I grew up in the western suburbs of Melbourne. A working class neighbourhood filled with working class families.
My friends and I lived within a few blocks of one another and we led a typical early 80s childhood. We would ride our BMXs through the neighbourhood and into the CBD; we'd play DND for 10 hours straight; rock out to teenage boy bands like Metallica whilst secretly gushing at Sheila E's Love Bizarre; we'd watch breakdance battles in our neighbourhood (yes, this is true) and we watched 'Less Than Zero' and 'Breakfast Club' in awe.
They were the 80s and we knew Robert Downey Jnr was cool before he was cool.
They were good years to be young.
My friends and I were tight. We lived in each other's pockets and we truly believed we'd hang out together forever.
Forever early teens. Playing DND and listening to metal whilst secretly playing hip hop in our bedrooms.
I'd see my friends weekly well into my 20s and as our lives became more and more complicated — work, girls/boys, children — we drifted apart somewhat deliberately.
I say 'deliberately' because each of us made the decision to drift our separate ways. We each lit a match to our respective bridges and they burnt ever-so slowly over the years.
We now see each other once a year and yet, every time we meet we're still quite romantic about those early teen years.
This is a microcosm of many professional relationships I've had over the years. Wonderful relationships that came from a place of shared passion, commonalities and like-mindedness.
At times I'm still quite romantic about the professional relationships I've had — the good ones, the bad ones, the ones I ended and the ones that told me 'nope, no more Jimbo, you're out.'
I guess this is normal — to hold a sense of sentimentality about professional relationships.
A little bit of 'what could've been'.
Other times I'm pragmatic and think 'fuck it, move on.'
Being romantic isn't helpful (at least within this context!) it has it's place, but rarely does it move me forward.
And this is where we arrive at the key issue.
Bridges will burn in your career and you will burn them too.
Sometimes they'll burn with brightly coloured flames, loud and violent — argumentative, conflicting stories and you'll walk away from this burning bridge feeling both stressed and anguished.
At a loss as to how the flames started in the first place.
Rest assured, this is normal.
Other times, they'll burn slowly. Small, dainty flames will creep up on you before you even realise there is a fire and will catch you by surprise.
Rest assured, this is normal too.
Sometimes your clients will be the ones holding the match — and other times it will be you.
Throughout your career there will be professional relationships that don't move you towards your goals.
There will be relationships which are going to be friendly and cordial — almost friendships — and they too may take away from you, more than they give. Unequal in balance as far as meaningful relationships go.
These are the bridges worth burning.
Amicably, professionally of course.
For all of the advice that is given to 'not' burn bridges, there is just as much to validate that some just need to be burned, and you must be the one who does the burning.
And be ware that others will burn your bridge too.
It is a reality of a fruitful and purposeful career that you will be fired, people will make small decisions to move away from you and some of your professional relationships will drift.
Yes, be romantic about them, but understand that some people are just not that into you and move on.
May the bridges you burn light the way.