Filling That Career-Shaped Hole

Originally in ForbesMichael Brundage had everything working for him: a great marriage, healthy children and a successful career in commercial real estate. But something—something big, but invisible—was missing, and the result was a depressive streak that led my friend and colleague to pursue therapy.

Then, in the middle of an early session, his therapist discerned the problem, which she immediately shared with Michael: “You hate your job. That’s the problem.”

do-over-cover-2Initially, Michael protested, somewhat confused. He was good at his job—very good—and it paid well, ensuring a more than comfortable lifestyle for his family. Wasn’t that what a job was supposed to be about? Indeed, several generations of Americans have bought into the notion that our work is primarily—if not solely—a means, not an end in itself.

“As a culture, we’ve collectively bought into the lie that work has to be miserable,” writes career expert Jon Acuff in his newest book, Do Over.

Michael had learned, in his words, “what a long shadow not liking your job can cast over the rest of your life.” So he decided to do something about it.

He read voraciously, including Do Over, in which Acuff offers a method to career management regardless of where you stand on the love/hate job continuum.

Acuff’s counsel applies to four different types of career transitions that everyone faces:

Finding and Mastering Fulfilling Work

Live Out Your Calling as an Artisan

Originally in ForbesYou likely feel as though you don’t have enough time to watch a video that is 17 minutes and 47 seconds, right? But what if watching it allows you to penetrate beneath the scar tissue of busyness and distraction and transform your view of work and the satisfaction you derive from it? Would it be worth it, then?

If you’re willing to watch the video, please feel free to stop reading here, because I’m convinced that, though seemingly out of context, you’ll get the point by the end of the video—the point that there’s a vastly different, far more rewarding way to do what we call “work” than what most of us have been taught and have experienced. It’s the work of an artisan.

craftsman working on stone isolated on hands

But first, a bit on the evolution and etymology of work: What’s the difference between a job and a profession? I ask this question more than you’d think, and the summary response I receive is, “A job is something you have to do while a profession is something you want to do. A job is a necessity—it puts food on the table—while a profession is something that you train for and build over time.”

Fair enough. What, then, is a vocation?

You Can’t Do Anything You Want

Chris Guillebeau's Surprising Career Advice

Originally in Forbes“A lot of career advice begins right back at age six,” writes author Chris Guillebeau in his newest book, Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do. But in case you’re expecting some fluffy self-help propaganda that over-inflates your ego in an attempt to win your purchase of the book, Guillebeau hits you with a helpful dose of reality early and often:

Born For This“‘You can do anything you want,’ adults usually promise, without any explanation or assurance of how ‘anything’ is possible. Nice as it might sound to our young ears, this advice is absurd,” says Guillebeau.

Please don’t get the wrong impression. Guillebeau isn’t a bully or a browbeater. I actually find him surprisingly soft-spoken for someone who has built an enormous online following, written four bestselling books and created one of the hottest-ticket annual conferences in the World Domination Summit. He just refuses to buy into the implicit (and often explicit) promise of the many “success cult” leaders who sell books, courses and videos offering you a slice of their success if you’ll only follow their footsteps (across a pile of burning coals).

And why doesn’t following successful people necessarily make you successful? For at least two reasons:

1) You’re not them.

2) They’re not you.

How, then, does Guillebeau fill 300 pages with advice on finding your dream job, if not by telling you how he did it and imploring you to do the same?

How To Avoid Grass-Is-Greener Failures

The Virtual Test Drive

Originally in ForbesA friend of mine had a lifelong dream of opening up a coffee shop and was willing to put a highly successful career on the line to pursue it. Fortunately, he was presented with an amazing opportunity to test-drive his grass-is-greener ideal, and the results might surprise you and offer guidance that you can apply to your next big decision.

Dave had it all planned out, even down to the lighting and indie musicians that would be playing on Thursday nights in his vision of the perfect coffeehouse.

Then he got an opportunity that most of us don’t have before we make the plunge: He got to learn the ropes working at the best café in Chicago. He immersed himself in coffee culture for a week of training that was nothing short of blissful. Then, he got a chance to put it to work for another few weeks.

His findings? In an average eight-hour day, he got to interact with customers and craft their coffee concoctions for approximately 20 minutes. The remaining seven hours and 40 minutes were spent with dirty dishes. Lots of dirty dishes.

Men Want It All Too: Work And Family

Mr._Mom__1_“I wanted to be able to change diapers.”  That’s what Tim Donohue told me when I asked him about the life-altering choices he’d made regarding the elusive work/life balance.  We had both just read the recent New York Times article, “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In,” revisiting the topic of women with Ivy League pedigree and promising career prospects who’d “opted out” of corporate life to dedicate themselves wholly to the art of maternal domestication.  Judith Warner’s findings were decidedly mixed, but with all of the talk of women on the “Mommy Track,” I was left to wonder, What about the dudes?  What role do men play in weighing their obligations at home and the office?

