The Devil’s Advocate: Corporate Life

mad-men

I don’t believe in safety nets.

I flew on my own to the US, not having a job or a place to stay, not knowing where I would sleep the first night. And it went ok.
I travelled alone by train to countries where people don’t speak English, and found that sign language actually works.
I trusted people I had no reason to, and proved right.
I backed away from people I should have trusted, and proved right.

I jumped, flew, dived, challenged, was blunt and got my ass kicked for it many times.
I’m a risk taker up to the verge of recklessness.

But there’s one area in which I really advocate for safety, despite what we’re being told since the crisis started. 

Corporate life.

 

I know, probably the entrepreneurs in the audience would rather slaughter me now, but I really started to love my cubicle, like Jenny Blake here.

Why?

1. Entrepreneurs never actually leave their job. In 90% of the cases, I shut my laptop at 6 and don’t think about work anymore. That doesn’t make me less dedicated or committed to my job – I just know like to draw the line. I feel immense relief from the probably-superficial “ignorance is bliss” thinking outside working hours. Constant overcommitment – regardless if it’s in a 9-to-5 job or in your own business – is just going to damage your balance.

2. There’s a safe, steady income. Except if you’re working in commission-based sales, you know that “if you do this, then you get that”. 

3. I love having ideas when I don’t feel pressured to have them. I like working in an environment where things are already set up to a good standard, and I can spot improvements. If I had my own business, I would need to build everything from scratch – and I’m really not that good with elephant-size bites.

4. I like being managed and lead. Sometimes, you just need to have someone pointing out what you’re doing wrong and what you might be missing. Being an entrepreneur is, well, a lone job. Even with a coach (which I’ve experienced), you’re still the one dreaming, thinking, reality-checking and implementing your vision, by yourself. Some people like that…I prefer to share the good and the bad.

5. What’s being said about “doing what you love and the money will come” is total bullshit. Whoever said that probably doesn’t know the statistics of how many new businesses go bankrupt, or the pain that comes from putting your life savings into an idea and then watching how it gets ignored.

6. I don’t believe that you need to drop corporate life completely to be happy.
God knows I’m a complicated person – I’ve been soul searching since I was a teen, and had my life mission drafted at 21 (hasn’t changed much since). But I’m happy with the simple things – like being healthy, having someone to love, friends, and enough money and free time to do stuff I like.

We seem to see everywhere how office workers are superficial, unfulfilled and depressed, while people who leave everything to go on a one-year sabbatical around the world are the new success story. Why is that? Why do personal development stories always start with “I had a successful job in XYZ corporation, and dropped that to pursue my dream. Now I’m happy. Quit your job, and you might do the same.”

Quitting your job will for sure get you one thing. No income, no security, and pouf! there goes level two of Maslow’s motivation pyramid. How can you build at the top if you haven’t got your lower level covered?

7. You can actually pursue your dream while at work.
That’s why they have so much career coaching going on for young people. Get your job right, get paid for what you do well, get a good earning for what your know. Why does it seem a contradiction to do what you love AND work in a corporation?

People automatically seem to assume that if you’re a corporate worker, and happy about it, you’re limiting yourself. You must be a mid-class, mediocre person with few dreams and probably lots of frustrations.

What??!

There seems to be a constant pressure around to make a difference – and people start having these huge, mind-blowing “A-ha!”s that they’ve missed their lives, and they have it in them to do something REALLY BIG. Well, we all do – but it doesn’t mean that life up until then was a failure, or “sleepwalking”. There are ways to pursue dreams outside corporate life, while keeping the advantages there. Or even better, doing a job that’s congruent with who you are. 

So, I’m sick of seeing articles, movies and stories about people who dropped corporate life and – whoosh!- happiness and relief came wheezing to them.
Some of the best people I know are entrepreneurs and people who pursued their dreams outside corporate walls. I admire them, but like where I am now. I know that grass is green on both sides of the fence.

And what I really support  is not quitting or blaming corporations for superficial thinking and “afluenza“. The change you can make is to teach your children otherwise than “learn well, go to a good (=expensive) college, get a secure job”. Build values, build principles, and then let them choose.

What do you think about corporate life?

