No one can deny that I was a handful as a kid, and summertime brought my level of frenzy to new heights. My older brother and I battled constantly, I was perpetually in a state of near hospitalization, and I ran around the neighborhood like a barely tamed wolf child. But despite all the craziness, I felt completely in control of my time, my activities and my joy. I was creative, I was uninhibited and I learned so much about the good and bad of life in a very short period of time. It was wonderful.
Looking back as an adult, I now realize that much of that sense of control was an illusion. I was just a little kid. I was accountable to my parents and I paid the piper dearly when one of my “great ideas” went terribly awry (which was more often than not, believe me).Â And as we get older, I think many of us start to long for the same sense of freedom, wonderment and dominion over our work lives that we thought we had as children.
Fast forward to a meeting you might have had today. You’re sitting with a coworker listening to his worries about the big presentation – “Do the font size and colors match the corporate standards? Should we do double sided copies or single?” – and your mind begins to wander. His voice turns hazy as you contemplate throwing yourself quickly out the window… or maybe banging your head repeatedly against the conference room table… or perhaps just a little scream, one that builds slowly from your dying heart and ends at the top of your lungs. The temptation to start laughing (or crying) suddenly seems overwhelming and your inner voice ponders, “What in the f— am I doing here? When did everything go so terribly wrong?!?”
And then it really hits you. You feel you are this little cog connected to a little wheel which in turn connects to thousands of other wheels turning millions of other cogs. Well I have a little secret to share.
You are at work. Work. I’m not a big fan of quoting dictionary definitions, but this caught my attention:
“Work: A specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity”. ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Yep, that’s work alright. And although there are people who are living their dreams and find fulfillment and happiness in their jobs, most people do not. Some of the saddest people I know are C-level executives at the “top of their game”. They have seniority. They have wealth. They are respected in their industries and successful by every external measure. However, if you build close enough relationships to gain their trust, they will all eventually share a little secret.
They feel trapped.
And one thing they wish they would have learned years earlier is that you are always beholden to someone. Investors. Partners. Suppliers. Customers. Employees. Yourself.
Accept that work is largely out of your control and you will remove a major source of frustration in your life. Focus instead on those things you can control. Win some little personal victories and perhaps the temptation to window-jump, table-head-bang or bloodcurdle-scream will be a thing of the past.
And if you’re a kid trapped in an adult’s body, find one thing this summer that revives your sense of freedom and wonderment. Do something just for you and revel in it. And when you’re done with that, come back, share your thoughts and we’ll keep the conversation going.