Local Government Passion and You

Posted on February 21, 2019

Little Creek to River

Right Now w/ Joey Garcia (LinkedIn / Twitter)

What I’m Reading – Are Prisons Necessary, by Angela Davis 

What I’m Binging – The Expanse

What I’m Cooking – The Fluffiest Buttermilk Pancakes

Getting through the Low

I have recently proposed a number of new initiatives that been shot down immediately or politely “considered”. My ideas have been too grand or not in line with our culture of how we do things in Torrance. It is not “The Torrance Way”. After a series of small successes, it feels even more defeating because I was allowed to push forward new policies and tracking systems on a smaller basis but larger more ambitious ideas are tabled due to staff capacity and anticipated funding needs. The justifications are not wrong, but they feel short sighted and difficult to accept. It is too easy to stop a new project in the tracks “due to funding”. There is always money, it’s just about priorities.

I also recently experienced a death in the family that has made me reevaluate my own priorities. Basically, it has been one of those times where you take a closer look at the usual job boards and look for the greener grass.

I am passionate about public service and like many ELGL members, I strive to continually use our resident’s money in the best way possible and always improve the way the deliver those services. (you know, the basic stuff) If that wasn’t enough, I actively encourage people to work in local government and help them find joy in it; there is a always a job for you! When my own passion starts to waver, I get especially guilty and conscientious of my actions.

Following your passion can take a toll:

  • To everyone else who has not found their passion in local government, it is just a job. Some people are not looking to push our profession forward, they have other priorities and they are not going anywhere.
  • It can be easier for other people to take advantage of your passion and front load your work with projects that are difficult to turn down. Saying no is hard.
  • It can be damaging to your psyche if you are not supported to make that change.

I came across a recent Stanford study on finding and pursuing your passion that resonated with my current feelings.

In a series of laboratory studies, former postdoctoral fellow Paul O’Keefe, along with Stanford psychologists Carol Dweck and Gregory Walton, examined beliefs that may lead people to succeed or fail at developing their interests.
“Mantras like “find your passion” carry hidden implications. They imply that once an interest resonates, pursuing it will be easy. But, the research found that when people encounter inevitable challenges, that mindset makes it more likely people will surrender their newfound interest.
In an experiment, the researchers piqued students’ interest by showing them an engaging video about black holes and the origin of the universe. Most students were fascinated.
But, then, after reading a challenging scientific article on the same topic, students’ excitement dissipated within minutes.”

Finding your passion in Local Government does not come fully formed. It is nurtured, cared for, and encouraged. There is growth to your passion that makes you stronger and makes you more likely to push through the challenges.

I think back to a few words of encouragement that will forever stay with me and continue to push me. (edited for privacy and broader adoption)

Part of doing something new and different is the risk of “failure.” (And I put that word in quotes because coming up short isn’t a failure.) We are introducing a new way of doing things in local government. And with that newness, comes some risk. And we’re feeling that right now. It’s icky and uncomfortable, but it has happened EVERY SINGLE TIME we try something new.
This uncomfortableness is worth it:
1. You’re doing something that would NEVER have existed in local government.
2. You’re introducing concepts that don’t have a voice in local government.
3. All of this with a budget that is fair, equitable, and attainable.
Look at that list and remember that you’ve created something that needs to exist in local government.

I often remember reading this email for the first time. I remember how difficult that period seemed and how I currently feel like I’m way over my head. Whether you’re getting your wet feet in local government or facing a difficult challenge once again, push through. It is worth it. Nurture your passion for Public Service. Find those who support you, and remember you are not alone.

If you are looking to renew or strengthen your passion, find an ELGL event near you. Write a blog post, host a supper club, volunteer for an event. Don’t forget to register to #ELGL19 to meet all your internet friends in real life. Find your passion. It is worth it.

If you are looking for the next step, read, study and practice Kent’s guide to Finding a Job in Local Government. 

Joey Garcia is a Senior Administrative Analyst with the City of Torrance and he occasionally tweets.


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