In a previous blog entry I talked about the movie Office Space and how it struck a chord with me years ago and how, in time, the movie became a cult classic. I realized I was not the only one who saw the absurdity of many office environments not by a long shot. It seems there are legions of us, we're just quiet about it 'cause it makes us look bad. I used to think it was my lack of a stellar work ethic but now I'm proud of myself for having a work ethic for work that makes sense and is important to me. In the movie, TPS reports are synonymous with the tedious meaningless paperwork of the office environment":
"the "TPS report" has come to connote pointless mindless paperwork, and an example of "literacy practices" in the work environment that are "meaningless exercises imposed upon employees by an inept and uncaring management" and "relentlessly mundane and enervating". According to the film's writer and director Mike Judge, the acronym stood for "Test Program Set" in the movie" -Wikipedia-
Since then there have been cartoons (Dilbert) and lots of blogs and other stuff written about the subject. There are so many people out there these days who feel the same way. Just today I overheard a conversation between a young looking 40ish woman and her friend, who was discussing early retirement from her legal profession. She said she kept her license active just in case. She looked very happy and relaxed. She also happened to mention that she spent her early career making money and now she just makes bread. How wonderful.
I have also been a fan of Ernie Zelinski for years now. He is an educated man, an engineer and has an MBA, but has no tolerance for a lot of the ridiculousness and constraints of a regular job. He began to see this when year after year he was asked to accept cash instead of taking a vacation because they needed him at work. He started to wonder where his life was and where he was headed so he took an unauthorized vacation, got fired then got started on his real life, writing books and enjoying life. With lots of scary cash strapped years in between then and now, he writes about it and makes a good living. See The Joy of Not Working and others for some inspiration.
Unfortunately, many people don't stop the way he did, they go on with this craziness their whole lives and don't realize the toll it is taking on their personal life. I believe this is what's behind what we call 'mid life crisis'. It's when someone realizes that they've missed living their whole lives and put all their life energy into work. Just think about how sad that is. I've spoken to people who are heartbroken when their work place starts to push them aside in favour of younger, more energetic and talented new staff. It's just business after all, but what these people gave to their job was far greater than they ever thought. They expected that the reward would be worth it, but when they look back at all the time they missed with friends, family and taking time to keep themselves happy and healthy, they realize the true price they paid and found it was not actually worth it. Then they have to play catch-up in middle life, and you never really catch up. Trying to re-capture a lost youth in middle age is just plain sad and futile.
One thing Ernie talks about in one of his book is that people who just can't stand the absurdities of the average workplace have certain things in common, he calls it being organizationally averse. Love that description. As for me, it was in a mind-numbing federal government job that gave me the courage to go back to graduate school to get a masters degree. The best decision I have ever made. I literally couldn't stand the thought of spending my whole life in that kind of a job. While some people love their jobs and even love their organizations, there are those that find the routine and monotony of the cubicle life soul-annihilating.
Then there's Tim Ferriss of 4 hour work week fame. He couldn't bear the colossal waste of his valuable time. So he now works his butt off, just like Ernie does but has a rich life besides his work. And he gets to make his own schedule etc. He now has an amazingly successful career.
I have to mention here that there are people out there who love the work environment and all that goes with that routine. I spoke to a woman just a few months ago who is in marketing and can work from home everyday if she chooses and set her own schedule but she goes in to the office almost everyday because she loves the structure, the camaraderie and the atmosphere of the office. So there are all kinds out there, its just that those of us who had 'organizational averse' tendencies were often looked down upon as being the ones who were somehow lacking when in fact we are probably in the majority and need to respect our needs to find work that suits us.
Here's a tree from my walk today... one of many like this. Love trees.
This shot from the ferry terminal last week on my 'commute'. What a gorgeous evening. Starting to feel like spring.