Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Truth About Your Job

(How I Came to Realize)
(Stable, Well-paying)
9-to-5 Job
Is Actually a Dead End
(And Why Yours Probably is Too)

I wish the story of my epiphany was sexier. I wish I could tell you a flashy story about the exact moment of genius, the gospel chorus, or my shout of “EUREKA!” Sadly, I couldn’t get Tarantino to direct my moment of clarity. The light bulb never went off as Hollywood promised.

Rather, my revelation came under the impersonal hum of fluorescent light during a coworker’s retirement celebration. After 40 years, Vicky had retired with an adequate 401K and a sheet-cake from Costco. Four decades of work rewarded with requisite formalities and Hallmark’s vacant farewells. It was an alarming prophecy of the road I was headed down.

That’s when it hit me: My stable and well paying corporate job was a total dead end…

Why The Cubicle is the Predominant Career Choice
It’s no surprise why so many people seek out corporate jobs. Large companies can offer competitive salaries and appealing benefits. Mostly, the corporate choice is a reflection of human behavioral tendencies:

1. Perception of Stability: Humans are naturally risk averse and therefore find happiness in stability. Frequently the decision to join the 9-5 workforce is an attempt at long term certainty. Furthermore, life decisions like starting a family or buying a house often depend on the guarantee of future income. Corporate jobs seem appealing because no one likes to wonder when the next paycheck will be coming.

2. Herding Behavior: The sheer quantity of 9-5 jobs (and willing applicants) makes it seem as if it’s the only choice out there (safety in numbers). Furthermore, It doesn’t help when our outgoing Boomer parents give their own antiquated advice about work. The get-a-job-and-work-until-you’re-65 model is so prevalent in our aging (but well entrenched) workforce that examples of alternatives are hard to find.

3. The Failure of Imagination: Too often, people enter the corporate trap simply because they cannot fathom going against the grain of conventional work environments. Fear, doubt, and pessimism force people into thinking a 9-5 job is the only way.

The Truth about the Cubicle (Pst! It’s Just a Small Box)
Here is the plain truth about cubicle jobs:

1. There is No Reward for Loyalty: Staying at the same job your whole career is no longer beneficial. Pensions no longer exist. Global business is booming and outsourcing is growing. Business will no longer value the corporate veterans when the bottom line is threatened.

2. You are not that important: It’s true. Sorry. If you quit today, they would hire a replacement and carry on (maybe they even throw in a sheet cake). You are simply waiting for someone higher than you to retire so you can move up. Truth is, it’s nearly impossible for you to create any meaningful and lasting legacy at a large company unless you’re willing to throw away the chance of a balanced personal life.

3. You Won’t Need The Money If You Had More Time: So many choose corporate purgatory for a tempting salary and in return they forfeit their happiness for 60 hours a week. You don't need as much money as you think. Sure, who doesn’t want to be rich? But money will not bring happiness if you have no time to spend it.

4. You can only live once: You are a person (husband, wife, son, mother) first, and an employee second. Far too many people forget this. Quit any job that forces you to pick between living your life or populating a spreadsheet.

Living: When Working Comes Between You and Life:
Last month a coworker of mine had announced her engagement and immediately began planning her honeymoon. Erin ultimately decided upon the Caribbean but was forced to severely limit the length of the stay due to her lack of vacation time. She ended up having to ask permission to take unpaid leave so that she could get married.

This episode reminds me of how backwards the corporate world can be. Weddings are one of the most important milestones in life, yet work had prevented Erin from enjoying it the way she wanted. She forgot rule 4 (above).

A wise man once said “If you work for a living, why do you kill yourself working”? It was a piece of advice I could never fully understand until I started working a dead-end job. Since then, I have always tried to ask myself, “Is what I’m doing today going to matter in one year”? Until I can answer yes, I’ll know that I’m heading down the ol’ career cul-de-sac.

As for my retirement? I’ll bake my own cake, thank you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Employee Survey Comments

My company recently sent out the annual Employee Opinion Survey. Here is an excerpt from my comments (not that they would acutally do any good):

I am 24, young by our company’s standards. However young and insignificant I may be, please understand the importance of Gen-Y in the work force. Not now. Not next year. Within 5 years Gen-Y will be the fastest growing employee group at [my company] . Make no mistake that as the market improves, so will 401Ks and then all those almost-retirees who were sitting of the fence will go, leaving Gen-Y as the next generation to populate the ranks. So why am I mentioning this?

Gen-Y is different, we work differently, certainly more different than the boomers and their predecessors. It is then important to understand the working styles and attitudes of Gen-Y so that when the time comes, [my company] will have the ability to retain and recruit top talent.
Please understand, Gen-Y cares more about lifestyle than salary. This is critical to understand as [my company]’s compensation will have to shift to accommodate Gen-Y’s new expectations. Specifically, I’m talking about work-life balance. The opportunities to telecommute and work remotely are so rare that it seems [my company] does not care about work-life balance. I have written many memos on this subject, one of which I will include below.

I welcome the chance to discuss this with you further.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Today, at 10 AM, I will be doing something that I have dreamed about for 2 years.

I will be meeting with my manager to propose telecommuting. I almost certainly face overwhelming opposition. Our company culture is anything but modern. Our average employee age is in the 50s. Most
Boomers don’t understand the desire for work life balance.

Below is a letter that will accompany my proposal. It is aimed at those who will immediately say “no”. And while they are not likely to understand it, at least I am speaking my mind.

