I was miserable when I graduated college. While everyone else was throwing their caps in the air with the excitement of things to come, I knew what was to come: a life not nearly as awesome and carefree as the one I lead for the last 4 years. While my life wasn’t like everyone else’s in college was, I’ll try to sum it up as best as I can. It was a 4 year summer camp paid for by my parents where I’d go to class now and then, party my ass off, and not have a single care in the world. While I don’t necessarily think it helped me land a job or prepare me for a career, I’d pay for that experience for my children in a heartbeat because it will never, ever be duplicated. And I do believe it helped me experience people from different cultures, walks of life, living on my own, etc etc. But perhaps because of how fun it was, I was too aware that the world awaiting me would be a challenge. What awaited me was 6 years in a career I didn’t like. Granted I enjoyed my life a great deal, had a ton of fun living in NYC, and overall wasn’t miserable. However, I’m pretty sure that during that whole run, until I struck off on my own, I knew I was in the wrong place with regards to making a living. But here’s the thing, I didn’t have, and still don’t have the luxury of knowing “that thing” I want to do. I don’t think I was “born” for anything. I never had a destiny. I never knew from the age of 3 that I wanted to be a baseball player or an actor, etc etc. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the majority of people out there are in this boat. And that’s what I wanted to discuss today. Since most of us don’t know our destinies, instead of focusing on that one thing, that “passion” that everyone’s trying to sell you, why not do the opposite? Why not cut out the crap in your life and keep narrowing it down into something formidable, and eventually something you just might love?
Doing more searching than acting is where you get stuck
I’ve written an entire article on “doing things” instead of looking for things to do. I’m a firm believer that it’s extremely rare for one’s passion to just “be there” or that it’s “found.” I believe that the act of actually doing and trying things is exactly how one will fall into a life they love. As I said, not all of us have that luxury of something predestined for us. In fact most of us don’t. I’ll never forget my first year out of college and how much I just “looked” for stuff that would get me going. I’d read articles, talk to people, spend more time “looking” for that one thing I was destined to do than actually doing anything at all. Looking back I realize that was a massive mistake. I think it’s a mistake we’ve all made. And for the next several years while working jobs I didn’t 100% enjoy, I spent an equal amount of time searching endlessly for that one job that would solve all of my problems. The one job that would save me from a life of mediocre jobs. Again, looking back, I realize it was a mistake. It wasn’t until one day I just started writing that ideas began to flow. It wasn’t until I started taking action that a new life was beginning to take shape. And it wasn’t until I listened to myself and began to starting removing things I DIDN’T want, that I was able to control my own career path.
Narrowing it down is easier than the pressure of finding “the one”
Of the positives I take out of the career life I had prior to being an entrepreneur, one of them was my ability to quickly figure out the things I hated. I hated cold calling. I hated authority. I couldn’t stand commuting. I hated wearing nice clothes. I couldn’t stand the pressure I felt when I wanted to leave the office and my boss would look at me all funny. I knew all of the things about my career that pissed me off. And that was a great thing. It was something to hold onto. It led me to each job getting better and better before finally taking the entire thing into my own hands. Let me take you through my career progression and you’ll see exactly how I got from where I was to where I am.
2 hr Commute of Misery to Zero Commute and Full Autonomy
The very first “real” job I had out of college was working for a telecommunications company. It was a 2 hour plus commute from Long Island to the World Trade Center. I took a train, 2 subway rides and rode an elevator up over 80 floors to work in an office where all I’d be doing was cold calling people for 8 hours trying to sell them our services. Couldn’t I have done this from home? Of course I could have, but that’s besides the point. That job lasted less than 2 months. After that? A 30 minute commute to another job where I was cold calling for 8 hours and couldn’t stand it. After that? I switched from a more salesy job to something a bit more project oriented. I became a recruiter. I kind of liked that job more but it ended up being as much of a sales job as before. Plus I was still on Long Island and I couldn’t stand my boss. Next job? Worked for a well respected search firm in financial services. Loved the people there. Loved my boss. Couldn’t stand the phone calls and having to wear “work” clothes every day. I did have my own office which was cool. I moved into the city so the commute wasn’t that bad, around 30 minutes. After 2 years of that? I kind of liked what I was doing but I wanted more money. Took another recruiting job that paid more money, had a smaller team. Unfortunately the mistake there? Couldn’t stand my boss. Made more money but wasn’t happy at all. What did I then do? Found a recruiting firm comprised of 2 people where I became the third. I had total autonomy, made a great living, didn’t have to always wear nice clothes, and the commute was a 15 minute walk. Plus I loved the guys I worked for. That was my very last job until I became an entrepreneur. Now in my job I wear boxers, the commute is walking downstairs to my office, I have zero bosses, total autonomy, and all the creativity I could possibly want. Plus I make zero phone calls. There’s a reason I just took you through this and here it is: Let’s take a list of all the crap that I cut out in 6 years.
- The commute – began at 2 hours and it eventually wound up being 0.
- The bosses – the only mistake I made with the people I worked for was when I wanted more money. I wound up working for people I wasn’t as big a fan of and I learned that the hard way. Today I’d take a great boss with a little less pay any day of the week.
- The function of the job – I went from cold calling, to less cold calling, to zero cold calling, to writing funny stuff for a living
- Clothing – I initially wore suits to my first job to then wearing business casual, to then wearing business casual on some days and whatever on others, to now wearing boxers or anything that suits me.
- The hours – my total day used to be about 14 hours including the commute and now I don’t need to work more than 5.
What does this all mean?
It means that during my six years I held onto each element I couldn’t stand in each job and I tried to hold onto the elements in each job that I loved. The eventual result was doing something I enjoyed far greater than where I initially started. And to me, that was the only, and best way to do things. It was to eliminate all the things I didn’t like to narrow it down to something I did like. In my personal opinion it’s not even the job function that we are most miserable with (if we’re miserable at all), it’s usually the people and the way we operate (i.e. in a team or alone, in a large office vs. a small office). For example I could sell tires for a living as long as I did it by myself, had no boss and no one telling me what to do, and it being on my own terms. It’s not the job itself, it’s the lifestyle. For some people it’s the actual job, I get it. The point is this: pay attention to everything you don’t like and work as hard as you can to eliminate it without doing anything stupid along the way which leads to…..
But remember this and in life….
Don’t do anything rash while eliminating the garbage, i.e don’t jeopardize your life by quitting your job just because you don’t like something. Quit your job but have another lined up. That or talk to your boss, etc etc. Always remember where you are in life and do nothing to risk losing the things you don’t want to lose. There’s always a solution but remember that you might have to be more patient in waiting for said solution. And this all applies to life as well. I use the same elimination principles in life. If there’s something I don’t like in my own life, I try to eliminate it. Remember me talking about how much I hate grocery shopping? That’s a perfect example. Since I hated grocery shopping I started from there and did all I could to eventually lead to the outcome of never having to go grocery shopping.
Instead of focusing on things we want, pay attention to the things you don’t want to create a clearer path to a happier life.