What I Realized about Managing Your Own Career - Journal Entry

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Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. Names, places and events are either the products of the author’s neurotic imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. That is, unless you find the main character to be wise, charming and likable. In that case, it's definitely me.

Journal entry: December 24

You know what I realized today? There is a huge difference between "getting a job" and "making money."

If you only know how to "make money" by "getting a job," you can feel like you are trapped in a box with very few other options.

Me, I always liked the security of a box. And if I'm honest with myself, given the chance...today, I would probably scramble right back into a box. It gives me borders. It gives me predictability. It serenades me…

"Don't worry . . . about a thing,

'Cause every little thing gonna be all right"

There I was, building a great life for myself. A life in part, made possible by the box. I had my family and health, lived in a great neighborhood, did interesting work, and could even afford some of the nicer things in life.

Until one day . . . I got inauspiciously chucked out of the box.

And to get a little meta for a moment, I'm escorted out of the box by Security with years of accumulated personal belongings stuffed into a box. How’s that for Christmas present? I’m told he rest to be shipped to me later. Free shipping, or course. They wouldn't be THAT cruel!

And guess what?

It's not that easy for me to get back into my box or any other box.

Why not?

O let me count the reasons!

1) My salary no longer fits reasonably inside the box

2) I’ve outgrown the box professionally and don’t really fix inside it anymore

3) I've never paid attention to what was outside the box so I am clueless about what other boxes really want

3) I've never had to fight, climb or sneak into another box so I'm terrible at it

4) Unbeknownst to me, my box was an endangered species and there just aren't that many other boxes like it out there

5) The process of getting accepted into a box is like preparing for the Olympics. Qualifier after qualifier and you can knocked out at any point. I hope it doesn't take 4 years!

So what's the lesson for today?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-box. I'm pro-options. I'm pro-awareness. And starting today, I'm PROACTIVE so I wrote the manifesto below as a reminder to myself.

Don't Get Boxed Manifesto

1. Starting today, I'll learn how to earn a living with or without a box.

2. If I ever go back into a box, I will make it a priority to pop my head out on a regular basis so I know what is going on.

3. I'll keep all my skills sharp and be open to opportunities to make money outside of the box.

4. If I start to outgrow the box, I will not allow myself to get trapped in the box by my own fears, inertia or lack of imagination.

Do you feel like you are trapped in a box? Have you every been chucked out of perfectly good box? How did you respond? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you…

Silence is Golden

In a previous post, "The Tech That Saved Our Marriage," I talked about the solution for my snoring that enabled my wife to get a good night's sleep and prevented me from becoming a punching bag at night. I'm no neuroscientist, but it's interesting to me how in certain states we are more susceptible to noticing (and being annoyed) by sounds.

In the thankfully rare situations where I experience insomnia, I can hear every tick-tock of the clock and the hum of the air conditioner is a jet engine. When I was in school studying for finals, other's laptop keys sounded like spiteful castanets. Today, whether at work or home, the challenge is creating a cone of silence for when I need to do deeper or more creative thinking.

Here are some EZPZ silence solutions I recommend.

1. Headphones. Let's start with the most common and obvious one. Pump in some music (for me, music without words) and you are good to go. Use sparingly to protect your hearing and to not tune out too much. 

2. Move it! When faced with an unrelenting force like a spirited child or raucous co-workers, sometimes the best move is to actually move somewhere else for a bit. Your car, a coffee shop, a conference room or any other convenient destination.

3. Switch it! If you know the noisy condition is temporary and you have the option, switch to a task that you can do in spite of the noise or perhaps one that is enhanced by the noise. 

Finally, you could always opt for the approach taken by Charlie's father in So I Married an Axe Murderer, "SHUT IT!" I think the scenarios where this works in the long run are few, no matter what your role, but just wanted to mention it.

Happy Concentrating!