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“Live to Work” or “Work to Live”?

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve always believed in the companies I’ve worked for. Similarly, I’ve always believed in the bosses I’ve worked for. I’m unsure if this was “luck” or me seeking out people who inspire me and business models I take pride in working for, but regardless, I realized this past week I wouldn’t except anything less.

I never understood how people could work 9 AM – 5 PM, take a lunch hour, and go home feeling fulfilled at the end of the day. Perhaps it goes back to the age old verbiage, some people “live to work” while others “work to live”. I’m more of a “live to work” person. I had never really ‘discussed’ my career / career options with anyone except my husband and friends, and as I’m at what I believe to be a pivotal point in my career; I decided maybe it was time to speak with an expert. No, not a ‘shrink’, but a career counselor.

While I’m consulting right now; owning my own business, I do want to go back into the ‘working world’; I miss having a team and definitely miss having people around I can learn from. As the higher education industry is booming right now (perhaps not in a good way), jobs in the industry for innovators are aplenty. Every time I interview or speak to a prospective company about a future relationship, I get excited. I can’t help it; I love building things from the ground up. That said, I couldn’t figure out why I was always excited (at first) and the more I learned about each company, the less excited I became. I loved the people, love the ‘start up’, but my gut was repeatedly telling me, “STOP”. I couldn’t figure out why, but after reviewing my notes from the career counseling session I had, it was clear; it’s because I’m not passionate about anything I’ve been offered. There is nothing truly innovative, nothing new, and certainly nothing that will address the issues the for profit education sector is dealing with right now.

This is an interesting paradox for someone who owns their own consulting business as the way I make money is by working with companies and teaching them how to do things that I’ve done successfully in the past. The problem is; I don’t believe most of what the for profits have done in the past will be useful for the future. Certainly, the skill sets and experiences will help to be successful, but innovation is going to ‘win’ in this industry. So, for the past 8 months I’ve been working, doing what a ‘consultant’ does, made more money than I’ve ever made before; and I have a fiduciary responsibility to continue running this business until I do find something full time that I am passionate about. But I wonder, from a psychological standpoint, how one can continuously work on projects that I don’t believe have a solid chance of long term success?

Short term success? Certainly. Can I bring a business to profitability? Can I teach them best practices? Can I education them about marketing, call centers, operations, and give the best recommendations in TODAY’s world – Absolutely. But in this industry, ‘today’s world’ is rapidly changing.

So the question for me is – how long am I willing to work for businesses I’m not passionate about? I’m delivering for the companies; but not delivering for myself. I am not fulfilled. I hate working from 9 AM – 5 PM. I hate not waking up at 2 AM with a great idea that I can draw up and execute on as I rush into the office at 7 am the next day. I hate not feeling the ‘fire in the belly’. But, I guess this is the life of a consultant. People pay you for your expertise, but you’re not necessarily building something that matters. I originally thought they money would outweigh the need to be passionate about a business. When the money didn’t excite me anymore, I told myself that the executives I was learning from would motivate me to feel passionate about what I was doing. Turns out, that hasn’t worked either. So, I continue in my quest for a meaningful role in a company I believe in and whose model I am passionate about. And I’m left with the question: Would life be easier if I could ‘teach’ myself to “work to live” instead of “living to work”?

  1. September 17, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Don’t do it. I never followed the mold. I believe you have to do what makes you happy. I don’t settle for jobs that lack the things I hold important to me. I need something that is constantly changing, growing, challenging, and rewarding but not necessarily financial rewarding. A million dollars for a job that I don’t enjoy is not worth it. Don’t do it. Don’t teach yourself to ‘work to live’. Too many people in this world ‘work to live’. Look at those pathetic faces that pass by going to and from work. Do they look happy? Do you want to be one of them?

    As for being a consultant and helping a company build something of value…well, for them it’s all about the money. Your ideas are nice and may have value, but they don’t and probably will never share your passion or see it the same way. Your influence will have a positive effect on the company, but there will always be something lacking. You!

    You don’t have kids, but consulting is similar. You educate, nurture, help to grow…but eventually you have to let go. It is then that you feel that emptiness inside. The reward is bitter/sweet. Was it worth it? Enjoy the ride. Live the moment. Make it last as long as you can. Then do it again. Relive!