The debate about working moms is now so ubiquitous that we must conclude it’s a real issue—that women are wrestling with this topic so consistently that the battle waging within them is genuine.  Women, as a whole, seem clearly to want both a) to play a formative role in the upbringing of their children and b) to satiate the desire within to capably accomplish tasks of seemingly greater import than changing diapers or organizing class parties or even holding office within the school PTA.  Regarding the now public discourse over this internal wrestling match, men have done largely what they should—if they know what’s good for them—remain silent (sitting behind their three-olive martinis, newspapers and crossed feet adorned with the slippers June brought to the front door).

I am not fool enough to break that silence, but I do seek to explore whether there is any similar angst, any similar wrestling over this topic regarding their own roles, in the realm of men.  As it appears, there is and they are.

The 60-Hour Work Week

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Tim, Lesley and Louise

Tim and Lesley Donohue live in Denver.  Tim is a mortgage banker, Lesley is a nurse, and they both played a meaningful role in bringing Louise, their beautiful newborn baby girl, into this world.  What makes them unique and relevant to this discussion is that they’ve been planning—for years—to also both play a meaningful role in Louise’s day-to-day care into the future.  They intend to accomplish this with Tim working (roughly) 36 hours per week and Lesley 24, co-parenting along the way.  Why 36 and 24?  They’re compelled by the logic of philosopher, author and theology professor, Gilbert Meilaender, who suggests that in order for a family to support itself financially, practically and relationally, the parents’ aggregate occupational efforts should consume no more than 60 hours.  “We simply can’t have it all,” Tim told me.  So he will don the Baby Bjorn while Lesley works two 12-hour shifts per week.  Tim will fill in the gaps with his flexible work schedule, and maybe they’ll need six-to-eight hours of childcare per week.

No, you don’t just up and decide to do this.  Tim’s been planning on it for over a decade, since well before he even met Lesley.  I can corroborate that because I recall him telling me, very specifically, at a coffee shop, about ten years ago, that he was engineering his work-life to accommodate his life-life.  He wanted a job that offered good pay, lots of flexibility and a boss who trusted his employees to get the job done without being micro-managed.  “I wanted a career that was a good expression of who I am, but that also gave me plenty of space to be who I am.”  Fifteen years ago, when he made these career decisions, Tim was a mentor to high school and college youth.  Today, he’s a husband and a father, a son and a brother, a friend to many, and an active member of his community.

But Tim knew it was going to take a lot of effort to put himself in that position.  In a volatile business that is 100% commission, he started socking away money very early.  He knew that an overabundance of income one year could turn into a drought in another, so he worked to save one, and then two full years’ worth of living expenses as an emergency reserve.  He saved cash to buy a car with no debt.  He bought a house in a high cost-of-living area north of Baltimore, and aggressively paid his mortgage down with every shred of excess income, so that when he and Lesley moved to Denver (with a lower cost-of-housing), they were able to buy a house without a mortgage.  In their mid-thirties.  With two years of living expenses saved.

What makes Tim and Lesley so successful in finding a healthy balance between work and life is that they don’t consider it to be a balancing act.  Instead, they have successfully integrated work and life.

Is it possible that our notion of work/life balance implies that these are two opposing forces, and furthermore, that positioning them as competitors creates inertia that keeps them from being more successfully integrated?

Tim and Lesley make it look easy because of their forethought and the deliberate steps they took years ago to make a more integrated personal and financial life possible today, but most of us didn’t do that level of planning and are entrenched in seemingly irrevocable roles today.  Or are we?

Opting-IN

Women may not be the only ones giving up elite Northeastern educations for parenting purposes.  Andrew Ritter has two degrees in geological sciences (one from Colgate) and plied his trade up the stalactite ladder (or would that be stalagmite?) all the way to Project Manager, around the time he met his wife Jennifer, an attorney.  But as Jennifer’s legal career gained momentum, Andrew was burning-out of…whatever it is that geological scientists do.  He decided to punt his degrees and valuable experience, starting up a residential remodeling business, the work he did during college.  Andrew didn’t fall prey to the “Mancession” of late.  He simply decided that killing himself in 70-hour-a-week increments was not the way he was going to spend the majority of his adult waking hours.

