Work, fear, opportunity, happiness

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 5:35 PM | comments: 0

Today is the one-year anniversary of the first round of lay-offs at ICOM. I can't believe how quick the year went. At the time, I really looked at it as an opportunity to try some new things, and I certainly have had that chance. I do miss the people though. Of all the places I've worked, that was easily the most solid in terms of people who knew what the hell was going on in the world. Two and a half good years there, even with the ups and downs.

Since that day, I worked about half of the year. I waited three months for one gig to materialize that sounded awesome, only to find that there was no work once I was hired, and was back on the street two months later. I felt a bit like a sucker for that one, because the dude really gave me the hard sell about how awesome the gig was going to be. But I learned from it, and had a nice vacation after that.

A month after that, I started with a small company that was a mess, but I enjoyed the opportunity to fix the development problems and make meaningful progress there. I set high goals for myself to get things closer to "right" in three months, and hit every goal. Unfortunately, and I saw this coming given that no one had been there longer than six months, the owners continued to make all of the wrong strategic decisions, had complete disregard for the people they hired, and just generally had no clue about running a business. Perhaps the biggest lesson out of that gig was that if I ever hire people myself, I'll only do so if I can treat them with respect and honesty that makes them feel invested in the company. You're nothing without your people.

In talking with fellow lay-offees and former co-workers, I'm saddened by the amount of fear people have. I guess I've been there before, since my post-9/11 layoff really messed with my self-esteem. I never had the fear while working, but I can relate to putting much of your self-worth in a job. What's interesting for me is that I can compare the fear of impending doom a lot of people have at their jobs to my own fears, hopes and dreams as an entrepreneur trying to figure out what business I'm in. Given the choice, I think I'd rather be poor and rolling with my own path then having my destiny wrapped up in someone else's decision to maintain payroll.

But the thing I always go back to is the people. I like working with smart people, and I miss that. I barely make enough money in my business today to pay myself, let alone someone else. If the right opportunity came around (the big "if" being that there aren't many period right now), I'd dive in.

I can conclude from all of this that the ideal intersection of work and happiness looks something like this. I work in a situation where I can largely control my own destiny (which can be for myself or others, I've realized) and I get to do it with people that I like and can be smarter for the experience. That's surprisingly uncomplicated! The complication comes more from figuring out how to get there. And there's that other little detail too... that you have to make enough money to be comfortable and reach your financial goals.

In the bigger picture, I can't really complain much about the last year, especially given all of the non-work related awesomeness I've enjoyed. I got married, had seriously fun times traveling to Florida a few times, Hawaii, MSP, Eastern PA, a tennis match, Las Vegas... lots of airline miles. Life has been mostly good to me, and I dare not forget that.


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