Does this self-help philosophy CREATE the dissatisfaction it claims to cure?

I checked out one of my favorite websites, BSPCN.com, and found an article from 2 days ago called “Thoughts for Change”. It included the following advice for your job–I’ve added the italics to show I am quoting:

– Go on that trip. Don’t postpone it.
– Say those words. Don’t let the moment pass.
– Do what you have to, even at society’s scorn.
– Write poetry.

– Love deeply.
– Walk barefoot.
– Dance with wild abandon.
– Cry at the movies.
– Take care of yourself. Don’t wait for someone to take care of you.

Go for the win.

Beautiful advice, right? Walk barefoot, write poetry, and all that. It’s very Carpe-Diem-esque.

Following the last phrase, “Go for the win” was this graphic:


According to the author, “the win” we are supposed to go for is a career that is a combination of what you love, what you are good at, and what pays well.  Let’s discuss this a little more:

  1. If your job pays well and is something you are good at, but is NOT doing what you LOVE: You will be “Rich, but bored” (really? most people would happily ask for that trial… please)
  2. If your job is something you are good at, AND what you LOVE: You will be “Happy, but poor” (is that truly a bad thing?)
  3. If your job pays well, and is something you love: it is “just a dream” (huh? You are still saying I have a job, though, right?)
  4. But if you happen to find that combination of all three, you have a “win”. (wow.)
  5. I’m taking a little liberty here, but a little logic tells me the opposite of “win” is “lose”. So therefore, by a little logical liberty, it can also be communicated that anything less than a combination of these three characteristics, you have a “lose” job.

I find this message to be so incredibly ridiculous, it’s almost offensive to our culture. YET, we are spoon fed this crap from all kinds of books, literature, and various forms of media. This is part of the “I DESERVE…” culture, that is so prevalent. The “I have a right to…” or the “Me, me, me” culture.

Trust me, I’ve read more than my fair share of self-help books that say essentially the same thing.

But now, I’m in my mid 30’s, and see what is going on around me, and I’ve changed my tune. Maybe I’m becoming cynical in my old age. Or maybe I’m a “realist”. Or maybe I’ve just started to simply realize what matters, and what doesn’t. I’m realizing where I get my fulfillment, and where I don’t (for example, after the roughest day, seeing my son’s face light up when I get home makes me forget about anything that happened during the previous 8 hours–and as I’m wrestling around with him, I feel far more contentment than the greatest of work days can provide). I’m realizing that being paid well may have nothing to do with the “win”, and maybe I’m realizing that sometimes it’s a win to get a plain old job, one where you can work hard, be a part of a team, and feel like you are contributing.

I’m not saying you CAN’T have a “win” kind of career, but what if you only barely like your job, which pays just barely enough to pay the bills, but not well. And let’s say because you are a hard worker, you are good at what you do.  Are you losing? Not at all. There are millions of people in the United States who would love to have A job… almost ANY job, even if they aren’t so passionate about it. They spend time calling, sending resumes, and lining up for interviews, and try their darndest to communicate how their previous job experience as a marketing executive has perfectly prepared them for that retail position. Then they are met with “I’m sorry, but you are overqualified”, but what the person across the desk is really saying is either “Your knowledge and experience is intimidating. Will you take my job?” or “Wait, you’re THAT experienced? Why should I train you if you’ll take a higher paying job as soon as it opens up?”

But I also believe that you shouldn’t bank on getting that magical feeling of being fulfilled from your every day job requirements, per se. You should seek fulfillment in constantly performing well at your job, no matter what it might be.

I firmly believe that Victor, the 60-ish year old man who is cleans the bathrooms and floors in the commercial building where I work, is going for “the win”. I don’t know his story, I don’t know if he has a huge family or a small family. But I know he is cheerful as he works, and he does a great job. And when I talk to him, he’s always polite, respectful, and complimentary of my broken Spanish when I try to communicate in his native language. Did Victor dream of growing up and cleaning toilets, by himself? Doubt it. Is he good at it? Absolutely. Is he paid well? Don’t know. But does that mean he isn’t “winning”? That’s ridiculous.

He wins because he does his job well. He wins because he works hard to provide for his family. He wins because he chooses to be in a good mood while at his job, while millions “lose” while grumbling about their boss, their hours, their company.

I believe the advice portrayed in this graphic does more to contribute to dissatisfaction. People read this stuff and look at their job and mistakenly think, “hey… I DESERVE to win! I need to find that thing that is the magical combination… THEN I’ll have fulfillment and be a contribution to the world!” But this kind of thinking is completely selfish. You contribute by being selfless, not by getting everything you dreamed. You contribute when you have a great relationship with your childred, your family members, your loved ones–not from your 9-5. Yes, you spend a lot of time there, so you should be happy. So go ask Victor how he is happy, then figure out how to be a little happier in your current job that probably pays more, and is closer to your skillset than his.

Someone has to be the janitor. Someone has to do dishes. Someone has to clean sewers. Someone has to do mundane tasks like sweeping streets, emptying trash, and all of the hundreds of different ways that people are hired to clean up a mess. And very few of them LOVE it. But that doesn’t mean they are losing. The “win” is found in something else, not the combination of the graphic above.

In fact, if I had any photo shop ability, I’d make a graphic like the one above–and the 3 circles would consist of 1. Be grateful for your job, because millions don’t have one 2. Try your very best, no matter what job you have. 3. Live beneath your means, no matter what they are.

And the middle part? I would love to say “happiness” or “contentment”,  but we’re just talking about a job here, right?  So the center would read “job satisfaction”, which is something very valuable, yet too few people have.

It might not be flashy or all-encompassing enough for a self-help best seller promising a new life and sky-high levels of happiness. But it would be enough for you to hold your head high, and maybe just remind you of what it takes to enjoy right where you are.

Craig

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1 Comment

  1. GREAT post Craig. Clap clap clap.

    Reply

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