This image resonated with me because it is very in-line with my stances on How to Have a Day Job.
This image resonated with me because it is very in-line with my stances on How to Have a Day Job.
So in the midst of a lot of different things going on right now, I looked up and realized that a special day had passed. September 28. On this day six years ago, I entered the company I currently work for. It shall continue to remain nameless, but the lessons I have learned…those I will share.
Here we go: 6 things I would not have learned without my day job.
What have you learned from your day job?
This week, I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. This was a Christmas morning surprise of a book – I was browsing Audible with my monthly credit in hand, and it popped up in the new releases. A book on creativity by the Ted-talking, globetrotting, smooth-talking (not in the sleazy sense, but in the read-me-my-library sense) authoress with the mostest? Yes, please!
In the midst of her discussions on being kind to your creative spirit, I hit a chapter called “Day Jobs.” My throat tightened just a bit. I was a little nervous, because I was afraid that this was going to completely take the wind out of my sails. Was the world’s foremost authority on eating, praying and loving going to take over what I had started?
Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. I was actually really excited about hearing what she had to say.
I did not expect that she would so perfectly summarize what I’ve been trying to convey with How to Have a Day Job from day 1.
To yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away. Because you’re making really loud noises, and your face looks weird when you do that.
She also talked about how she kept up her day jobs through three book publications before she quit to write full time. Three books. And admitted that if the third book hadn’t been such a success she would still be working day jobs so she didn’t have to put that pressure on herself, her craft and her finances.
So if you’re wondering why I keep talking about this, about all of this, about balancing your life and your paycheck, about managing your sanity while you clock in and out, this is it. It isn’t fair or nice to say to your vocation, “Hey, pick up the slack, buddy.” Who would stick around for that kind of abuse? Feed yourself, pay your bills, and give your muse the time it deserves to flourish comfortably.
Some days, it’s hard to have perspective about your day job. Suddenly, something happens and you’re all 1) crying, 2) stressed out beyond all sanity, or 3) gassy. Hell, sometimes it’s all three. And you get those Lifetime movie moments where you think, “I could just get in my car and drive. Drive away from all this.”
That’s why it’s good, when there’s a pause between the bombshells going off, to think what experiences you would lose if not for your job. And as much as I’m sure you’re going, “I could live without those experiences, let me tell you,” I think that is wrong.
Here are five of mine.
What have you learned from your day job? Any hard lessons? Convenient truths? Helpful computer programs?
Every week, that iconic song by the Mamas and the Papas plays in my head. Which, while it’s a softer tone, isn’t too much better than the saccharine Office Space voice saying, “Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!” And then there’s the manic Monday, the rainy day Monday, the I-don’t-like Monday (tell me more!). Think Monday and you get doom, gloom, short tempers and wailing grievers, bemoaning the loss of those sacred seconds in Saturday and Sunday.
When was it that the world decided to hate Monday? How did Monday get the short end of the stick? What high school told Monday that it was the Least Likely to Succeed? What bus drove through a puddle and soaked Monday in front of all his coworkers? Well, I’m sick of seeing Monday eating lunch alone every day. It’s time to flip the script with this. Life is way too short to begin each week with resentment, immediately counting down to the end of it. I say no more to that!
Here are 5 ways you can make Monday more awesome:
What do you do to work through the beginning of your week?
When I was in middle school, I dreamed of a real career day. I imagined how I would get pulled into a room, provided with a long test, and, at the end of it, I would be given a specific job. “You are supposed to be a ____,” the kind woman would tell me. Just like in The Giver, I would be destined for this job, of which I was of course totally and completely meant for.
I never got this perfect day of destiny (maybe because I went to Catholic school? I can only assume this has something to do with it, given the number of sitcoms that showed other kids being told what to do when they grew up). Instead, I was stuck in the obscure gray understanding that I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write. And once I started trying to pull that apart, I was pointed at two camps: teaching or novelist. No one tells you there is an in-between, or that you can do something more than that, it’s as simple as you are Robin Williams’ character from Dead Poets Society or you’re Danielle Freaking Steel. What’s it going to be, kid?
I was transported back to this feeling of inadequacy when a friend on Facebook posted a link to this infographic (click to get to the original article):
This infographic takes a very simplified look at what is essentially, “What job should you have?” It starts with a number of questions that you follow through the flow chart, answering yes or no until you get to your type. For example:
On and on this goes, and as you find the list and description, if your answer is, “No, I do not want to be an accountant, who could want to become an accountant?” you finally get to the sad bottom where you are informed, “Hmm…it seems you don’t like to do anything that might actually earn you money.”