  2. September 18, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Adam my man; love it. I believe you know me well enough to know when it comes down to it, I could never be someone who ‘goes with the flow’, but in the interim, it is frustrating not being ALL IN on something. I guess I’m learning patience…how to make better choices…and about me – and as you would say, not forgetting to enjoy the journey. BTW – looks like you still don’t sleep – hahahaha.

  3. September 18, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Right or wrong, “Living to work” is an innate characteristic found in the most successful entrepreneurs, and I don’t think one can be taught to think or behave otherwise. Much like yourself, the “business hours” concept is foreign to me. I could never wrap my head around this concept of being “done” at 5pm (or any other time), but most people don’t understand this. For example, most people don’t understand how taking a 1 or 1.5 hour lunch break at the gym isn’t even really a “break” at all; working out is one of the most effective ways clear your mind, focus/concentrate and prioritize your work. The same folks of this mindset don’t understand why we work late every night and most weekends.

    The question is WHY? What are we trying to accomplish? Money is of course a motivating factor, but I think of wealth as a consequence of accomplishment – not the accomplishment itself. To this point, right now I’m wrapping up our business plan narrative, and something I’ve been struggling with is our mission statement. A mission statement should be easy to convey, right? I’ve been playing with concepts like: “…provide superior performance marketing solutions…” or, “…to be the number one lead generation company…” or, “…to enable lead generation…” and a bunch of other uninteresting ways of describing what we do.

    This post, about you trying to find passion in what you’re doing, really resonated with me because it helped me begin to realize that my passion is NOT lead generation. (Honestly, who can be passionate about generating a lead?) No, my passion is about assisting, educating and empowering people who are faced with making important, life changing decisions… Think about that.

    Our business is *not* asking people to fill out a form and then selling that data; it’s about educating and assisting individuals who are ready to take their professional lives to the next level, provide a better situation for their family, and hopefully pursue a more fulfilled life. I think that’s a powerful concept, and amazing that we can build a business around it.

    But, back to your post. I don’t know you that well (yet) Jamie, but I’m getting to know you better, and it sounds like you’re ready to take your professional career to the next level. You’ve more than proven yourself working under ambitious executives. And you’ve proven yourself as a consultant to growth-stage companies. But now, neither of those options is as appealing to you as it once was, and you’ll never be happy in a 9 to 5. Maybe it’s time to consider doing your own thing – not as a hired consultant, or as a C-level officer – perhaps what you need now to start build your OWN empire, your own legacy, something that YOU are solely responsible for.

  4. September 18, 2010 at 8:05 am

    A couple things, Derrick: 1) I think your mission statement is written above; “it’s about educating and assisting individuals who are ready to take their professional lives to the next level, provide a better situation for their family, and hopefully pursue a more fulfilled life.” I think you need to phrase it a bit differently and add the “WHY” you are the best to help them, but that should be simple for you.

    2) Back to the WHY entrepreneurs are motivated; I think it’s different for all of us – but the one commonality is likely – we are all ‘passionate’ people. For me, working in an industry I ‘believe’ in (education) “turns me on”. I’m a natural competitor, so I like to ‘win’ – make something work when no one else has. I’m a capitalist; so finding a balance where I can do something I believe in (edu) and make money / get paid for my performance is key; Like you said – helping people – makes me feel like I’m ‘doing good’ for others…and while I’d like to say that as a capitalist that doesn’t matter to me; the truth is – it does. So I think the “why” is a combination of things different for many people; but nonetheless, it is there.

    As for starting my own “empire”, I have a couple of current oppurtunities that I would be a “C” level equity employee. I believe I need to figure out what I want in the long term before I commit to the short term. What I mean by that is this; could I be a CEO of a lead gen company or a small company of 100 people? Sure. But, would I be equipped to be a CEO if I wanted to GROW that company? Probably not. I’m not in a rush and would rather take the time to work for a few LARGE corporate executives for a couple more years before ‘taking on the world’. One of the biggest motivators for me is LEARNING and I do still think I have a lot of ‘growth’ in that department…

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    September 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm

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  6. December 8, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Nice post! GA is also my biggest earning. Nevertheless, it is not a a lot.

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