The 2 Keys to Happiness at Work

Note: This post is part of the Donna G Project. This is written to and for my boys.

First and foremost, we will clearly lay out The Fundamental Truth when it comes to work:

Most people’s primary objective at work is to do as little as humanly possible.

Let me say it again:

Most people’s primary objective at work is to do as little as humanly possible.

That is THE Fundamental Truth, and people are brilliant at achieving this goal.

“I’d love to help out, but…”

“I’m not confident I’ll do it right without proper guidance.”

“If you ask, I’m there, but on one asked.”

The energy, planning, strategy, and creativity that goes into achieving this goal is mindboggling.

OK, so now I’m gonna blow your mind with this next fact:

The vast majority of people are not happy or satisfied with their job.

Are you seeing a correlation? Any bells ringing? Because this fact and The Fundamental Truth are directly related.

Think of it this way: if you spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at a job that you are actively trying to avoid, by definition you will resent it. You don’t want to be there. You’re just trying to get out of there. You’re doing as little as possible. You don’t value it one bit.

Of course you’re miserable. You’re spending the majority of your waking time doing something that gives you zero satisfaction. You are wasting most of your time. You are wasting your life.

And all of this brings me to the first key to happiness…

Key to Work Happiness #1: Do a Kick Ass Job

Whatever your job, nail it. Dominate it. Attack it.

If your job is washing dishes*, get those dishes clean and then go scrub out the pots and pans. Organize the store room. Wipe down the counters. Hose down the air filters.

Look, you’re there for 8-hour shift, right? Avoid your job like most people do and you’ll walk out of there saying: “Finally, I can get out of there and start doing something I value!” Kick ass at that job and you’ll walk out of there saying: “I’m glad that’s over, but I sure kicked ass in there.” It makes all the difference in the world.

You are going to have to have a job for most of your life. My recommendation is that you avoid the trap of The Fundamental Truth and kick ass at your job.

Key to Work Happiness #2: Don’t Rush Into a Career

There is a TON of pressure to have a career. This starts very early.

“What major are you considering?”

“What colleges are you looking at?”

“What’s your plan after you graduate?”

Older people, especially the ones who care about you, want to feel like you’re OK. We worry about you. We’re invested in you. We want to be able to say: “He has a job in a big company. He’s doing well.” That brings us great comfort. That means you have an income. You have health insurance. You’re on the path to home and wife and kids and stability. It makes us feel like you’re safe and that we’ve done a good job.

I am sure you will get that pressure-vibe from me. You’ll get it from your mother too. Anyone who cares about you will be subtly pushing you into the safe haven of a career.

But I’m here to tell you – don’t rush it. Don’t succumb to that subtle gravity. Because it may not feel like it, BUT A CAREER WILL ALWAYS BE THERE. Corporate America is dying for young, responsible, competent people (think back to The Fundamental Truth). It will feel like the opportunity to get into a good company is rare and has to be taken. But those opportunities are honestly a dime a dozen. Those opportunities will come again and again and again. Those opportunities will come agains and again and again. (Plus with my next entry – 3 Keys to Success at Work – you will absolutely rocket through any organization and blast up the ranks.)

Look, when I was 23 I had a great job. But then I quit. People thought I was crazy. My parents were all a-flutter. But I quit and spent a year living in my car and driving around the US.

Want to know what the consequences were to my career path?

Nada.

I came back and in 6 months was right back into a secure job.

A few years later, I quit AGAIN. This time I spent a year travelling the world with your mother.

Oh, but wait, there must have been consequences of that rash action, right?

Wrong.

Once again, there were no consequences. I came back and in about a month I dove right back into the world of security and career. And here I am now – good job, house, kids, wife, whatever.

And get this – looking back – imagine the consequences if I had NOT quit my job. What would have happened if I had made a career my primary focus?

I wouldn’t have backpacked through that meadow in Washington that was so beautiful I prayed to God thanking Him for giving my eyes.

I wouldn’t have been on that boat in Thailand where that Japanese guy barfed on me.

I wouldn’t have trekked the Himalayas. I wouldn’t know what kava tastes like. I wouldn’t have heard the call to prayer in Morocco. I wouldn’t have gotten that God-awful haircut in Des Moines. I wouldn’t have spent my first wedding anniversary with your mother listening to a Vivaldi concert in a gothic cathedral in Paris.

In other words, the consequences would have been devastating. The career would have been the same.

A career will always be there. There is plenty of time to fall in step and gain stability – a stability I find wonderful. But the time to wander and explore and wonder and soar? That time, my sons, is limited.

So trust me, do not rush into a career.

Stay tuned! The second part: 3 Keys to Success at Work is coming soon!

*Note about the example of being a dishwasher. In many cases, that is a hypothetical example. That is not the case for me.

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