“Be thankful for what you have.”
We’ve all heard it before. But what if being thankful … is actually keeping you from what is best? Please allow me to explain.
Life works because of tension. Light and dark. Good and evil. Pleasure and pain. I consider myself a compassionate guy, and I’m all for encouragement and positive reinforcement. But we can’t deny that conflict, tension, and pain are incredible motivators. Think about it: without friction between a tire and the road, your car isn’t going anywhere.
So, tension is necessary to move forward. But how do we navigate that when it comes to making a change as big as our vocation?
Dear Day-Job: I Despise You In The Best Kind Of Way
Years ago, I was working a corporate marketing job and making more money than ever. I had the respect of my colleagues and was doing well. But there were inevitably those days that I dreaded going to work because of:
- Death by meetings.
- Meaningless projects.
- A life of “wash-rinse-repeat.”
- Doing work I didn’t believe in.
Those dull days made me yearn for career freedom; they motivated me to work myself out of my job. But there was a problem. Every so often, I’d be lured back in by these insidious temptations, like Turkish Delight in Narnia:
- Fun company parties
- Really, really happy Happy Hours
- Incredible food
- First-class travel
- The money!
Plus I really enjoyed my co-workers. It was a delightful dysfunction: we dreaded the day-to-day, but there was a peculiar camaraderie between us — as if we’d all shared in the same experience of soul-sucking work but prided ourselves for surviving each week. I’ve never been in the military, but I hear people get close to one another in the trenches. Maybe this is sort of like that.
Introducing “The Sadistic Selfie”
I’m going to admit that this is a purely Mike Kim invention. I’ve never heard of this being done, and I’m confident this odd phenomenon could only originate from my own twisted mind.
I call it The Sadistic Selfie.
I’d take a picture of myself when I was completely miserable — as a reminder that I was completely miserable — so that I’d work harder to get out of my job. Crazy, I know.
Now, I couldn’t take many Sadistic Selfies during face-to-face meetings. What was I going to say? “Hey folks, pardon me while I whip out my phone to document the sheer vitriol, despair, and barrenness I feel in my soul as we continue to ramble on about things that are more meaningless to all of us than dryer lint. Anyone have a gin and tonic?”
Enter conference calls. The bane of my existence, yet a rife opportunity for a litany of Sadistic Selfies. Just look at that picture. I hope to one day have the honor of it being displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Modern Lifestyle” exhibit. I’ve titled it, The 4 Stages of Death By Conference Call.
(I’m actually chuckling as I write this because it really is a strange thing to do, now that I think about it.)
Anyways, these snapshots continued to serve as the reminder I needed to stay on track and keep going every time I felt like giving up on launching my own business. Every time I felt thankfulness lull me into settling with my job, I opened my “Sadistic Selfies” folder and gave those pics a real good look. Seriously, look at this guy! This dude needs a drink. And a reason to live.
Your Job Is Funding Your Freedom
Keeping a steady stream of gratitude is important. Appreciation for the fact that you have a job — an income and ability to work and provide for your family — is necessary. But there are times that gratitude can derail us. It can desensitize you or divert your attention from the deeper feelings of misalignment or dissatisfaction inside.
I had to learn to balance my gratitude with a healthy dose of frustration. The balance came in reframing my gratitude for my current job the way my good friend Ann Vertel puts it: funding my freedom.
There’s an endurance that you build by provoking yourself to stay on the new path you’ve laid out.
Developing that muscle to keep pushing through will only serve you later on when you have to land clients, finish a book, or launch a new product. You’re training and strengthening that entrepreneurial muscle. You’ll need it if you’re going to be your own boss because there won’t be anyone to tell you what to do.
As a wise man once said, “There are two things in life that motivate you: the fear of pain and the desire for pleasure.”
Snap those pics, my friend.