I've had work on the brain a lot lately. I have a certain amount of anxiety that I should be doing some certain amount of it, only to realize it's some poorly defined result or end game that I seek. Just as you do with software problems, you have to break them down.
My last post stops short of asking, "What do you want work to be?" I don't think our culture teaches us to ever ask that question. For decades there was the simple expectation that you figured out how to do something for a living, did it for years, had a reliable pay check and insurance, tried to put some money away, then retire and start to actually live. Whether or not that was what you wanted was not part of the discussion.
In a lot of ways, it's easier to think about what I don't want work to be. I don't want it to be measured in face time. I don't want countless meaningless meetings. I don't want meaningless tasks that don't challenge me.
On the other hand, I know I want to be a part of some act of creation. I want to make something. I want to make enough money to support my travel habit. I want to be challenged. I want to lead and mentor. I want the opportunity to learn something new every day. I want a gig that compliments my life, not replaces it.
I had two interesting encounters today. One was lunch with a friend. The company she works for is in a bit of turmoil, and her future there is not certain. She equated leaving or losing her job to a loss of time, much the way you might think of the end of a long-term relationship as wasted time. But talking her through it, I think she agreed that she's now more than the sum of that experience. I think her line of thinking was influenced by what she described as "sacrifice" during the years she had at that job. If you're sacrificing anything for a job, that's reason enough to quit.
I also caught up with one of my fellow lay-offees. His experience out in the world has been similar to mine. There is plenty out there, and you can pick and choose. That's unfortunately not a luxury that everyone has in every profession, but given that the circle of people I know best are in the biz, it's relevant to me and them. But the point remains that there's no reason to sell yourself short for a paycheck.
I know a lot of people feel that this line of thinking isn't realistic or whatever, and that's fine. I just don't understand the desire to put your life on hold for more than four decades or sacrifice the life in front of you to make what may or may not be a sweet run of your golden years. Why not do something with today?
Others believe that this is some kind of slacker mentality. I think that's a total load of crap. I've never suggested you don't have to work, and I don't think anyone like minded would make that case either. What I do think we'd agree on is that work should never be something that takes precedence over everything else you do. The word "sacrifice" should never come into play. Even if you like your job, I can't imagine it's more important than your friends and family, or simple joys like a sunset, or reading a book, or seeing a movie, or whatever else it is that allows you to really embrace the moment.