If someone were to ask me which of my skills I use most often I would say my ability to translate communication. And I don’t mean from Japanese to English. I mean from operational to visionary. From technical to creative. Often from male to female. Always from mind to heart.
I am on the Board of a regional organisation that controls a substantial devolved budget from Central Government. Those meetings are a constant process of translation for me and at first I wondered why I left them so exhausted. I have to translate the language of other Board Members back into my own, work out how I want to respond, and then translate my native tongue back into their language before I speak. All the while ensuring I keep listening and translating to others so I don’t miss anything. As well as the fact the majority of the Board Members are male, it is also a translation from corporation to entrepreneur. From practical to creative. I am everything the rest of the Board is not. And that is both exhilarating and exhausting.
This week I have been asked to input into an important Green Paper going to Government. Last night I went through the first draft of our written response and filled in my thoughts and emailed it back. But this morning, going about my daily life, new thoughts kept coming to me. And so I kept emailing. I was sending my thoughts to two members of the Executive team and not the whole Board but three emails later I started to wonder if I had done the right thing. Surely it would have been better if I had waited to send my first email and compiled a logical, practical, corporate response.
Maybe it would have. But I have to accept that is not me. And I hope what I lack in corporate style I compensate for in passion and enthusiasm. There is never a clean resolution to any problem. Solutions constantly evolve as problems do. And as any creative thinker will tell you, the spark of one idea leads to another leads to another leads to another. And before you know it the room is alight with ideas. But that is not enough. One or two ideas need to take root to become something. That spark will go out if it fails to become something tangible people can see and hear and touch. It needs to reach points of completion along its journey of evolution. A spark needs to become a permanent light source in order to make a step change to people’s lives.
They call me the passionate pragmatist. I like that title a lot. For me it’s about knowing when to be pragmatic and when to be passionate. About knowing how to flex between my mind and my heart. And this is no easy task. Often one will get neglected. Usually my heart. And then emotion comes out in an uncontrolled and unexpected explosion. At the wrong place and wrong time. And the damage that can cause takes a lot of energy and patience to repair. Believe me, I speak from hard lessons learnt. So my response this time has been a burst of emotion and passion, but a controlled one. Three idea emails. Three emails full of sparks. Followed with a request for a meeting to see if one of those sparks might actually become a permanent source of light.
Once a spark becomes a light and that light begins to burn, I can start looking for new sparks. Because seeking new sparks is what makes me happiest. Yet the pragmatist in me knows I need to remain mindful that the newly burning light will need a new source of fuel if I want to remove myself completely. And I need to remove myself. Because I only have so much fuel. And there are so many sparks.
That’s why I translate. Because if I spent all my time talking to people like me there would only be sparks and no permanent light. I need to identify the operational, practical, corporate people best placed to keep the lights burning. Else we will all freeze in darkness …