fireworks

I am finally taking a much needed vacation. I have not worked a full 40 hour week in 19 of the 29 weeks this year, so saying it is much needed is a stretch. I do not feel overworked at all, but a vacation is still a vacation and work is still work. For almost everyone, one is preferable to the other.

I reflect back on my working life sometimes and realize that it is going to take many years of working 32 or 34-hour weeks before I can average out over my career to a 40-hour week. I worked ridiculous hours for the first 12 years of my work life. I have worked two days in a row without sleep, I have worked Sundays, I have worked on planes, I have worked on vacation, I have worked on a laptop in a bar and I have worked while deathly ill. I have worked a lot.

I often wonder if I had turned my efforts towards entrepreneurial channels where I would have ended up. I also wonder if the effort piled into a corporate setting is the same as the effort I would pour into, say, my own consulting firm or being an independent contractor plumber. I suspect that if it is your own business you would expend even more effort on it. At the same time, I never felt in my early working life that there was any need to hold anything back in my ferocious non-stop pace. It did not enrich me except in the critical sense that it brought me where I am today (cushy-but-mindless high-paying consulting gigs). It took some life changes to make me back off my pace. Had I not met Bubelah I probably would be blogging right now from the Frankfurt Wi-Fi zone on my way back from a conference in Kuala Lumpur while nursing a martini to shepherd me through another four-hour layover.

I also wonder if, having stepped off that treadmill, I could ever recover the frenetic pace of my earlier career. Every day Little Buddy is a little more interesting and a little bit tougher to leave behind. I think taking a two-week business trip to Europe, as I used to do, would break my heart right now. I know people do it out of necessity, but I wonder what circumstances make people categorize things as necessities rather than people. If I needed the money to pay for health insurance, OK, I could do it. If I needed it to buy the new Wii, I couldn’t. I would reduce my lifestyle at this point to spend more time at home. I would have to be paid insane amounts of money to start working late hours and taking constant business trips, and insane money for me is really insane – “work two more years then retire” kind of money.

Nonetheless, I do have ideas for starting my own consultancy or online business or charity or small neighborhood coffee shop and on and on. I know that if I started my own consultancy I would be busy all day with client work and all evening/night trying to reach out to potential new customers. A coffee shop would open at 5 am and close at 5 pm. An online business – if it is going to be profitable – is a huge undertaking. A charity would involve long hours for little return. So the question I ask myself is “would this be fulfilling?”

I think the answer is yes. I don’t want to take long trips now because I would miss my wife and son, but a deeper reason is that I simply don’t care at all about “taking one for the team” for my clients. I suspect if I worked in a more entrepreneurial environment I would be more passionate about the work, so even if it meant long hours I would ultimately be happier and more fulfilled and that would make the time spent with my family even better. It might mean long hours in the near future but maybe – just maybe – it would mean a better future for all of us.

As pointed out elsewhere, the perfect moment to do this is not going to be announced by people yelling, “Surprise, this is it!” When I was 25, I would have sneered at the idea that there was a higher purpose than working insane hours in exchange for business-class tickets and luxury hotels and company-paid junkets to Budapest. I know now that I was wrong – the goal is independence to live your life as you choose, free from the tyranny of a paycheck.

I do still believe that moment will come when I will cast my status as an employee aside, and that is the first big step. And who knows? Maybe there will be fireworks.

4 comments

  • GoldnSilver

    BB, I don’t think you were wrong on thinking this “I would have sneered at the idea that there was a higher purpose than working insane hours in exchange for business-class tickets and luxury hotels and company-paid junkets to Budapest. ” when you were 25.

    When you were 25, you only had 25 years of life experience to judge what’s best for you at the time.

    Who knows, maybe when you are 60 reflecting back on what you are doing now, you will think differently on what you think is best, too.

  • GoldnSilver, I don’t know if I was wrong to think that was a good short-term purpose, I just thought that was IT. I think it was a good idea to do it then, I just think I was a little short-sighted to think that there was nothing else. Now I’m a lot more accepting of different goals, and actually trying to reconcile my goals and my wife’s and family’s goals is an interesting and complicated experience. When I was younger, all I worried about was the short-term.

    But you’re right, maybe “wrong” is the wrong word. Maybe I should say “I know now that there are other pleasures besides the material ones” or something like that.

  • When I was in my twenties I was single and had no money so working a lot of hours to get ahead made sense at the time (and still does to some extent). However after almost getting laid off several years ago after working my butt off for the new company I realized that there is no benefit to sacrificing yourself for someone else. You might get a slightly higher raise or bonus but you’ll get paid a lot more per hour if you just work regular hours.
    I’m in the same position as u BB – married + kid + pretty good 9-5 job and although the work is boring, I wouldn’t want to change it (now at least).

    Mike

  • sfordinarygirl

    When you said “When I was 25, I would have sneered at the idea that there was a higher purpose than working insane hours in exchange for business-class tickets and luxury hotels and company-paid junkets to Budapest. I know now that I was wrong – the goal is independence to live your life as you choose, free from the tyranny of a paycheck. ” I totally understand. In my early 20s, I thought of being a slave to the newspaper world and working forever, not really understanding the concept of time and money. Now that I’m 25 and have been in the corporate world for more than a year, I’d rather work towards my own entreprenurial ventures than be a slave. That’s what I’m working on doing is learning and transitioning to a new job where I can make more money and hopefully be my own consultant. I never understood why being an entrepreneur is so valuable until I started reading blogs and understanding the power of money. But it really is so important like you said “to live your life free from the tyranny of a paycheck.” It’s really true.