Here I sit, contemplating once again the larger purpose of my life. My desk is relatively clean, a few ‘important’ yet so distant pieces of paper scattered on its surface. The usual promise toying on my mind that everything I am currently working on must be completed by yesterday. There was a point in my professional life where the terms ‘important’, ‘quickly’, ‘urgently’ etcetera lost all meaning. When everything is always critical, and so much control is lost to unnecessary and underqualified authority, the will to excel diminishes.
As each day behind my desk has passed I have quietly, and sometimes very vocally and violently, observed my surroundings. I have tried to understand the overall goal of the profession I am working within and tried to understand the methods by which we aim to achieve our goals. We provide a service to a client, though the aim of our business has so obviously become making money as opposed to providing a brilliant service. Yes, every business needs to make money to maintain its service, though when so much of the focus diverges from the product and shifts to the amount that is being invoiced does not the quality of the product lose its value.
The core of any business is in the people that produce its product. It is critical to keep excellent people. It is critical to be able to motivate people and inspire them to output great work and it is critical to reward them appropriately. So how does an employer motivate employees? It seems that the all too common answer is to pay them a lot, though this hasn’t worked in my workplace, and my experience suggests that no matter how much someone is paid they only ever want to be paid more. It seems that income has little to no impact on attitude towards work.
I no longer have any pride in the work I output for my employer. I no longer have a sense of urgency no matter how much pressure is placed on me. I have become relatively calm as I have realized that at the end of the day, my effort and the quality of my work in no way distinguishes me from my peers. An employer needs to motivate employees by thinking outside of the box. Life is too short to continue working, providing a service, in a field I have no passion for because of a large pay cheque. We need to be proud of what we do day to day. We need to go home with a sense of achievement. Not a warning as to how much more we need to make, or invoice, for our employer.
7 years of primary school, 6 years of high school, 4 years of University and 3 years professional experience as an engineer, and in 57 days I throw it all away. 57 days from now (38 days of actual work) I have my last day working as an engineer. Only now, after all of my schooling and workplace experience do I truly feel that I am prepared for life.
It’s a lie to say I am not anxious or scared. Uncertainty looms over me. However the closer I get to my final day, the more optimistic I become. My attitude and anxiety fluctuate wildly day to day, but the overall trend is in the right direction. Currently I am reducing my debt so rapidly that it is looking like I will actually have a bit of cash behind me when I leave. I’m smiling more frequently now. I have always been optimistic. Though now I am optimistic with a much grander view of potential.
I do not believe life has any purpose. I don’t believe that we are meant to do something with our time and I don’t believe there is any higher power. Besides maybe one that has evolved independently from us and left us in some form of colossal petri dish as an evolutionary experiment. I do believe that we all have the ability to experience joy, that we all can (and do) experience suffering and loss and that we only have a finite amount of time on this earth live. So why do so many of us not ever really live.
There was a quote (likely fake) going around facebook for a while supposedly having come from the Dalai Lama which regardless of its validity really hits home to me. It is said that, when asked what surprised him the most about humanity he replied as follows;
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money in order to recuperate his health. He is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he doesn’t live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die and then dies having never really lived.” – Dalai Lama
My life to this point I do not regret a day of. Because my experience, my successes and my (more numerous) failures have made me who I am now. I no longer fear life. I no longer live in anxiety with a fear of the future. I no longer advance myself and my skills for the benefit of an employer. I now live for me. I now live to experience. To travel. To smile, be happy and enjoy the company of the people I meet.
This weekend is potentially a pivot point for me. I have an interview with a company called Merlin Entertainment. The specific role I am applying for is to be a lift attendant at Falls Creek (Snow in Australian) for a whole season. But the potential within this organization are incredibly far reaching and exciting. Wish me luck. Though I don’t think I need it 😉
In ideal circumstances, it is now 2 months from the day I go to Falls Creek (the snow). There is a good chance this will not happen, but in any case whatever my next step is, it will likely either be somewhere distant or on the way to somewhere distant. So I must be prepared. For those of you that are reading my posts, you will know that being prepared involves getting rid of all of my stuff. Besides perhaps a small selection of things that I will leave with loved ones.
