It’s been two years since I wrote a week of lists, but I thought I would start this last four months of 2016 with revisit to that old meme. So, starting on the first, the eighth edition of the Week of Lists begins, called the “Turning 40ish Edition” with deep and engaging topics such as this one…
It’s Labour Day. The day of work. The day of celebrating the notion of doing your job. That thing you crave when you don’t have, and loathe when you’re climbing out of bed at five thirty in the morning and contemplating your commute.
Let me start by saying that this post isn’t about anyone. Not anyone in particular at least. I know people who rant about work and who rant about people at work and then get in trouble for ranting about people at work. This isn’t about any people at my work. Not specifically. (I have no issues with my coworkers — most everyone one of them are rockin-hard-working folks.) Rather it’s just a collection of thoughts and wadded together observations about work archetypes, truthy truisms that I’ve noticed that aren’t gripes so much as vague understandings that help me get through each day.
These are that…
5. You probably don’t know anything about a job that isn’t yours.
If you ever listen to people complain about something work-related (I have… frequently) it usually boils down to one vaguely defined thing that they are complaining about: if they were doing that job they would do it their way and it would be done right (for a change?) Hells yeah. We’d all kick ass at doing that job and we’d make things run smooth. Problem is that you don’t know jack about that job that you somehow think everyone but you would suck at doing. Oh, I’m sure you’re awesome, but until you’re sitting at that desk or holding that mic or standing at the front of the room with your jaw flapping, you don’t really know what kinds of complexities, nuances, roadblocks, politics, culture, or limitations you’re actually facing, do you?
4. It’s all about making up rules.
Work is a funny thing, after all. We go to school, we get trained for a career, we step out into the workforce, and… well, it’s not what we really expected. Yeah, there’s this thing called business and trade and productivity, but at the end of the day most people are really just building little strands of structure into our society. We’re all of us working to string rules for other sets of society to follow: standards, laws, guides, processes, forms, transactions, products, services, or labour. But think of it like this: Look at a building. Any building. Now imagine that you have x-ray vision and can see all the copper wires running through that building. Through the walls. The ceiling. Up and down to outlets and to lights. Someone put those wires there. You know that, but only because it’s a kind of physical thing that you can think about. But the job of pulling those wires, making little circuit paths (or rules for the electricity to follow) is just a very concrete thing that you can feel the effect of whenever you go inside a building. But every job is like that: pulling wires, making paths, setting the rules for business and trade and productivity to follow so that society keeps ticking. Not all those paths are made of copper wire. Some are made up of websites or data or money or spreadsheets, but it’s all rules.
3. Everybody sucks at their job sometimes.
And then we crash. I have those days. I see everyone, without exception, have those days. At some point everyone who works will have at least one absolute shit day. You will bomb a project, you will step on a toe, you will crap on a colleague or a report, you will miss a deadline, or you will fail at something with consequences that might haunt you for a long time. We all try to minimize sucking at our jobs, but show me someone who claims to be perfect at their job and I’ll show you someone whose pants are on fire.
2. Burnout is real but almost always hidden.
Oh, right… shhhh, we’re not supposed to talk about that. We’re all knuckling down to do our best work every day and we never ever hit a mental wall where we’d rather just stay on the train as it rolls by our stop, ride back and forth all day, instead of facing another work day. We can all, nudge-nudge-wink-wink allude to it in a joking pre-meeting “how was your weekend, TgIF sort of way” but don’t do anything to actually face that problem. *sigh* It’s that subject you don’t study adequately in school: I got straight As in math and chemistry, but that life management class was a kinda fluff, blow-off hour each week that no one ever really took too seriously. You hit 40ish and kinda wish that was something they’d made a bigger deal about.
1. You’re always working too hard but also never enough.
And finally, no matter what you do, the ultimate truism of work is that no matter how much you work, no matter how many projects you finish on time, on budget, and with the kudos of you colleagues, you could have always done a little more, and there’s always another day of something waiting on the other side.