There I was, seat 21D, flying home from my annual performance review. I got a nice bonus and was feeling pretty good. I was surrounded by a group of people who worked for a large corporation and apparently they had a damn good year, considering this conversation: “I got a Porsche. What am I going to do with a Porsche? I don’t even like Porsches.” “I got a Harley and I’m not a motorcycle guy. Not sure what to do with it.”
Those two guys seemed to work it out; agreeing to trade the Porsche for the Harley. Seemed a bit uneven to me, but whatever.
I got to thinking about my “nice” bonus. A minute ago, I was feeling pretty good, but now, the whole Porsche/Harley thing. There was a cacophony of conversations among this group throughout the flight, comparing bonuses, goals, expense budgets, and quotas. Then about stress, pressure, bad management, and a negative culture. I just listened and observed without intention or thought.
As I drove home from the airport, I didn’t even put music on. I usually sing. Feels good. Hey, I’m not bad. I kill it on Rockband. It was dark and I had that thousand-yard stare. Quiet. In bed, I wondered what their lives were like and replayed that scene on the plane in my head. I woke up in a nice house with an awesome family; coffee brewing. Home. Feels good.
Is it a step down to take a position in another field, another company, or another career path that pays less? Many would say, “yes”. But what if this new path meant a better culture, a better atmosphere, less hours, or just made us happier through fulfillment, purpose, or passion? What if it gave us more time to spend with our family or to pursue other endeavors that fed our soul?
“Ha! Culture doesn’t butter the biscuit. Atmosphere doesn’t pay the mortgage. Less hours?! Do you know what kind of responsibilities I have? What pressure I’m under?”
Yep; social pressure. A responsibility to the perception of our portrayal of self and status. A job that pays less, a smaller house, and forgoing that Porsche for a Durango in this social construct seems outwardly, like a step down; a step backward. What will people say? Worse yet; what will they think?
Well … that’s on them, isn’t it? Ah, if it were only that simple.
Mmm, but it is. It’s not about work/life “balance”, as we like to say. It’s about quality of life itself, deep and wide. Hey, I like nice shit as much as the next guy, but there’s a threshold. A threshold that maybe we trip over or never notice. A threshold where we sacrifice spaghetti and meatballs with family in the living room for filet mignon with “important” clients at 7:30pm on a Tuesday.
Sure, there are exceptions to what I’m saying: entrepreneur trying to get a foothold; a family trying to get a leg up; a student trying to pay their way through school. Done all three of those examples and there are many others, but I’m talking about that threshold.
How about this from The Fixx:
“So, give me your attention, I know it’s getting late.
While we were dreaming, something slipped away.
We’re drowning in possessions, playing tricks with our minds.
Lost from one another, baby put your hand in mine.
Time is slipping away, but it’s not too late.
How much is enough?”
The pursuit of happiness? What about being happy in our pursuit? Maybe stepping back across that threshold is not a step back or down, but really a step up for the right things.
I don’t know. Just asking. For a friend.