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Comments

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6 Comments
  • Madalina
    October 14, 2010

    Excellent article! I think people who are happy at work should say it louder more often. Sometimes it takes courage to admit you’re ok with your corporate job when most of your peers complain about how they feel they are better than the job they have.
    .-= Madalina´s last blog ..Performanţa nu duce la promovare =-.

  • Jenny Blake
    October 14, 2010

    I loved this post!! You added so much to the conversation about why cubes aren’t the end of the world. Which is not to say that even we might leave one day — but you highlight so many of the important things to be grateful for. Awesome, honest post!
    .-= Jenny Blake´s last blog ..Video Post- Headed out! See you in November… =-.

  • Alexandra
    October 14, 2010

    Maria,

    you are so right! You expressed my feeleings exactly!

    In the past years I discovered I love corporate life. I feel good working with a lot of people from lots of backgrounds and environments. I feel good folowing some principles and values that relate to my principles and values. I feel good having a boss I can talk to and that takes time to see in which areas I need development. I feel good following and creating procedures to make sure there is order in the chaos that 400 people working together can create.

    And most of all, I feel good having the freedom to do what I like, to make my own mistakes, to get things done and get rewarded by a “well done”, to be appreciated and to have people that I can grow, as I was grown when I was in their place. I feel good sharing my experience with people and see them develop and grow into people with a purpose, with better skills and with love for their job.

  • Stefan
    October 15, 2010

    Legat de punctul 5 eu am alta parere, nici nu-s contra dar nici nu aprob.
    Probabil nu toata lumea castiga bani facand ce-si doreste. Totusi ambele categorii exista: Oameni care castiga bani si ocupa posturi pe care nu si le-ar dori si oameni care fac ce-si doresc dar au venituri scazute. Eu prefer sa fiu in categoria celor care primesc si bani si placere in acelasi timp. Sfatuiesc oamenii care sunt fericiti si au castiguri scazute sa ramana focusati pe ce fac si sa continue cu incredere si placere, intr-un sfarsit o sa aiba succes. Nu au succes doar cei care renunta inainte sa aiba parte de el. Pentru ceilalti, care castiga bani si sunt nefericiti sau nemultumiti vad doua posibilitati:
    1. Gasesti placere in ceea ce faci. Exemplu: Eu detest sa spal vase, insa incerc sa vad dincolo de neplacere si sfarsesc maldaru prin calea de mijloc, fara a avea o parere ca a fost bine sau ca a fost rau
    2. Fa ce-ti place! Poate nu ai curaj, poate ti se pare greu. E ca la bungee jumping, iar la bungee jumping intotdeauna dupa fiecare saritura ajungi cu bine.
    .-= Stefan´s last blog ..Get free proxies fast method =-.

  • mia
    October 15, 2010

    I love what you are saying! And I must find ans send you that article about the Y generation that is just brilliant – but I only remember one phrase: ‘I am tired of people who think talking about how they will change the world is a prerequisite for actually doing something.’

    Also check Alain de Botton’s speech on ‘A kinder, gentler philosophy of success’ http://www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_a_kinder_gentler_philosophy_of_success.html

    kiss :)

  • Maria
    October 20, 2010

    Oh my gosh! I guess I never expected so many comments! Thanks guys!
    @ mia – I think I know the article, and I’ll make sure to watch again Alain de Botton’s TED speech!
    @ Stefan – de acord cu tine. Cred ca oamenii care sunt putin nefericiti (exista oare asa ceva?) au impresia ca trebuie sa schimbe complet macazul. Oare e nevoie sa fim asa prapastiosi?
    @ Alexandra – I think the “sharing” is key here – when you’re in a corporation you have the possibility for a multi-way conversation and sharing. As a single player, even if you’re hugely successful, you’ll be sharing to the world, or to other entrepreneurs. And it’s not the same thing.
    @ Jenny – thanks! Yes, your cubicle post is one of my all-time favorites. Maybe we should start a “Movement for corporate happiness”! :)
    @ Madalina – yes, I think admitting you love your corporate job is like when at school, before an exam, you admit you’ve studied the whole night. What do most people say? “Oh, I’ve barely read the whole thing. I’m hopeless, I’m going to fail for sure.”

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