30 December 2009

Being a Real Man? Job vs. Career

Being a Real Man? Job vs. Career

I recently saw a definition to a word that made me sit back and think. The word was job. Job is defined by Google’s online dictionary as occupation: the principal activity in your life that you do to earn money” That made me think again. What was the definition of career? Well funny enough, career is defined by the aforementioned lexicon as “the general progression of your working or professional life”. Yes I checked other definitions, and of course I checked other dictionaries. These two were the most widely accepted explanations of these two distinct words. As is the English language, both definitions are circular. You can’t have one without the other…right?

Let me back track some. What led me to the point that I would be wasting away perfect beer drinking time daydreaming about anything other than a pair of double D’s? Well, it all started because of a conversation with my dear old dad. For a long time I had been struggling with my “job” I wasn’t from a lack of performance, not lack of pay, not because it was too hard; just plain old lack of interest. You see, I had been one of those people who fooled themselves into the American dream being my dream. I was a senior in High School and my parents were breathing down my throat about college. I’m no dead beat; I wanted to go to college too. I mean, who the hell wants to turn down college babes, beer binges and irresponsible keg stand fraternity nights? The only problem was, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I surely didn’t want to be one of those people who waste a fortune in tuition studying liberal arts. If you are a liberal arts kind of person, then by all means go for it. But let’s be honest, for most, it’s a cop out. So I was faced with the most important choice of my existence before the age of 18; what did I want to do with the rest of my life? Looking back on it now, it’s hardly fair. You can’t even legally drink in this country by that age. So I did what any self respecting alpha male would have done. I chose something where I could use my hands, but not labor every day. I went to college and majored in Architecture.

Was there something else I would have rather done? Of course! I wanted to be a musician. Travel the open road, wake up with a new groupie in my bed or tour bus every day. Puke out last night’s drugs and alcohol, and do it all over again. But what father (or mother for that matter) would encourage their child to be a musician? In my parents mind, I would spend half of my life starving, and then the other half stuck in the mail room. I also wanted to be a writer, but they thought that I would spend my life in dark rooms living on coffee and scotch with tons of scratch paper and no real life. (Well in their defense they were right once) So they never encouraged me in any of the things that I actually liked.

To make a very long story short, off I go after graduation into the rat race. I get a decent job at a respectable firm. I worked my way up from an intern to a junior designer. I switched firms, got a raise, and got promoted to senior designer. I spent 50 hours a week in the office, behind a desk. The other hours in the day where dedicated to trying to blow off steam at a local club or bar, and then on a local chick or three. I was young, I was making money, had a respectable job, and I was miserable. All of this suffering was because I didn’t understand the real difference between a job and a career.

So now, let’s throw out that girly definition that Google provided us with and get real. A job is something you do to get a paycheck. It can be anything, and it doesn't have to be something you like. The only reason you do it is because beer and cigarette money has to come from somewhere. Chicks dig shiny cars and you can’t pay your Porsche note with unemployment checks. It’s something that we drag our ass out of bed in the morning to do, just for money. This is what most of us have. There are often two categories that we all fall into. Category one is filled with guys who actually thought their field was “the” thing they wanted to do. It was only after college that they realized it blowed. Category two is filled with pansies like me; “men” who had a real passion for something, but feared failure or poverty. So we all took a job.

A career, my friends, is much different. You see, a career is that thing we envy guys like Hugh Heffner for. It is a passion. It is a living breathing animal that hunts down its prey, drags it back to the hut, and then gets laid by all the village virgins. It is a real man’s pursuit. A career is something that you never stop doing, no matter the hour of night or day. It is a lifelong road of travel, that doesn’t stop when the check stops. And it is never only for the check. A career will make you miss lunch and not care; it will keep you up until 4 am just to be out the door at 6am. This is what we all dream of. Chasing that thing we love the most, and being successful at it.

So what prevents us from doing this? One word; Fear. We fear not being rich. Hell, it’s the American way. We like our cars, houses and tits big. All those things cost a lot of money. We fear what society might think of us if we haven’t acquired some material possessions by a certain age, or reached certain milestones in our daily monetary lives. We fear not being able to hold on to Ms. Right or Ms. Right now because of our stature. What you do seems to define who you are. At least that is what you think.

