Being Nigel

I recently expressed some of my dissatisfaction with my current career:

It received much more of a response than I expected, but I stand by this statement 100 percent. And it’s not “yardwork” per se that I enjoy (though I do). It’s actually creating something and doing something that does not involve wallowing in minutiae while sitting at a computer for eight or more hours per day.

There is a deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the contemporary office job. This is for two main reasons:

  1. It is highly unnatural; and
  2. There is little to nothing to show for your efforts.

Where’s the sense of accomplishment in shuffling through emails? What pride can there be in spending hours contributing something infinitesimally minute to some project that you have no ownership over and does not affect you?

And in the case of law, everything is air. Everything is made up. A law doesn’t exist. It’s a shared fiction that everybody agrees to abide by under pain of financial injury or physical imprisonment. However, these things can be changed relatively quickly–today’s wrong is tomorrow’s right.

Plus, it all keeps coming. All of it. There is no end to the busy work.

This can’t be unique to law, but at least some other jobs probably provide a more tangible sense of accomplishment. I think of somebody working on creating software, or designing a building, or even a guy on an assembly line or out landscaping: At the end of the day, you’ve created a thing. I know it’s easy to romanticize physical labor, and I know it often doesn’t pay as well as our wonderful brand new “service economy.” But hear me out.

Remember the movie City Slickers? Remember when it’s “Career Day” at Billy Crystal’s character’s son’s school and the other dads have interesting jobs, but Billy Crystal’s character, who sells advertising space on radio stations, finally admits that he “sells air”?

That’s a lot of us out here today. Men, especially. No wonder Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby decide to do something traditionally masculine and become cowboys. It’s a comedy, sure, but there’s an undercurrent of something real there.

Some days, I have an overwhelming urge to fight. I want to fight and get hit and hit other people and not know if I’m going to make it. I want to bleed as much as I want to make others bleed.

Other days, I want to go out in the forest, chop some trees, and build a house. Or a palace. Or make a castle out of huge rocks. Just because.

Although I hate the term “midlife crisis,” because it’s usually used to mock men who are unhappy with their work situations, the feeling is totally understandable. And I’ll tell you what I think it stems from: doing what we were told we should do. Continue reading “Being Nigel”

Keeping Your Job in a Knee-Jerk World

I laugh at the idea that we as a species are more empirical, less prone to believe in mystical voodoo, and use logic over emotion.

I mean, getting rid of this pesky “morality” thing was supposed to liberate us from the shackles of superstition, freeing us from our past so we can progress into a glorious future. Instead we–America but the world broadly–really seem to enjoy tearing each other apart over the stupidest things imaginable: prom dresses, what movies we life, being tall.

 

Seriously, this is a thing. And no, I’m not going to link to it. You know how to use the Internet: find it yourself.

I have written before about preferring to focus on things that bring people together as opposed to dividing us. That’s right, I’m wandering off the standard “our strength lies in our differences!” (and who the hell put us there, anyway?) because it is clearly and demonstrably a lie.

What does this have to do with anything? It has to do with everything. Look at your on-line world. Now look at your real-world job. You probably keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself a lot more in real life than you do on Twitter or Facebook or whatever other websites you frequent. Why is that?

You don’t want to be rude, sure. Most of us are decent and good-hearted. You can’t be anonymous in real life. But the real reason is much more basic: You can’t afford to lose your job.

And your opinions will cost you your job.There is a legion of screeching howler monkeys shaped like human beings ready to be unleashed on you for a wrong opinion or an inappropriate joke on-line. And it’s always one-sided. You are always on the chopping block, but they are not.

So what do you do? How do you balance professionalism with the ugly reality of America as we stumble majestically into the third decade of this God-forsaken century?

I’m glad you asked. For a guy who wrote “I hate bullet points” and “I hate lists” only one-and-a-half short years ago, here’s a bullet-pointed list! Continue reading “Keeping Your Job in a Knee-Jerk World”

Fasting to Feasting: An Ode to Delayed Gratification

Christos Anesti!

That is Greek for “Christ is Risen,” what we say as a greeting during Easter Sunday and for forty days after.

But this post isn’t about Easter per se. Easter comes into it because it also represented the ending of the Lenten fast. For 40 days, I did not eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy, oil, or wine, aside from designated feast days (and the occasions when there was nothing else fast-friendly to eat save for things that had been cooked with dairy, eggs, or oil.

I also stayed away from sweets and other forms of alcohol. Now, the real reason for fasting during Lent is to fast from sin, but the self-denial of certain foods is an important part.

Anyway, yesterday, let me tell you, I went to town on this little guy:

And let me also tell you: it tasted so damn good.

There is a certain magic to delayed gratification. I’ve written about this concept before as it relates to music, but it would be folly not to highlight the importance of delayed gratification to life.

If you can put off immediate reward after the performance of some kind of duty, you will enjoy and appreciate the reward far more . . . and you will likely get far more stuff done in life. Continue reading “Fasting to Feasting: An Ode to Delayed Gratification”

Gut Instincts and Glory

I’ve already shared a story about detrimental reliance at the workplace, where I very nearly deep-sixed a matter by relying on a colleagues incorrect work.

