Falling out of love with your work
“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”
– Carlos Castaneda
How times have changed.
When I started work the path was clear: get a trade, master your craft, save for retirement (aged 60ish), retire, and live out your dreams until death (20 years or so later).
It’s a bloody mess…
Oh sure, you want a linear path and as much time as possible not to have to work, but the sad truth is that we now spend more time at work and thinking about work than we do anything else (it seeps into every crevice of our lives).
Is it any wonder, therefore, that people end up hating their work?
Up until 2010, I too was in this position.
To be clear, I still enjoyed the practice of law, but I hated the way the legal profession had created this monolith where profit was the apogee of everything I did — if it didn’t contribute to the draw of each partner, it was disregarded or, at best, there was gobs and gobs of lip service doled out.
But law is not unique. There are hundreds of jobs where personal development in all its glory is suppressed, and in some cases killed dead.
Perhaps I’m a lone voice, but whenever I see one of those nauseating posts about differentiation or brand awareness or something even less memorable, I can’t help chime in and say something along the lines: “Are you serious? The only differentiator is your people.”
I know what people think.
“Oh, there he goes again.”
But I’m serious. In fact, it’s the only reason I do what I do; namely to awaken everyone from their soporific stupor that’s led them to lead a shadow existence.
Some people try to combat the fatigue by job hopping but it never works. Others just grin and bear it. Others are miserable all the time (and I mean…all…the…time.)
At this point part of me wants to offer some pithy advice but I’ll refrain from doing so. In truth, only you can decide what you should do. You might suck it up or accept that this period will pass. But, as someone who did both, the reality is that the system will conspire against you not just because it will but because too many people are invested in the nonsense pyramid structure to provide them with what they want.
In my case, I (eventually) cut the Gordian Knot when I decided that my life was more important than constantly trying to please a slew of people. In the end, I reasoned that no matter how hard it might be to go it alone, I owed it to my higher self and my family not to continue to rail against the system and act on all the amazing creative ideas that had lain dormant for the previous 20 years.
And so I leapt.
In hindsight would I have done anything differently?
I would have got out a lot sooner.
The thing is there’s no perfect storm and sometimes you have to summon the Gods, brace yourself and follow the Invisible Path wherever that leads you. Oh sure, if you can squirrel away some money as a buffer between you and the worry of not paying the bills then great but if you give yourself too big a buffer you won’t give it your all. You’ll end up in research mode as opposed to tactics/execution warrior.
One thing I would caution against is throwing away the career capital that you’ve built up. Even if you never want to do the same job ever again that doesn’t mean you haven’t built up some transferable and marketable skills. In this regard I would highly recommend that you read Cal Newport‘s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. If nothing else it will provide you with the reassurance that what you’ve learned and practiced isn’t in vain.
I accept that for some people work is just that but I’d be amazed if many employers are prepared to countenance someone who’s fanatically disengaged to simply turn up and do the minimum. What they want is a turned on, engaged member of staff, and when they don’t get it they’re likely to go elsewhere.
For my part, I believe work should coalesce with the genuine, authentic you. If it doesn’t then don’t allow your restlessness to drive you mad but do something…and now.
PS. Here’s a great talk of Seth Godin that you may find helpful.