The Crucible, The Sandbox, The Tofu and The Bouillon Cube

Hey I just learned something this week that I want to share with you.

There have been a variety of jobs and environments that have guided me both personally and professionally.

And so far, the environments can be like a crucible or like a sandbox. 

Also, in each job, I have a choice to make–either adopt a persona that matches that of the environment, or one that can help drive change. Both of these personas are like tofu or a bouillon cube. 

Ok…? 

So the reason I point this out is, you can take your career to the next level by considering what kind of environment you’re getting into, and what persona you want to take on.

There are likely more environments or personas than this, and this is admittedly oversimplified.

But here’s a breakdown of the terms:

The Crucible

crucible is something used in metallurgy. It’s a container that is for melting down material into constituents.

In metallurgy, metal is melted down and the stuff you want to get rid of (the “dross”) can be skimmed off the top, leaving you with the refined Good Stuff underneath. Then you can probably pour it into a mold or whatever.

A company that is like a crucible may be very frenetic, fast paced and it will appear risky to join a team or company which performs like that. Companies that are in the middle of a buyout, or are expanding quickly, or have a history of high turnover, fall into this category.

The type of person who can put themselves in an uncomfortable place, and can excel, would do well in a crucible.

People who can take the heat of the crucible will undoubtedly come out awesomer than they were when they went in. They are excellent environments to carve out the kind of experience that happens from having to respond to stressful situations.

The Sandbox

Sandbox! Yay! We all probably know what this is. Kids and some adults who also happen to write testing blogs love playing in these.

Sandboxes offer you the opportunity to explore at your leisure and figure out what does what.

Hey, can I pack sand in this Solo cup and make a castle? How moist does the sand have to be? How tall can I build the castle?

These are questions that can be answered in a sandbox.

A company can also be like a sandbox.

You can learn a ton of stuff in companies that are more stable, and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Companies and teams that offer you the chance to take risks as long as you get your work done are great places to carve out your niche and your personal brand.

They’re also a great place to kinda take a break from a crucible.

Tofu

Tofu is used in food as a source of protein. There are many types of tofu but for the sake of this example, I’m talking about the regular stuff–no extra flavor added.

Tofu will actually take on the flavor of whatever you put it into, particularly soups and stews. It still provides much the same texture as maybe cubes of chicken, but will taste a lot like everything else, so as not to disturb the flavor.

In a similar sense, people who adopt the tofu persona will become similar to everyone else they work with. Good or bad.

Bouillon Cubes

Fun fact: I almost always spell the word “bouillon” as “boullion” and then spell check yells at me. Yep just like that. Red squiggle. For me anyway.

So I have to stop and really peck it out. B-O-U-I-L-L-O-N. This is my kryptonite. There are many like it but this one is mine.

Bouillon cubes are used in cooking as a concentrated flavor enhancer. I’ve seen them in chicken, beef or vegetarian. When you put them in hot water, they make the hot water taste like chicken, beef or vegetarian, respectively.

The same is true of someone who has the bouillon cube personality type. These people can change the flavor of a team, or even a whole company. The entire flow can be changed if the right person has the right influence.

So how do you know where to go and how to act?

Go For a Crucible Job If:

  • You’re ready to get out of your comfort zone
  • You’re bored at your current job
  • Things don’t move fast enough for you

Or Go For a Sandbox Job If: 

  • You’re burned out from a crucible job. It happens, not judging. But I bet you learned a lot!
  • When you need time to try experimental stuff
  • When you need a slower pace or some stability

When To Adopt the Tofu Persona:

  • If the team just needs bandwidth, or
  • They already have a good thing going and just need it continued, or
  • There’s a project in mind that’s being sunset

When To Adopt the Bou… B-O-U-I-L-L-O-N Persona:

  • The team or the company requires a fundamental cultural change
  • They require knowledge and skills that you have that they don’t
  • The team appears receptive to learning new stuff that can get them to the next level

Anyway, hope this helps. Just wanted to pass this along. It’s another dimension that you can use to build your career.

-Fritz

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