The Extraordinary Implication of an Absurd Suggestion
A Proposal for Alternative Work Arrangements


There are people who desire to be still, comforted in the safe tranquility of uncontroversial career choices. This is the secure choice, void of occupational risk but assuring continued employment. Yet even in the face of a stoic and unwavering status quo, I must choose the unsafe.

I propose to be the first employee to successfully cooperate in a mutually beneficial alternative work arrangement in my company. From there, I intend to lead my program, product line, and company into an unprecedented and wildly successful new working model. We will become the industry standard in quality, innovation, and employee satisfaction.

Is my suggestion actually so unconventional? Do we not possess the infrastructure or technological prowess to enable a thriving alternative work system? Is my skill, knowledge, or talent any less potent based on my geographic location? Are my hands any less deft, my mind any less rigid? Why then have we not embraced a culture of transparency, productivity, accountability, and trustworthiness?

The naysayers will claim that the company is not better off for pursuing alternative work solutions, that the current model is just fine. But those who resist the inevitability of change will be swallowed by its relentless and impassive current. They do not realize our company will be unable to survive when our competitors effectively lure, and retain, tomorrow’s talent because they can embrace reformation. We need to become a people company, not a product company. I’m willing to bet my career that the latter is the more lucrative.

Ultimately everything depends on choice. We can choose to actually matter, to have our legacies live longer than our lives. We can choose to continue remain operating in an antiquated mindset, or we can be pioneers and become truly remarkable. I can change the face of an industry or I can be the conventional employee. So which choice is the absurd one?

Bryan Hill

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Two Year Anniversary: Lessons Learned From Working for the Man…

Two years ago today I donned my J-Murphs and entered the working world. After 2 trips around the sun, this is what I’ve learned.

Don’t waste time waiting for change. Your company, your job, your coworkers, your cubicle will not change buy wishing. Newton’s “bodies at rest” philosophy is true even in corporate America.

Get out there and DO something.

Life rewards those who dare to swim against the current. Columbus left Spain. Gates left Harvard. Clooney left ER. Can you name one person who achieved overwhelming happiness, freedom, and success by sticking to the status quo? Ask yourself this: Will continuing what I’m doing today actually make me happy tomorrow?

There are those who will never understand you. I cannot understand for the life of me why some coworkers spend 40 years in the same cubicle doing the same job. Chalk it up to generational gaps. I see it as unmotivated, they see it as stable. They have the peace sign, we
chuck-the-deuce. Learning how to work with dissimilar people is a challenge but a critical life skill. So be polite, patient and when in doubt

Money is nothing. When you die, your bank account won’t matter. If you take a job for money, you are giving your life away. I guarantee that you can monetize a passion, no matter how
obscure. So don’t be afraid to do what you love.

Failure is GREAT. By failing we learn. We are challenged. We are tested. No goal is worth pursuing if you don’t risk failure. Failure weeds out those who lack passion, resilience, and drive; without it, success means nothing.

Office Politics: The 3 Step Guide to Coming Out Ahead

How to End the Office BS

It is not a matter of if. You will inevitably become tangled in office politics. It is simply a matter of time.

When I first started working, I was naïve to think that I could merely do my job and the quality of my work would be all I need. Two years into corporate America, I now realize that involvement in office politics is unfortunately unavoidable.

Months ago I had learned my lesson. A coworker had slandered me in an effort to look good for the boss. I was new on the job so I didn’t fight it but professionally it hurt me. I vowed that I would never be thrown under the bus again.

My chance came to honor that vow last Monday when I received a scathing email from a different coworker reaming me for not finishing a project. She even had the stones to attempt the corporate coup d'état (CCing my boss). But she was flat-out wrong. Project finished, and delivered. She didn’t bother to check.

Luckily I calmed down enough to realize that could turn this situation around for the better.

The 3 Step Process:

1. Decide if the fight is worth it: Sometimes knowing when to fight is better than knowing how. Pick your battles but walk away from most. If you must go to the
mattresses then go to step 2.

2. Throw a (soft) punch: Call out your coworker’s drama as unproductive and adolescent. Be fairly vocal about how their behavior is childish. But remember, don’t be defensive or hostile, that’s worse than being guilty. Your tone should be 90% informative 10% condescending. Make sure to educate your coworker about their false assumptions, politely. I guarantee if you openly address the office drama, they’ll consider bringing it up again.

3. Offer a Dove: Send an email explaining your previous hard stance. Explain that you’re sorry if you were curt but were warranted by their actions. Mention that you look forward to getting back to a successful working environment.

Using these steps, I was able to turn what would have been a black eye into a strong No-BS message. I looked confident for my strength, and compassionate for my forgiveness. It was a win-win for me.

Be tough, be kind. In that order.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

So who am I and what is this about?

I believe in the implausible idea that everyone can do what they love and be successful at it. This blog is more than lifestyle design, it’s about the quest for a meaningful, extraordinary life.

I am a 24 year old entrepreneur trying to break out of the rat race. I love Real Estate and am on the verge of starting my own investment company. This blog covers my successes, my failures and the bumpy road to happiness. And while I chose real estate as my path, hopefully I can inspire others to do whatever they love, make money, and be actually happy.

So many people are afraid to follow their dreams. Afraid of failure. Some people don’t realize that success and happiness come to those willing to fight for it. So take that risk. You’ve got your life to gain.

Bryan Hill
The Casual Tycoon