Bringing the midwestern work ethic to the southwest
I've lived in Arizona, and briefly in California, all of my adult life. I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and have been amazed at how far my "midwestern work ethic" has taken me professionally in the southwest and how much it has harmed my nervous system.
Yeah, I could probably relax a bit. My friends who grew up in Phoenix, or Los Angeles, see me as a bit maniacal. I grew up in a neighborhood where it was expected of every decent person to have their sidewalks shoveled no later than 10 am, that sort of thing. If you've lived in Minneapolis, you know what I mean. In fact, one of the things that I fell in love with in Arizona and California was the more "laid back" approach to life.
I know that my friends back east picture me either with a sombrero, or maybe carrying a surfboard, but I still have a lot of "midwest" in me. And being that way has been a blessing, and a curse, for me living in Arizona and California.
Something that I've seen all of my adult life in California and Arizona is a lack of what I call "follow through". To my little midwestern brain, it's unthinkable that I would fail to get back to someone, or not show up, or to show up late. And while it's been great for my career, it has made me get annoyed very quickly with behavior that's perfectly natural for the "more laid back" people.
Like a good little midwestern person, I'm always at appointments early, I always call people back, I always reply to my emails quickly. Yeah, I worry a lot. And when I do fail, I really let it bother me a lot. A lot! My California and Arizona friends often describe me as "twitchy".
If you've never lived anywhere except the southwest, this cultural difference would be, of course, invisible to you. If you grew up back east, chances are this kind of stuff makes you crazy. I've seen some funny stuff done by comedians who have moved to Los Angeles and have tried to get things done, because it takes forever. I learned to ask, and set reminders, and remind again, and ask how they're coming along, and over and over. When someone does show up, and does follow through, I embrace them, and they're on my team, getting my business in the future, and my recommendations.
There really is a cultural difference between the midwest and the southwest. Whether it's good or bad depends on your point of view. I like living somewhere that has a more laid back attitude, so I love California and Arizona. As a professional graphic designer, I learned to search out people who would get the job done, and I've kept them. For people who call and say, "uh... sorry, dude, can't make it..." I just smile and let them go. In a way I'm jealous of them - they don't worry so much!
Image at the top of this post: Downtown Phoenix in 1949, a sleepy little town.
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Posted by Brad Hall