Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Early Morning Musings

Rare is the day that I am up in the wee hours of the morning... after having slept, anyway. Those of you who know me (hmm, I think that's most of you) know that I much prefer living a somewhat nocturnal life - staying up until 3, 4, even 5 in the morning, then waking up at about 8. (9:30 on Shabbos!) I found it ironic that the earliest I would wake up recently was at about 7:00 or so to have time to make an 8:15 flag football game on a Sunday morning. Something about that just seemed to make me feel better that my life still revolves - at least somewhat - around the portions of life I care about most, and not what is dictated to me by the so-called "necessities" of life.

Throughout my life... {oh wow, one thing I miss from these early mornings is those beautiful sunrises - how can I describe it?! From dark blue to purple to light blue to a think line of yellow to a strong pink and orange... stunning} ...I've often been that guy who does everything on his own terms - even when it's not his place to do so. This stems from a lot of things: I think I know better (I have quite the ego), I know I can get things done as I say (see?), but most importantly, I hate being told how to do things when they're clearly inefficient. To clarify, I don't mind being told what to do - obviously, someone needs to delegate roles. I don't mind being told a way to do something - obviously, more experienced people often know far better how to do something. It is when I feel like work is being given for the sake of giving work that I get intensely frustrated.

Can you remember being in school or even at home as a kid, and saying "I finished my work" - only to be told, "Oh, let's find you something to do then"? That always bothered me. Here, you've worked hard and finished what needed to be done, only to be [from a child's point of view] "punished" with more work. Or, you'd be asked to help someone else with their work - now, this is a fine trait to learn, and particularly if one is recognized for it, it can be worthwhile, but as a child, it feels as if someone has said to you "You're too smart - here, do extra work and help make up for this other person." At least in school, however, you feel like you're actually helping the person learn and they therefore get something from it - work is a completely different story.

One of the more annoying issues one faces in the working world is that these same issues from school come up... but there's far less gratification for helping others and far more frustration at doing one's own work well. There is so little to be gained by working quickly, smartly, and efficiently that people generally don't bother to do so. Working quickly will simply raise the expectations on a person in their next role; get them dumped with yet more work; and force them to be expected to help shoulder the load of others who are less talented, less careful, or simply lazier than they are. Working slowly [but not too slowly of course] will allow a person to relax, to get help from those harder workers, and allow them to present their accomplishments as larger than they are: "Look how long this project took!"

The argument people often give is "well, the people above notice" - that's a wonderful concept in life, when one can argue that even if others don't notice how much effort you put into your life, at least God does; but it doesn't fly as well when it comes to work. All right, so they notice - does it affect your salary, your bonus, your raise? Well, yes... but minimally. If someone would tell you that you'll get an extra $1,000-$2,000 in a year if throughout the year you work much harder, much longer hours, and with far more frustration, would you do it? It's hard to justify the quality of life sacrifice for something like that. If salaries were more closely tied to performance, then perhaps it would make more sense - but they are not.

Often in life, it feels as if the only way to be contented with one's work is to take pride in it - in what was accomplished, in how it was done, in the ideas a person thought of to make it go faster, easier, more efficiently. It is how a person can avoid the frustrations above - yes, perhaps it's not recognized, or if it is, it's not shown in ways that matter for someone who needs it - but at least the person can hold on to that feeling of 'look what I came up with, look at the job I did' and take pride in it. It is for that reason that being told how to do something - "because that's how we want it done" - is such a killer. It strips away that last sense of accomplishment that a person could have, and turns them into nothing but a piece of equipment that is used to do work. It is completely deadening.

Life is too important to live all on someone else's terms.

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