Working for a Living

Most of us have to work 30 or more years, sometimes longer, to reach a stopping point. Over the course of a career we usually have to do a few things we find undesirable, different from the drudgery or usual difficulty of overwork, difficult customers or challenges of learning new software systems.

I’ve written before about why people generally leave jobs.  Sometimes it is for career advancement, relocation or the need for a lot of money.  Research shows that it is usually because of the boss.  It could be due to reduced hours or because of bad co-workers or a lousy work environment.

The boss doesn’t have to be a tyrant or sexual harasser for someone to leave.  The boss could just a poor leader or uninterested in supervising effectively.   Bad leaders can also be very nice people, which makes it more difficult to decide to leave, but eventually, even the most loyal people will, if they have another opportunity.

I have watched a lot of people leave organizations.  Some go towards something else but others escape.

In my career I have quit two jobs without having another job lined up.  That was called escaping.  Truth: I quit the same organization twice.  It was both the best and worst place to be.

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No job is perfect, at least I’ve never heard of one.  Some people love their jobs completely and I think part of that is loving what they do and their dedication to helping others.  Most jobs have their good and bad points.  Like anyone else, we tolerate the not-so-good, and enjoy the rest.

Lately, I have seen some longtime employees leave under a dark cloud of disappointment. Since we don’t do legit exit interviews, we won’t really learn much.  At the other end, I have watched many new employees fail to gain traction, either by their own disinterest, or jump to something appearing greener somewhere else.  In part, we may have not helped these folks, or rather we could not reach them, and they left in less than a year.

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Until my 50s, I considered work a lot of who I am.  I deferred to my work life.  Not a great decision but one I made. It did not cost me my health but it impacted relationships and the pursuit of a more balanced life.

In the past decade or so I’ve stopped chasing the carrot and pushed some of my lofty goals aside.  In our 50s we are driven to run that leg of the race faster and harder, to make as much money as possible and to grab harder at the brass ring.  Time is running out and opportunities are going to younger people.

About a year ago, a guy that I’ve known since second grade told me that the 50s was the time to grow his business and make a mountain of money.  I applaud him for the drive and success, but I’ve seen that kind of course kill other people.  Ironically, another childhood friend, who is also friends with this other guy from second grade, recently died from an aggressive cancer.  He didn’t work himself to death but he had bad health habits and didn’t realize their was a time-bomb in his chest.  Each of us have our own road.

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In these past few years I’ve slowed my pace and moved to an outer lane, to let the sprinters go by. Work smarter. It is not coasting, just adjusting the pace and the distance.  Work the job, just don’t let it work you.


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