An estimated twenty million Americans are staying in jobs they hate in order to keep their health insurance -- when research indicates that career dissatisfaction is more likely than anything else to make them need to use it. Polls have shown, moreover, that less than 10 percent of Americans are really satisfied with their work. Are you satisfied?
Toxic Work: How to Overcome Stress, Overload, and Burnout and Revitalize Your Career,
A few years ago, I never would have been able to write this column. Not in the voice that I will attempt to write it.
You see, a few years ago, I would have written this in a much angrier voice. Because, whenever I thought of this topic, I often envisioned killing a particular man. It was my boss I envisioned killing -- my bossis boss, actually. Iim sure that many of you can relate; after all, killing your boss isnit really an original idea. Hell, Iim sure itis the feature presentation of many a sleeperis dream, and a few "waking dreams," for that matter.
Scott Adams, firinstance, has made millions with his dreams lampooning workplace idiocy vis-á-vis cartoons in which he rhetorically "kills" clueless bosses, anxiety-prone co-workers and other office workers who are just plain cuckoo. Youive probably heard of "Dilbert."
"Office Space," one of my favorite movies, chronicles several days in the life of a "cubicle jockey," the modern-day Everyman. Rent it, and watch it. Trust me. It ainit comedy, pilgrim; itis documentary.
All of this could be purely anecdotal evidence to support my theory, but it supports my theory nonetheless; my theory is this: the average person hates his job.
Many of us have a job that we canit stand, peopled by co-workers we canit stand, and supervised by a boss we canit stand. The only thing keeping us there is the paycheck, and some days even that presents very little inspiration. Weire either too old, too poorly educated or too scared to venture out to greener employment pastures, so we persist
But, for some of us, there are other aspects of our life from which we derive great pleasure. For me, itis reading and writing. For you, it may be woodworking, or jogging, or drugs -- I donit know. That something may give you more pleasure than your job ever will, and you know it. If only you could support yourself with a job that was also your "passion."
Very rarely do I see people who have managed to have a career that is also their passion. You know them when you see them. You can see it in their eyes, in their gait, in the aura that they give off. And whether or not you will admit it, you envy them, either consciously or unconsciously. I know I have, at various and sundry times in my life.
What Iive decided a few years ago was to follow my passion. You see, I was a cubicle jockey, in a job I was ill equipped to perform. The environment was stifling. Creativity wasnit rewarded; it was punished. Your voice wasnit heard until youid done your time with the company -- you know, the "pecking order." I never fit in, so I quit before I was fired. This happened a few times in my life. I have refused to stay with a company where I got bad vibes or where I gave bad vibes to the rest of the employees. By the latter, I mean that I have worked at places where people were either jealous, intimidated or just irritated by my presence. You can just tell.
Today, I work for a major corporation that values my talents, gifts and personality. Sure, there are many aspects of my corporate culture and my company that I take issue with, but whois perfect? Before attaching to this company for the long term, I made sure that I could either a) be myself totally or b) be myself within the space demarcated by the company culture.
Iim one of the lucky ones.
But, you know what my fondest wish is? To work for Apple Computer full time. I mean, look at the amount of time I spend just writing about the company and its products, about the company and its culture, about the products and the fans that love them.
Remember when I said that a while back that I wouldnit have been able to write this column? Back when I wanted to kill my boss (Iill just say that he really mind-humped me), my feelings of corporate America were shaded by my experiences with that particular company. I believed that all corporations are evil, that the American corporation is, by definition, diametrically opposite everything that is necessary for the individual to thrive and fulfill his or her potential within the corporate sphere.
There is truth in that belief, if you merely read the words and forego deconstructing such a belief.
But upon closer inspection, I saw error in my thought processes. They were shadowed by my hurt. I failed to see that the corporation is not evil. The corporation is amoral. It is bestial in its rawest state. Think of the animal that kills for food. It isnit evil, merely hungry. The same is true for the corporation, if you will allow me to anthropomorphize for a moment.
I have many things I wish Apple The Company would do. There are many things I wish my current employer would do. But I know better. I know that the companiesi needs are often different from my wishes and desires for the same, and they come before mine. Theyire often at odds with mine. Sometimes, my ideas are good; many times, they are short sighted and ludicrous. Some of them are irrelevant, because Iim not in charge of the company.
If I criticize Apple, I am speaking to you, not to Apple, for I know that Apple doesnit care. This is unlike the average human. We are self-centered; we donit care what others think about how we should live our lives.
This is how I look at Apple. Sure, I still want to work for the company, but I have no illusions. I know that when I live close to the beast, it will be drastically different from what I read and imagine. I remember a line that Richard Pryor used in his comedy act: "When you see a rabbit in the zoo, theyire all cuddly and cute. But when you see a rabbit in the jungle, they look way different from the way they look in captivity. When you see a rabbit in the zoo, you want to hug and pet it. When you see a rabbit in the wild, something tells you not to [mess] with that rabbit."
I say all of this because there are many people who are rushing to apply for jobs at the new Apple stores. Keep in mind that youire not in Kansas anymore. Working for the Mothership is different from standing in a CompUSA and extolling the virtues of the Mac to anyone who will make eye contact with you.
You will discover rules, and these other animals called decorum and dignity. I have a couple of friends who are currently on the way to become Mac Geniuses and other types of Apple store personnel. They have told me that there is far more seriousness to this gig than they imagined.
This is what I want to pass along to you. That seriousness may disillusion you about Apple somewhat, akin to finding out there is no Santa Claus. But you should shy away from the challenge of tempering your zeal with professionalism and business acumen. After all, this is the combination that has saved Appleis bacon and continues to govern vision and strategies.
Rodney O. Lain is neither an expert, a consultant, nor a self-help guru. He is, however, a regular columnist for The Mac Observer. When he is not writing this column, he spends a lot of thinking deep and hard. He says that it makes his head hurt.