Drinking from the Fire Hose

Years ago a colleague told me that starting a new job is a lot like drinking from a fire hose. You’re like a thirsty person desperately holding on as water pours out with a force and speed you can’t possibly direct into your mouth. There’s more water than you need or can consume, but you can’t drink it. Instead, you’re exhausted, drenched and still thirsty.

I know from experience that the metaphor is ridiculously accurate.

For the last 60 days I’ve been drinking from my own fire hose, learning what it takes to be effective at a new job. I haven’t written a blog post in nearly two weeks because I’m soaked to the bone and weary with stretching my brain and body. Every day there is some new experience to incorporate into my world view. Every day there is another idea to assess. Every day there is a new micro pattern to fit into the macro pattern I’ve built over a 20-year career. Every single day I add more to my to do list than I take away.

And even when I’m not working my brain stubbornly refuses to stop churning in the background. Every time I settled down to write my brain scatters. I get an idea — write one or two paragraphs — and then *bam* a new to do list will form or my thoughts start to segment things into the important or unimportant, urgent or unurgent. I’ve abandoned 10 or more posts including a touching tribute to fathers. (Sorry, dads, it would have been amazing.)

Yesterday, I finally came to the conclusion that the only thing I could write about was this — struggling with the fire hose and loving the fire hose.

Because as much as I am struggling, nothing is more fun to me than learning something new. Yes, I respect and admire people who invest whole careers in becoming the most capable and competent individuals in their field — the ones who make it look easy and are rewarded with lifetime achievement awards and revered as artists in residence. But, that isn’t me, I’m not a master. I’m a journeyman, someone who will never be an expert and will always have something to learn.

I have been fortunate in my career that leadership has supported my desire to learn — they have had faith in my ability to do stuff no matter what stuff it was. Over and over they have handed me the hose and wrenched the hydrant open, trusting that I could handle it and learn what needed to be learned. And this time, like all the others, I am able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can sense things getting a bit easier, I can feel the water slowing and my clothes drying. 

And I can imagine a time when I will be able to write again.