Before I entered the Zone of Give-Upness™; I connected with a marketing professional for career advice. And I’ll never forget the tragic advice she gave.
She held a series of marketing positions since college and worked her way up to VP at reputable organizations. She was kind enough to lend a shoulder; so I explained my situation: I felt defeated and had no clue where to take my career.
Her advice? Quit chasing dreams and find a career you can tolerate.
That response crushed me, not because I took her advice, but because she so clearly had. As we spoke, it was evident she found no joy in marketing and refused to acknowledge her creativity, yet she remained in marketing roles for over two decades.
In fewer words: she settled.
But I can see two powerful reasons why one may live by her advice. Statistics show that very few people are happy with their careers, and who are we to become outliers?
And then there’s that one pernicious, gooey zeitgeist that reminds everyone “your work does not define you.”
Together, these points present an air-tight case for keeping whatever career–objection, your honor, the plaintiff has clearly given the f*#k up.
Those two reasons are the same reason: finding a meaningful career is hard. Fact: no one has ever lived their ‘best life’ on accident – you cannot expect the universe to hand you a meaningful life without putting in the work and making a sacrifice because it is precisely those acts that give it meaning.
If someone served your dreams up on a silver platter, they wouldn’t taste like your dreams at all because you weren’t the one working the stove.
We lay the foundations of a meaningful life with hope-filled bricks and bloodied mortar; hands must be dirtied.
And then there’s the mantra of those who’ve thrown in every possible towel: “your work does not define you.” This takes on other forms as well, such as, “your job is not your life,” work-life balance, and similar drivel.
If you read it broadly, it’s the body-positivity movement of labor: an escape hatch from accountability to your life’s purpose.
When you claim that life is what happens between Friday night and Monday morning, you’re crafting a psychological get-out-of-jail-free card for when you begin questioning everything–it’s a philosophy that buoys in youth but cripples in middle age; that is unless you plan to rage well into your 60s.
But if you’ve read this far and remain unswayed by arguments philosophical, perhaps you’ll consider the arithmetical.
If you work 40 hours a week beginning at age 18 and ending at age 65, presuming a generous two-week vacation per anum, you will work 94,000 hours.
You’ll have 4 hours of free waking time every weekday, and 12 hours throughout retirement, which leaves you with a total of ~132,800 hours of adult free time to rage, knit, or rage-knit
As a consequence, you will spend 41% of your waking adult life at work, and nearly another third of that adult life in a rocking chair. But if we exclude retirement, work then consumes three-fifths of your able-bodied adult life or nearly 60%.
But that number actually creeps higher. Remember those 4 free hours you get Monday through Thursday? When you have a shit career, you will dedicate plenty of that time to recovering from the previous 8 spent at work, and Sunday nights are complete write-offs.
So by my numbers, you’ll spend less than 40% of your able-bodied time actually living; and there’s a word for something that isn’t alive half the time: dead.