I learned an important lesson that day: stay paranoid.

Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of a difficult task, the temptation to rely on someone else’s work exerts as strong a pull as an oasis to a dying man in the desert. But don’t do it.

Now here’s an even better story about professional failure for you. And it does not have a happy ending.

NOT the ending screen to our story.

I call this story “better” because of a very important axiom I just coined two seconds ago: THE BIGGER THE FAILURE, THE BETTER THE LESSON.

(Hey, failure is what we do around here).

This particular failure happened early in my legal career. I was maybe…a month into my first post-law school job. I had been scheduled to oppose one of our defendant’s summary judgment motions.

You see, the attorney who’s case this actually was couldn’t make it. So on short notice, I got the call.

“Great!” I thought. “A chance to prove myself!” Diligently, I told the attorney I’d get cracking on our opposition.

“No, don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll write it and send it to you.”

Against my better judgment, I agreed. Hey, I was busy, still getting my feet wet…and a little lazy.

Time passed, and I still didn’t have this attorney’s opposition. I was frantic, until the night before the hearing when she emailed it to me.

And it was garbage. Continue reading “Gut Instincts and Glory”

Unpaid Product Review: Bombfell 

Logo for the company Bombfell

For someone who sure enjoys dressing up, I really do not enjoy the experience of shopping for clothes. At all. I’d liken it to a dentist’s appointment, except I don’t hate going to the dentist.

How you dress does have a huge impact not only on how others see you, but how you yourself feel. The right outfit–and it sounds dumb but it’s true–can fill you with confidence. And it doesn’t just have to be an outfit that looks good on you; it’s also important to make sure that it’s an appropriate outfit for the situation.

Given that I have to suit up every day for work, and given that I like to dress well, you can easily see how my aversion to shopping for clothes can create some challenges.

My wife picked up on this as well and signed me up for a service called Bombfell. Bombfell is one of those “We pick a bunch of stuff and send it to you every month” deals that have been really popular with the urban millennial crowd for the past ten years or so, and as with anything trendy, I’m immediately skeptical. But seeing as how Bombfell is free to sign up for, is free to quit at any time, and places no obligations on the customer to purchase any of the clothes they send, I figured I’d give it a shot.

And you know what? Three months later, I’m still using it.

A package from Bombfell. Note that the bag is resealable for times you want to return clothes.

So how does it work? Continue reading “Unpaid Product Review: Bombfell “

A High Tolerance for Chaos: What I’ve Learned from Rejoining the World of Customer Service 

I got a second job, and it’s going along nicely. Sure, working after work, or on a weekend, isn’t nesesarily the first thing one wants to do. But the extra money is nice, as is the chance to just get out, meet some people, and hopefully learn something. 

In this case, about wine. 

But the return to the customer service industry has also proven to be educational on other matters besides the vino. For example, I’ve learned some things about myself and others.

You see, this past Friday and Saturday night, our point-of-sale computer system was out of commission. So all billing, taking payments, and accounting had to be done by hand.

In a historic downtown hotspot.

In the middle of summer.

On the two busiest nights of the week.

Like this, but sadly with less mustache.
Despite it all, we survived. And we survived with style. 

Here’s what stuck out to me from this brief return to the days of my youth when doing everything by hand would have just been considered normal.

We rely on machines way too much. A malfunctioning machine, in this case due to a quick lightning storm that rolled through town, made everyone panic like the sky was falling.

Well, not all of us. There was definitely a, shall we say, demographic difference in how people handled things, but I’ll get to that later. 

The thing is, the idea of having to do things manually seemed to abhorrent, not only to employees, but to the customers. From the looks of pity and soothing words we received, it was like we all lost loved ones.

It wasn’t that bad. Really. In fact, in some ways just writing things down was easier.

But this doesn’t bode well–and I’m really stretching things out here–but if there’s ever some global catastrophe, be it natural disaster or act of war, that knocks out our power grid, we are totally boned.  Continue reading “A High Tolerance for Chaos: What I’ve Learned from Rejoining the World of Customer Service “

Always Be Moving Forward: Nine Lessons Learned from Following the Rules

You go along with the checklist. You follow the rules. And you find that you still can’t “make it.”

Replace “you” with “me,” and that’s where I am now. 

You see, I did the pre-approved, Boomer-sanctioned thing: College. Grad school. Safety. Security. Don’t rock the boat. And I still have to get a second job. 

I’m not against working hard. But it is kind of depressing. 

Perhaps “disillusioning” is a better word. But I’m telling you, this is why I do not find it irresponsible to warn as many young people as humanly possible to explore alternatives to college. 

It’s another reason why I warn people away from law school as much as humanly possible. 

Law school provides you with some of the most unmarketable skills in one of the least-demanded fields. 

Every instinct telling you to go to law school? Listen to it, and then do the opposite. 

The same goes, generally, for college. 

Look, I’m no self-improvement guru. I don’t have everything together. But I can tip you off about what not to do. Why make the same mistakes someone else did? Continue reading “Always Be Moving Forward: Nine Lessons Learned from Following the Rules”