Asleep at the Wheel

I work for an all-remote company, so I kind of live in Slack during working hours. There are 348 channels in our Slack, and due to the nature of my job, I have to monitor and participate in about 90 of them.

That’s a lot of reading.

But I keep up with it most of the time. Over the course of a year, I read…let’s just say a lot of threads. So I have no earthly idea how I missed the most important one of the (past) year, but I did.

A new position was created in the company that was kind of tailor-made for me and my experience. I knew it was coming up, I’d spoken with the person who created it, and I planned on throwing my virtual Easter bonnet into the ring as an applicant.

The job was posted on Monday of Christmas week, and I didn’t see the post.

Nor did I see the follow-up post about the application deadline.

I didn’t know the job offering was “live” until the announcement that the position had been filled.

That was a bitter pill to swallow, but I have no one to blame but myself.

Truth be told, I said a few lines ago that I planned on applying for the position, but I wasn’t actually sure about that. I wasn’t sure because lately, I have been thinking about what I’ve done in my life that I thought was expected of me, or that I thought would impress the people I work for, versus what I really want.

That’s some deep shit to ponder, and the conclusion I came to was that much of my “upward progress” in my work life wasn’t made because I wanted the positions, but rather because I wanted the companies to know that I was ambitious and capable.

I discovered early on that it’s pretty easy to rise in the ranks. All you have to do is make yourself known. The first managerial job I had was at the first web host I worked for in the mid-to-late 90s. We were growing, and the owner casually mentioned that we’d probably need a support department manager soon, and I immediately said, “I’ll do it!” I had only been there working support for a few months, but he said, “Great! Now I don’t have to think about it anymore. Go do it.”

And I have to say that it went that way at pretty much every other company I worked for. I put my hand up and waved it around, and said, “I’m here! I’m here!” It sometimes got me into situations I was woefully unprepared for (like building out a new office from a bare space and moving an entire company into it), but it always made a point: I’m here for the company.

When I look back and ask myself how many of those positions I really wanted, I can only point to one.

Work is a weird thing. White-collar work, I mean, like internet jobs. Somehow it was put into my head, probably at an early age, that advancing in a company is just what you do. It’s what you should want to do. It’s good, it’s desirable. You make more money, you get to make more critical decisions.

And I suppose when I was younger, I got a kick out of advancing. It’s certainly how I learned most of what I know in this business. But did that constant lookout for possible advancement make me happy? Did getting positions I actively pursued make me happy?

Maybe for a minute.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s great value in doing a thing well and being satisfied with doing that thing. Becoming expert, knowing your lane intimately, and generally staying on a single course.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t raise my hand when the next good opportunity comes my way at work. 🙂

If I think I can gain some kind of fulfillment or happiness from a new position, I’ll try to get it. But only if I think it’s good for me. I’m no longer chasing titles or weighing what the people who run the company think about me. I’m no longer trying to impress anyone with my ambition. I’ve accomplished a lot in my life. I know who I am and what I’m capable of. And that’s all that matters in the end.

But ooh, child, when I saw the notice that the spot I was considering had been filled (and I didn’t even know it was up for grabs yet), my heart sank. I’m not going to lie. But the fellow who’s taking the position is a great guy, and he’ll likely take it to places I wouldn’t have even imagined. So I’m glad he’s at the wheel of that ship now.

It’s America, isn’t it? It’s so American to put such emphasis on work and working. The warped idea that you are defined by the work you do or how successful you are in the work world. We really love that. But it’s bullshit.

Maybe working for a company with so many non-Americans in it has opened my eyes more to the reality that your life shouldn’t revolve around the job you do. That work/life balance is a real, attainable thing and not just something you give lip service to in your LinkedIn posts.

Ah well. Tally ho, carry on, and don’t fall asleep at the wheel. You’ll miss your exit.

day 36

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