This is what is problematic with the picturesque term of the dream job, the “right” job title, the workplace meant just for you: it’s not realistic. It’s a dream. And when you get down to it and work through it, the world points its finger at you and says, “Well, it’s your own fault you’re not happy.” And sure, you are ultimately the ambassador of your own badassdom, but when you are raised to think that eventually someone will handle you your door plaque, it’s frustrating.
So what’s the answer to not constantly feeling like you are crippled by the occupation description?
Skills. Get your mind out of, “Where do I want to work?” or “What do I want my title to be?” and think instead, “What do I want to do?” and “Where is a place I can do that?”
Nobody knows what jobs will/won’t exist so the best move, I think, is to forget job titles and focus on a skillset. Learning to write, for example, or learning to make films – or code websites – those are skills that you can plug into different jobs and/or industries. Focus on building skills.
I didn’t realize until I started doing it that working in an office setting would open up my writing skills considerably. I work with representatives who create materials that go out to clients. I’ve learned how to simplify my writing in a way that has operated upon my creative work. Sure, I can’t tell someone, “I sit at home every day in my underwear and write page upon page of PROSE.” But I write. I am, therefore, a writer.
Don’t look at what positions do what you think they do. Look for the people who are exhibiting the skills you yourself have cultivated. Ask them. Say, “I want to do that thing. How can I do that thing?” Build from there. You might find that getting to write will be at a community center, not at your keyboard. You might find that creating art will happen at an advertising agency, not behind your easel. But these skills will grow and move into new, awesome things for you. And everyone else too.
What do you want to do?
Watching: Steven Universe – This is one of the best shows on television right now. General plot: Steven is a part of the Crystal Gems, a magical (otherwise) female fighting team who defends Earth against nasty creatures. As he tries to figure out his own super powers, they learn about being a family, dealing with the otherwise normal people of their city, and have adventures. It’s a lot of fun, and it is surprisingly mature for how it may look coming in.
Loving: Buddhify – Buddhify is a meditation app for the iPhone and Android. You have the option of selecting a given scenario and then picking one of several audio options based on the amount of time you have. So, for example, the other day when I was feeling extremely anxious at work, I listened to a 10 minute guided meditation from the Feeling Stressed section. It helped immediately.
Reading: Burnt Tongues edited by Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Thomas and Dennis Widmyer – This is a collection of strange and bizarre short stories by a variety of authors. They can be pretty disturbing, but they are very well-written. Reminds me a lot of Haunted.
Hearing: Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman – I’m sorry, dear subscribers. I’ve cheated, and there’s no turning back now. Recently, I have been listening to more audiobooks than music, and as a result, my go-to ear snacking has been this fun, manly book by “the NBC guy with the mustache.” Pair it with his Netflix special “American Ham” and you’re in for a treat.
Doing: Slam poetry – (Author’s note here. I originally was going to look for an image that would encapsulate “Overtime” because that is actually what I’ve had to spend a lot of time doing as of late but then decided that that was really, really fucking depression. Pardon my language.) The last two Tuesdays have been spent being part of Pittsburgh’s slam poetry scene. I have now performed four pieces, and they have been pretty well-received. For those of you who have not attended a slam, it’s a competition in which poets perform a piece of writing no longer than 3 minutes and are then scored by a panel of judges. There can several rounds until a winner is found. I made it to the second round both times I attended, which I think is pretty solid for a beginner.
I am very proud of my most recent newsletter about how to gamify your day job. And I decided, because I love you all so much, I’m going to share it here.
Want more? If you’re not on the How to Have a Day Job list and you’d like to be, click here and fix that!
How to Have a Day Job
On how to make the daily grind more fun, or taking a lesson from a killer puppet doll
One of my favorite Vines of all time is one that was aired on an episode of the raunchy Internet video television show, “Tosh.O.” It featured a man being menaced by a version of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, who asked in a gravelly voice, “Would you like to play a game?”
“Raise this baby.”
As Jigsaw handed over the infant, the man looked properly aghast and screamed in horror. “That ain’t no game, that’s life!”
And it was really funny, but then it got me thinking: who made the decision that life couldn’t be a game? That our serious roles couldn’t just be a little more fun?
Luckily, I’m not the only one who feels that way. Gamification is on the rise. The basic definition of this is when one uses the idea or design of play in applications outside of games. So whether it’s with Fitbit, task-oriented apps like HabitRPG or making your own personal character sheet with game stats on it with Chris Hardwick, people are looking for ways to ease up on taking everything seriously.
Day jobs should be no different!
So here we go. 5 ways to make your day job more like a game and less like…well, work.