All of this struck me one day while I was sitting in my 9 to whenever, safe, statured, weekly job. I was recently engaged to Ms. Right. I had it all and I was miserable. I knew this for some time. My job (the thing that consumes most of my living and breathing day) was making me absolutely unhappy. Finally, I said to myself, this is complete nonsense. Who the hell does something every single day that makes them unhappy? Only the insane, or people with desperate situations do things like this knowingly, right? I wanted to quit. I wanted to chase my dreams. But I had responsibilities now. I was getting married, thinking of buying my first home, getting a family car, blah blah blah. So as any man would do when he wants advice on being a man, I called my father. (Remember this article started off with a conversation with my dad? I’ll give you a minute to reread the beginning and catch up)

After I finished whining to my father for three beers and 3 minutes, he says: “Son, you have responsibilities now. You don’t have to love what you do; it just has to pay the bills. That is what being a real man is all about.” I expected nothing less. My father was a retired military man, who ended up working in the Post Office until he retired again. He always did what he had to do. He worked every Christmas to make overtime money to cover the loss on gifts and extra electricity consumption. He never bought a new car. He sacrificed until he bought his first home, then his second, and then his third. He didn’t care what he did to make money; as long as it was legal, and it was being made.

He closed the conversation by saying, “You have a long life and successful career ahead of you. Don’t blow it on some sort of early mid-life crisis.” That is when it hit me. I had no career. I was only doing enough to get by. Sure I was good at my job, but I never tried to excel past where the paycheck would support my current bills and habits. I never pursued learning more, or being involved in it after work. I did my job, and went home. That is a far shot from a career. I looked over at my aging father, and my mind was set. I respected my dad, but I did not want to end up like him. He merely existed all these years. Now he was a retired man with nothing to do. I was his biggest accomplishment. (and probably, biggest disappointment)

The following day, I went to work and knew it would be my last. I looked around the office and the midst cleared. It was like waking up in the Matrix and being offered to choose between the red or blue pill. I looked at all of my co-workers and subordinates. No one was smiling, no one was interested in what they were doing. Everyone was just on auto-pilot, getting by. As a matter of fact, the one guy who was always happy was probably the best employee I had at that place. But he really loved architecture. That was the difference.

So my friends, let’s stop fooling ourselves. Most of you are probably sneaking to read this article from work. Most guys are on some social networking site, blog, sports or porn site all day. If it’s not the internet, it is some other distraction. Did you ever stop to think the kind of time you could be investing in something you love, instead of what you were investing trying to be distracted from your job? 40 hours is a lot of hours! That doesn’t include the travel to and from the office, or the time you spend the night before preparing for your day. So it’s really more like 40-60 hours. If you can afford to, let go of that fear. Being a man is really about looking fear in the eye and breaking his jaw. Being a man is about doing what is the hardest and succeeding.

Unfortunately, most of us come to this realization when it’s a bit too late. We have a wife, kids and drinking habit to support. There is just no time to stop now and start over. Well to you naysayers I say, find a way. Be a man. Grow some balls. I know we all have to do what we have to do at the end of the day. But there is night. Build whatever it is you have to build until you can do it with your day too. You can never succeed at something you are not passionate about. You will only get by. Do you really want to wake up in your late 60’s and ask yourself what did you do with your life? Stop existing and start living my friends. There is more happiness to be found in a career, than there is money to be found in a job. After all, some dude wanted to do nothing but sit on the internet all day eavesdropping on his college buddies’ girl pics. He was passionate about it. Today Facebook is one of the most visited destinations on the net worldwide.

I did quit the day job. I never looked back. Since then I have become a semi-successful writer and a starving musician. Ms. Right is still here, and will be Mrs. Right very soon. It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes I don’t know where the mortgage money is coming from. But I will tell you this; waking up with peace of mind everyday and doing what I love with my day has improved my life in ways that money never could have. It’s noticeable. I smile again, even when I’m not drunk. So, for me, the struggle is worth it. My passion will make me money because I will only continue to learn and excel. Finally I am a real man. And guess what? My father just went back to get a college degree for the first time in his life. I guess he knew his own advice was half good and half bullshit. Just a little food for thought. Cheers.