For the remainder of today and all of tomorrow I will be photographing and listing every single book, CD and DVD I own, love and have left, for sale. Those that don’t sell I will be giving away for free. Be it to anyone that wants them or a charity store. Most likely the remaining books will go to the Melbourne Central book exchange shelf.
I wish to see more of this world, how that happens I don’t yet know and I will likely always remain uncertain about what comes next. The biggest step will be to get to the next place. The first place. And to start learning how to live with less.
The life I have been leading has now left me empty, depressed and wanting for more. But more it seems, is less. More is to enjoy the moment, to find myself in good company and in laughter. To leave behind the office and the seemingly endless professional repetition. I no longer have any desire to strive for a promotion, or a pay rise. These things are now meaningless to me. As of this June, I will no longer work jobs I do not enjoy. I will make sure that I am either somewhere I want to be, or working towards somewhere I want to be. I am the only person in control of my future. I want no handouts. I will make myself.
So for now. It is time to start taking photographs, weighing books and listing things for sale. Once I have started getting a decent amount of things listed I will place some links here.
So here I find myself, back at work and back behind my desk. Everyday, myself and my colleagues must sit, in the same environment and undertake similar work as every other day. One must however consider what the ultimate goal is? What is it that we are trying to achieve? Do we spend our time studying and researching so that we can have our hours and place of work dictated to us by a superior that sees more benefit from our input than we do?
This to me seems silly. It is then perceived to be the norm to specialise and spend a huge amount of time getting only partially better at what we currently do so that once again we can earn our employers more money and take only our small cut.
Why do we acquire such advanced skills and then so quickly proceed to use them for someone else’s benefit? I think the answer is ‘because it is easy’. But ultimately we spend our entire lives doing it.
When I entered the professional work force I was lucky enough to work along side an individual that I rightfully consider a professional who offered me great opportunities, however was constantly disappointed by the performance of so many other so called senior engineers and professionals that we worked with every day. I would constantly find myself so confused as to how professionals with so much experience could be so inefficient and unproductive, a lot of the time simply being ignorant of the subject they are the ‘professional’ in. But now I understand.
It is not surprising now that people who may have been brilliant in their early career loose their drive and become complacent. We are constantly told what to do, how to do it, when to do it by and to work harder, when we don’t see any reward for doing so. So why do it? I have now also started to become complacent. The drive and skill I had is deteriorating and hence the reason I have resigned.
I feel that our best assets are ourselves and the best way to prepare ourselves for the future is to diversify rather than specialise. Work to learn, don’t work for money. Then use the skills you acquire to provide for yourself. Relying on an employer and a super fund has proven decade after decade only to keep people working almost their entire life only to be thrust out poor and frail. Is this really your plan?
I’m certainly taking a different approach. Live now. Learn now. Start thinking about another way now, because there is no shortage of options.
In about 2.5 months now my professional life is ending and I am being thrust in to the world with a fresh start. Whilst I maintain an optimistic long term outlook, it is a lie to say that I am not scared of my short term future. I have grown accustomed to a lifestyle where money is no issue and have spent what I want when I want.
I know now that I will never earn my millions working for a boss, and that my time, my imagination and ability to innovate are my greatest assets. What I really require for long term success is my time. So I must learn, for the short term, to live on much less, whilst finding a way to experience my country and the rest of the world at the same time.
I do not know where I will be living in June and I do not know where I will be working, only that I will not allow myself to be homeless and that I can and will get a job. A job that I will enjoy. Out of university it was more important, especially given the fears that were embedded in our brains about the difficulty of finding employment to just get a job, as opposed to find a job we enjoy. As a result I jumped at the first opportunity. Though I have learnt so much, which I can and will ultimately use in my own life to benefit me, I now find myself miserable in a job I have no passion for.
I now know that the work force is kind to those that are willing to work and that are willing to put in just a little bit of effort to do a good job, but I do not know what it is that I will truly enjoy, only that in time I will find it. I am anxious and I am scared. Perhaps fear is good for me, maybe I need it, maybe it will trigger a true transformation in my life. I know I need it. It has been a long time coming.