It’s an unusual thing, to go from being responsible for the lifes – and lives – of 30 men, to being responsible for just yourself. Initially, for everyone in that position, I think the sensation is one purely of relief, of that pilgrims burden being taken off your back as you no longer have to be aware of what others are doing, how they behave, how their lives are going and how their careers are. Whilst responsible for people – in any field, not just the military – the tension of it never leaves you, no matter where you are. At any moment, the possibility is open that one of them may get in trouble, have an accident, do something stupid or otherwise need your attention. And you are responsible, you have to drop whatever you were doing, whatever time of the day or night, and get to where you need to be to help (or scold!) that person. So when that feeling leaves you, you always feel a little like you’re floating.
For some, it just ends there, a stressor gone. But for others, a slow creeping sense of something missing can grow in the space that tension used to live in. Partly, that sense of being needed, necessary, can be very validating.- instant meaning in your life! So for those people, when it goes, they inevitably feel somehow unnecessary. For others, it can be the significance of the responsibility, or the power it implies and contains. But for a lot of us who have had that experience and then finished, it’s simply the camaraderie; the feeling of family it brings to have these people there for you can be tremendous, because it isn’t a one way street. Just as you have to be there for them, they will always bear that debt in mind, and look out for you as well. As the leader of a group of people, they want you to be significant, successful, because they like you and because it reflects on everyone.
There’s no real way to get that feeling back without being in that situation, and really it becomes more like nostalgia over time, a thing that is always better when viewed from the far side, than it is whilst it’s occuring. But there are always ways of recapturing the feel, if only for an evening. It was always put to me that the simple test of whether someone had leadership material was whether they were the sort of person who people would go to the pub with. And I don’t mean, did they organise the evenings (organisation being merely management) but did they inspire you to get out and go out and have a good time; did you look forward to being in their company? I like to think I have that, at least when I’m on form(!) and I love the variety of places to go out in New York.
One of my absolute favourites is a place called Fat Cats down in the West Village. It’s another great example of what the US does so well, that is almost impossible to find in the UK, a great fun bar with all kinds of activities going on around. My pool has improved dramatically since getting to NYC, and I love playing at Fat Cats, with a real buzz around because it isn’t just pool; they have a band – live music is a novelty for me, and that is sad – and it’s always playing something fun and upbeat. Even if you just want to chill out, they have cards, chess drafts and Backgammon – another personal favourite. I got good at Backgammon in the Middle East, and I defy anyone to beat me best of 5 or better! As with anything, you should always try and get a student coupon discount, there are plenty to be found (there’s one below!)
Practice a little leadership yourself, rouse your friends to go do something specific, and have a good time of it. It’s great going out, it’s really better when everyone is having fun because of what you did.
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