Leaving the Day Job

The Office - Season Header

[Spoiler alert…only if you’re 2+ years behind the times as well]

This past weekend, my wife and I finished the last episode of The Office.  Many of the characters changed over the nine years: people joined Dunder Mifflin, people left Dunder Mifflin, others realized that life is much happier than they expected.  Having worked in an ‘office’, I can almost recognize, person to person, an employee in my office to a character on ‘The Office.’  Yes, I admit, I did shed a few tears during the last two episodes.  The show may have been a comedy, but the writers and actors were able to shine a light on real life.

One of the main characters, Jim Halpert, has a monologue in which he says “I sold paper at this company for twelve years.  My job was to speak to clients, on the phone, about quantities and types of copier paper.  Even if I didn’t love every minute of it, everything I have, I owe to this job.  This stupid, boring, amazing job.”

That quote is perfect for me.  My day job hasn’t been ideal 100% of the time, but I owe everything to this “stupid, boring, amazing” job that I have.  Many people would complain about the job, and I have certainly complained.  However, as I look around my house and reflect on the previous nine years of my life, I realize that I do owe just about everything to the amazing job I’ve held.

I have learned a ton of lessons from my job:

– People generally won’t/can’t/don’t change.  Work with them as they are and everything will be smooth.
– Hard work does actually pay off
– Calculated risk pays off
– You don’t actually have to wear a tie to work
– Always give 110% at work
– If you think you’ve got a great system in place, improve it by 100% or you’re toast
– Client communication is key
– Continue to learn at work; when you’re no longer learning, it’s time to leave
– There’s only one person to blame for your unhappiness at work – you.
– An attic in the summer is about 140degF (Fucking hot – pardon the language)

These lessons are quick to type but have been learned over a nine year period.  Some have been easy to learn (I didn’t have to wear a tie) while others have been difficult and thought-provoking (If you think you’ve got a great system, improve it by 100% or you’re toast).  For me, this has been the best first job I could have asked for.  As I have matured, I have learned what I enjoy doing (running businesses) and what I’m not fond of (crawling through fiberglass in attics in the summer).

Probably the most important lesson I have learned is that everyone is on their own path.  Some people have presented at the State Science Fair, earned Eagle Scout, and completed an engineering degree.  Others have not.  Just because someone has not done those things does not mean that I can (or should) compare myself to them and vice versa.

The path I am walking is entirely different from the path my brother is walking.  We are each learning about ourselves, yet we are arriving at our own conclusions.  Our conclusions are right for our own experience.  We each take these disparate pieces of information we call ‘experiences’, and synthesize this information into a road map for how we should live our lives.  The problem is that we can only look at the map after we’ve walked that piece of ground.  I should not project my life experiences onto my brother.  I therefore should not expect my brother to make the same decisions that I have made.  Rather, I should celebrate his successes and discuss his failures.

We are all faced with a choice.  There are easier paths and harder paths.  Everyone just needs to be able to look back at their life and be happy.  Steve Jobs is quoted: “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

That is where I am.  I need to change something.  I have done amazing things.  I expect my day job will continue to do amazing things.  I actually think the company will be better off when I have departed, not because I am holding anyone back, but because the company’s focus is too scattered.  Once I have left, I feel the company will be able to focus on the profitable areas of the company, hopefully producing significant gains for the shareholders.

I am scared and excited for the changes in the future.  Where am I going to be in 12 months?  No idea.  I may still be here; I may be on the west coast; I may be in NYC.  London?  Maybe.  Two years from how?  Not even the foggiest idea.

Like Robert Frost says:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
…I’m more excited than scared….

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