The other day, I was on a half-day leave from office.
And I started thinking, Okay, fine, if I’m so frustrated with work, if I no longer want to work for others and do jobs that I don’t find meaningful, if I decide to just quit and stop living my life providing services and selling away my time by pursuing things that matter so much to these “clients” but which I could not care less about… then what can I do?
What can I create that is of value? How can I find my existence apart from finding another organisation to leech onto, how can my life not be tagged onto someone else’s ambitions, dreams, money-making ventures and passion? What would I do if I could leave, and be free?
Most people are very replaceable in most organisations. Minions. Important as a whole, but the world could just go on existing very well without any one of us. The world and the organisation that most of us work in. No matter what rank you are. I’m not saying replacement is not disruptive, but give or take some time and everyone adjusts. In contrast, as individuals, we seem very much dependent on the organisation, giving us a function, a job, a task, a title, a livelihood, a purpose. Without the organisation, what am I?
So I started asking myself, what do I want to do? What value do I want to create and how much capital (resources, skills and not only money) do I have to do that? And in that moment when you stood bare before yourself in the mirror, you suddenly realise that it is someone who is very defenseless and vulnerable that is staring back at you.
As a law graduate, many in society are envious of me. At least where I come from, law is still very much a desired profession where the top students would try to enter. The money can be good. The work can be intellectually simulating. There are perks. Of course there are pitfalls, and days when you can be bothered by meaningless actions after actions and days when you feel like you are selling away your life for those few extra bucks and wonder if that’s all your time is worth.
But the point is… yes, I can draft contracts, yes I know the listing manual and the statutes and the legislation, and yes I can write and craft legally tight letters that imply everything without saying anything much at all or play the game of words with counter parties and write empty words which pretty much say nothing at all. So? At the end of the day, where does that bring me?
If I were to be completely honest, the problem I have is of having skills which are so one-dimensional. It’s the realisation that if I were to remove myself from my job, and my organisation, I am not confident that I would be able to survive in the jungle of life. It’s scary because the more we dedicate time to hone ourselves in the skills at work, to bring us higher up, the more we take away from the rest of our lives. Even with the little mundane life skills – cooking, cleaning, eating, paying the bills, shopping, knowing the difference between Sting and Air Supply, knowing what your neighbour does and that she has a dog, taking part in that badminton game with your friends, reading a new book that came out because it sounded interesting etc. It’s that awareness that I’m ill-equipped for life, and it’ll only get worse if I don’t do something about it.
Getting caught up in the thrill of closing deals after deals can be fun and rewarding. And yet, before I get carried away with all these, and devote more and more time of my life to it as a matter of habit and complacency, I need to hold myself back and realise… there must be a balance in it all. We all should have a life, that is different from our job. A life that will continue make sure we can exist and sustain ourselves when our job could be taken away from us. That’s why even if it pays you a million dollars a year (which it doesn’t obviously pay me), I shouldn’t be selling 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year of my life to it. Even if it means I’m not going to be made partner in 7-10 years when my friends are, so what? It’s just a different life that we are pursuing. We shouldn’t care to compete on timescales.
Life isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. And I’m going to run but I’ll enjoy the journey too… because we only get to see it once. And at the end of the race, it’s always death that awaits. So… why rush. Just because the managing partner wants to meet his billing target and rake home his millions, doesn’t mean my life runs on the same value system. Time to gain more control over my life again.