Therefore, when baby Wilson and his little brother Ridgely came along, and as Jennifer’s career arc soared, Andrew had the occupational flexibility to opt-IN to being a part-time stay-at-home dad.  “There’s no question,” Ritter told me, “that it has been difficult financially.”  In a high cost-of-living area, they feel sometimes as though they’re just treading water.

“Was it worth it?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t trade these years for any corporate accomplishment.  I get to walk my kids to school every morning, and when Jen is in trial—leaving at 6 am and returning at 2 in the morning—I can be here to make sure everything runs smoothly at home.”

Maybe the key to “having it all” is simply a willingness to redefine our “it all.”  Or maybe the secret is to pursue our “it all” with less.  (Or both?)

Messrs. Ritter and Donohue both agree that the choices they have made are their choices—they’re not universal and worthy of widespread adoption.  But there are themes here that very few of us would dispute:

  • It’s becoming increasingly difficult for a household to live comfortably and save for the future with a sole source of income.
  • Both moms and dads struggle to know exactly how to allocate their time between the individual purposes to which they feel called and their chosen roles as partners and parents.
  • Dedicating ourselves to a work/life ratio that feels out of kilter eats at us, and can leave us dissatisfied with our efforts in the office and at home.

Our attempts to balance work and family have failed.  But resourceful, forward-thinking moms, dads and companies are getting more out of work and life by creatively integrating the two.

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know on Twitter at @TimMaurer, and if you’d like to receive my weekly post via email, click HERE.

Work and Play

by Jim Stovall

Too many people in the workforce separate their lives into two separate and distinct categories.  They compartmentalize their days into the hours of drudgery and clock watching that represents their job and the freedom that exists when they get to their own leisure and recreation time.

People who work five days per week to get two days of a weekend or who work 50 weeks out of the year to get two weeks of vacation are missing the joy and satisfaction that comes from enjoying their work.

Mark Twain said that the secret to success is making your vocation your vacation.  Twain knew that enjoying your work will not only make you happier, it will make you successful.  If you are in a job or business that you do not enjoy, and you are competing with people who enjoy their work, you are doomed to failure.  You may have the talent and skill to succeed, but your competition who enjoys their work will always prevail in the end.

People who enjoy their work are more efficient, creative, and productive.  If you find yourself in a job you do not enjoy, it doesn’t mean you have to quit today, but it should indicate that you need to start making some changes in your life that will result in you doing work that you enjoy.

If you are among the unfortunate who do not love your job, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Are there parts of your work or your job that you do enjoy?  Maybe you can focus more on this work and make arrangements to make it a larger part of your job description.
  2. Are there jobs available within your organization that you feel would give you satisfaction, and you would enjoy doing?  If so, you may want to consider a transfer, even if it is a lateral move or step down within the organization.
  3. Is there a job or profession you have always wanted to pursue?  If so, what educational or training steps could you take now to prepare yourself to make the move later?
  4. If you don’t know what kind of work would make you happy, think of the things you enjoy in your leisure or personal time, and imagine how components of those activities could make up a job or business somewhere in your community.

As you go through your day today, realize that you can never be totally successful within your profession until you enjoy the work that you do.

Today’s the day!

The Seamless Life

If you noticed my conspicuous silence over the past couple weeks, it was because I went on a family vacation that was largely "unplugged."  Just prior, I contributed a short post including a handful of facts regarding the amount of time we spend working during our lifetimes (101,568 hours, to be exact) with an equal number of questions posed to you.  Through the blog comments, Tweets, Facebook mentions and emails in response, a number of very interesting thoughts were raised.

You better like what you do!

Work_life_balance_sign2 One reader summed it up simply saying, “Work hard and play hard!”  Another, Greg Rittler, quoted a wise mentor of his: “You spend 50% of your time and 80% of your energy at work—you better like what you do!” 

Indeed, it seems many people with options at their disposal deem the pursuit of a vocation about which they are passionate (the advice of another reader, Nathan Gehring) either a myth or an unworthy aim.  Why is that?  Do we rank stability or comfort or perceived safety above a path more meaningful to us?  In short, yes.  Even my college students—around 40 accounting majors each semester—rank job security as the number one reason for their chosen professions in an informal survey I conduct each semester.  They haven’t even graduated yet, and they’ve already shelved their dream job for job security!?

One thoughtful reader, Brian, described my initial post as depressing; and rightly so if we view our time working only as a facilitator of those moments spent outside of work.  Interestingly, he described his current job (online trading) as something separate from the path of a “real job,” already lamenting the time when he may be forced to re-enter in the “rat race.” 

We live a life with too many seams.

And herein lies the fundamental dilemma at the core of this discussion of purpose and passion in our vocations—we live a life with too many seams.  Work vs. Life.  Work vs. Family.  Work vs. Faith.  Family vs. Friends.  Family vs. Service.  (You get the idea.)