1. Bond, James Bond — How about a day as someone else? I like to pretend now and then that I am a completely different person when I go to work. Although there are certain limitations to this — you can’t really afford to take on the persona of, say, Batman, but how about Bruce Wayne? Make believe that you just have to get through the day and afterward, you’ll be off to fight crime. Or perhaps you would be Sandra Bullock from The Net, and your gateway into cyberspace has to be unlocked through a series of spreadsheets. Have fun with it!
2. Set the record straight — Of course, getting a lot done during the day is going to make people you work for happy, but what about you? Why should you care? Challenge yourself to raise your productivity by even a little bit by keeping a scorecard and giving yourself different levels of rewards. You might even keep a jar on your desk and every time you fall short, you have to put some change in. When you finally succeed at whatever task you’ve given yourself, you can use the money for a treat. Everyone loves treats.
3. Mortal combat! — Making your job more fun doesn’t mean just playing with yourself. Challenge a coworker, if you have a good rapport with one, and see who can reach a certain goal sooner. Or, if that’s not really the type of place you work, pick someone who has a particular trait that you want to take on. Maybe there’s a team lead that’s always quick to make a joke in a bad situation, and you suck at being funny. Observe them carefully and start practicing the skill. Imagine yourself becoming better, excelling beyond that person’s status (even if it’s just in your head).
4. Make my day — Choose random people to do good deeds for. Watch them scramble around trying to figure out who did this nice thing for them. I love sneaking around and doing stuff for people. I sometimes combine this with #1, and pretend that I’m the most charitable ninja ever.
5. Take it outside — Play doesn’t just have to happen at your desk. Give yourself a challenge on your commute or during your breaks and lunches. Go outside and try to find types of wildlife around your building. Take a different route home and stop somewhere you’ve never been before. Take a drive during lunch and people-watch at a local neighborhood.
Being an adult means getting to decide how to take control of your life and make it more awesome! Get out there and play!
30 Things I’m Glad I Know Before I Turn 30: Part 2
6. My body.
I know what I like. I know what I hate. I know what will happen if I put certain things in it. I know my chemical imbalances. I know when I feel good. I’m very aware of my physicality. I am a meat bag.
7. How to tell people how I feel.
Confrontation. Telling it like it is. Being blunt. Padding where appropriate and showing emotion as necessary.
8. How to forgive – both myself and others.
Letting go of grudges doesn’t just go outward. It also means saying to myself, “Yeah, you fucked up. Don’t do it next time, yeah? Yeah. Off you go.”
9. My hobbies.
I used to be absolutely paralyzed when people asked me about my hobbies. Especially after I stopped LARPing. I used to deal with a terrible anxiety about doing stuff other than what I thought I “should” be doing at a given point. By letting go of that, I now have a laundry list of interests: taxidermy, painting, felting, sculpting, traveling, photography, on and on and on.
10. How to have a day job.
If I had a dollar for every day during my twenties that I was angry about the office jobs I’ve had as a post-graduate, I could probably take a Caribbean cruise. Over the years, though, I’ve learned a lot of great lessons about how to handle not doing what you think you should be doing 24-7. I’m sharing some of these secrets in my newsletter, by the way.
One of the best ways to get into the habit of writing is to commit to a little bit every day. Ask yourself: what is 30 minutes? On its own, sure, you wouldn’t want to be tortured for 30 minutes, or sit alone at a date for 30 minutes, or even be in subway for 30 minutes. However, in the grand scheme of things? A half hour is doable.
Here are 5 ways to find it:
1. Get up a little earlier in the morning — even if you aren’t writing, 15-20 minutes out of the sack can mean freeing up 30 minutes somewhere else. You can get other pieces of your to-do list out of the way and, once you’re used to it, you’ll feel like writing.
2. Breaks/lunches at work — what are you doing right now during those, huh? Standing at the vending machine? Smoking? Pull out your phone or a pen/paper and write down some ideas. Write a poem. Make a list of topics to query about. You can get a lot done during those little periods of time.
3. Your morning and evening commute — obviously I’m not saying you should juggle a laptop on your steering wheel, but we live in a world of amazing technology. Apps like Evernote allow you to make audio memos to yourself when you’re on the go. Switch off driving with a friend or partner and get in some time freewriting.
4. Commercial breaks — they aren’t just for jumping jacks anymore. Keep your work in front of the television and when you get to a commercial break, hit mute and go to town until your show comes back on.
5. Baking breaks — I am a big believer in mis-en-place, which is the fancy way of saying, get everything together and prepared before you start cooking so you are literally just following the directions when you get to making the dish. Once you have that casserole in the oven or noodles boiling, jot down some plot points for your book.
Sure, none of this is perfect, but you would be amazed how inspired you’ll feel when you start even doing a couple more minutes a day. You’ll practically be stealing the moments you can spare!
What do you do to find time for your passions?