energy, it takes focus.

But in all this bustle of shared links, communities, and what not, we often forget is that at some (way down) level, someone has to actually generate the matter, the pages, the articles, the videos, the blogs and not just link to it. There has to be something to link to 😦

And here is something people often forget: it takes much more time to write an article than to read it or send the link to someone else. What is merely a link for some site visitor was days of work for the creator. And if that creator had not created the site, it would not exist. And if everyone was busy sending links (because that helps) and no one prepared material (because that’s time-consuming drudge work that ends up with less visible output) then there would be more and more people sending links to each other for a smaller and smaller set of pages. Ever so often, people would end up linking back to the same article, because there were so few of them.

At a caricature extreme, it would be everyone linking to nothing all day long 🙂

So here’s my situation: I am mainly into content generation, so my visible productivity is less. Much less. The way I look at it is, I’m this background person making stuff, and I don’t have the time and energy to spread word about it. During my student days, I was quite awful at subjects like marketing, and that skill has remained low all these years.

I need others to do that “spread the word” part for me. If a caregiver finds something I have done as useful, or a volunteer thinks it can help someone, or someone thinks it could be useful to a friend or relative or colleague, I hope they will send the link or pass the word in whatever way they can. Maybe they can even add a link to their blog or site… instead of assuming that I will do the spreading around. Getting publicity is not my skill, that is not what I spend my energy in. I am not good at it. Nor am I the outgoing, risk-taking person who can set up facilities and services.

The world needs all types, and I’m the failed manager happy in my nook at home, busy at the keyboard, or reading books. For the receiving party, the utility is the same whether the person sending the article is the author of the article or a surfer/ Googler who happened to locate it and thought it would be useful. So long as the world has enough people good at networking, I can be cozy in my corner, working my way 🙂

And I must admit, there’s pleasure in creating something, though maybe that pleasure is like the relief one feels after going up and down some torturous “joy ride” (the joy being all in the relief that it’s done).

As a “bonus” for having made you wade through the rambling above, here’s a short video I had “fun” making. Though the video is just 5 minutes, it took me almost three full, concentrated-work days to figure out how to get it done, explore multiple software packages, use some stuff, discard other things that I figured, learn audio and video editing, and what not. I could have definitely done a better job had I spent a week, but ultimately, for the viewer, it is just a 5 minutes view, so there’s a trade-off.

And while I typically do work in ways so that I have fun doing it (for most part) I do have fun just for fun’s sake, but talking about that’s a different sort of rambling. Maybe later..

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About Swapna Kishore
I'm a writer, blogger, and resource person for dementia/ caregiving in India. I have also been a dementia caregiver for well over a decade, and am deeply concerned about dementia care in India; on this blog I share my personal caregiving journey, my experiences as a resource person for dementia care, and musings on life, aging, dementia in India, and such sundries. More about me and the work I do for dementia care. For structured information on dementia, for discussions, tools and tips on caregiving issues, for resources in India, and for caregiver interviews, please check my website http://dementiacarenotes.in (or its Hindi version, http://dementiahindi.com). For videos on dementia caregiving (English and Hindi), check the youtube channel here.

9 Responses to Ramblings of a failed manager, and a bonus video

  1. Vijaya says:

    Dear Swapna,

    Every post is a treat to read. These are excellent videos. The Hindi animation video is so cool. This must have taken considerable time and effort.

    I believe that you have single handedly out of a small home office done more for dementia awareness than anyone else I know. You rock !!

  2. Rummuser says:

    Swapna, I doff my topi to you again.

    Just an insight to share. All care receivers become very effective managers and inevitably, all care givers become subordinates. Even successful managers, when they become care givers willy nilly become failed managers unless they have access to sensible advisers who first show them that they need to manage themselves, and also manage resources of all kinds to be effective care givers. I speak from personal experience of course.

    Don’t short sell yourself. You are awesome, as is the short video.

  3. shanters says:

    You go girl! More power to you!!!

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