I recently conducted a client meeting in which I may have received more wisdom than I was able to impart.  I met with a married couple, each spouse in their 70s.  When broached with the topic of retirement, they both viewed it as an unattractive, if not foreign, concept.  This is not because they absolutely need the money (although it doesn’t hurt, of course), but because their vocations are simply an extension of who they are.  Mrs. Client is an educator—both by personality and profession—endowing generations of college students with her wealth of knowledge and life experience.  Mr. Client leads an entity providing an incredibly valuable community service to the city he calls home.  What greater purpose could they serve retiring, prior to health forcing an occupational retreat?

There was a time in my life when I was acting as many different people.  At home, I was one person.  At school, I was another, and at work, yet another.  With friends from school, I acted a certain way and with friends from church I was different, and so on.  This was followed by an extended period of rebellion, during which I practically sought to disappoint or offend each various crowd with actions contrary to their standards or expectations (I “can’t wait” for my boys to go through that stage!). 

Reconciliation

The last 12 (or so) years, I’ve been attempting to reconcile who I am with what I do, what I say, and how I do it and say it.  Yes, that means I’ve walked away from several different companies and career paths—some because they changed or I became more aware, but also because I changed.  Of course, after 12 years of that daily pursuit, I’m still a green novice, but I’m buoyed by those who live an unabashed life and inspire others to do the same.  (Check out Chris Guillebeau, Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Donald Miller, Leo Babauta, Derek Sivers, Tim Ferriss, Carl Richards, Rob Bell , Pat Goodman, and Jim Stovall, among MANY others, all focused from their own unique perspective on the truth that life is best lived honestly and deliberately.)

Mine is a biased perspective and I have an unfair advantage—my boss, Drew Tignanelli, is also a friend and mentor who is a student of personality distinctions.  He understands me so well that he expects and welcomes my unpredictable evolution.  He’s created an environment in which both employees and our company benefit when circumstances or people change.  If you’re an employer, I urge you to foster such an environment, and if you’re an employee, I encourage you to seek an employer that rewards (and not stifles) creativity and growth…or create it yourself. 

But one friend reminded me that while many people may have the choice of diverging from their original career plans for something more fulfilling, others don’t have that option available, due to a lack of means or ability.  What should they do? To those unable to take that genuine leap of faith in a revelatory moment, I recommend taking just one step in the direction of that which draws you closer to a seamless life, and then follow it with another…and another…      

Announcement coming next week!

In next week’s post, I’ll be making a big announcement that will coincide with an entirely new look for TimMaurer.com.  I hope you’ll check in!

 

You Need To Know…Your Job Is Not About The Money

Listen to Tim deliver this YNTK!  Click below:

You Need To Know – Love Your Job

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YOU NEED TO KNOW… that your job is not about the money.

Please take 10 seconds to stop whatever you’re doing (unless, of course, you’re driving; in that case, please proceed) and answer the following multiple choice question—honestly!  The following best describes how I feel about my job:

a)    I hate my job

b)    I tolerate my job

c)    I like my job

d)    I love my job

e)    I’m MADE for my job 

Now, if you didn’t answer either d) or e) (that you love your job or are plain made for your job), I’d like to know why.  My guess is that virtually every single answer would be some variant of “I NEED or WANT the money.”  If that is the case, I want to applaud you, because that means that you’ve chosen to sacrifice the majority of your waking hours in this lifetime to doing something that you don’t particularly like to do because you need or want the money… and I’m not saying that sarcastically—my guess is that you likely need or want the money for a worthy cause, like your family, and that is absolutely a cause worthy of sacrifice.

But then assuming that is the case—that you don’t necessarily love your job, but you’re doing it because you want or need the money to take care of yourself and your family—here’s another important question: What additional sacrifice would it take to land or create the job of your dreams?  Maybe additional schooling or a pay-cut while you gain some more expertise or experience?  And maybe it would even mean asking your family to sacrifice for a time.  Moving or changing schools?  I know this is serious stuff that is not to be taken lightly.  And now I need to ask one final question: Which is the greater sacrifice—remaking your professional self and temporarily altering your lifestyle and possibly that of your family?  Or spending the majority of your waking hours in your LIFE working a job that doesn’t actually give you fulfillment?

And here’s the irony of sticking with a job simply because of the money:  My experience, in working with hundreds of clients from at least 4 different generations with widely varying income levels, net worths and family structures has taught me that those who find the career path that best suits them find a greater level of contentment—regardless of their income—but on average, they also just happen to make MORE money… and that is something YOU NEED TO KNOW.