Carrying the Weight: Destroy Red Tape

I have come to realize that getting anything done, especially in academia, requires going through a lot of red tape. It can be exhausting and it can feel like constantly swimming upstream. But shouldn’t we get used to the current after a while?

When I go backpacking for long periods of time, I tend to get used to the weight of my 40 pound pack. On one particularly long trip, I even missed the weight when I got back home.

All of the extra burdens and things that we perceive as “added stress” might just take some getting-used-to. I’m not saying that red tape should be the way of the world, I am saying it is. So we can either keep bitching about it as we all do or we can sling the weight onto our backs and keep moving.

I like to think of my role in most jobs as “professional red tape destroyer“. I was once trying to schedule an outdoor concert on campus during a busy admissions week and, after much persistence, was issued a cease and desist by the scheduling office. But, since I have been carrying the 70 pound weight of University bureaucracy for years, I was not deterred by this momentary increase in upstream current. I tracked down the admissions office and offered to hold my concert in conjunction with their event and they happily allowed me some space in the quad.

Getting used to a burden is easy but the tricky part is dealing with increases in weight. It always sucks to resupply food on a backpacking trip because my pack weight nearly doubles. Out on the trail, I really have no choice, I just have to suck it up and keep moving.

The same is true in my professional life. As soon as I think I have the system figured out, there is always something else waiting to make my life hard. When those issues arise, I can give up and complain about it, or I can lower my shoulder into the wind and push back even harder. Most of the time, just like when I’m backpacking, I suck it up and keep moving.

The difference between a burden and an opportunity for personal growth is just mindset. If we can all get used to the weight inherent in our lives and mentally prepare for increases in upstream current, we will all be much happier people.

(image retrieved from


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