The Work Series - Part One
Updated: Jan 3
Work Success, What is your definition?
I have recently been told by a few people that although they enjoy my blog, they say it sometimes a bit of a long read. Yes, I know that this is because of the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter society that we live in and that anything over two sentences long or takes more than 30 seconds of our time to read is just too much for us to handle. Although, it seems to be perfectly okay to watch a 2-minute video that your buddy sent you that is completely stupid or disgusting. With that in mind, the next topic I want to write about, I am going to break into a few blog posts.
I will be writing about working and how our jobs impact our lives. I also want to share some of the realities of the working world that I have learned along the way. Some of the things I will write about I really wish I would have known a long time ago. I know several of the people who read my blog are preparing for their careers while they are in college and others are just entering the workforce. It is my hope, that something I share may help keep things in perspective for those of you who are just starting out in their jobs or careers and those of us who are battle worn soldiers of the working world.
A few months ago, I was speaking to my son and he was discussing his work situation, as he was facing a decision whether he was going to make a job change. I listened and tried to offer him some support in his decision-making process. Although he had landed a nice job and was earning good money, he simply was not happy. After some discussion, one piece of advice I offered him was “remember Tyler, we work so we can live, but we shouldn’t live to work”.
In my own little way, I wanted to share with him something that took me years to realize and I wished I had learned this earlier in my career. Simply put, we work so we earn a living to have the necessities of life; food, housing, clothes, transportation and the like. Then after all those things are taken care, possibly there is enough money left to save for our future, take a vacation, enjoy a concert or have a nice dinner out (some of the nice things in life). However, in pursuit of this, I and many others I know let their jobs overtake their lives. One’s job or career somehow become the center of our universe; controlling most of our time and thoughts and in some cases seemingly defines who we are.
I am not sure how this happens. I suppose it is a combination of societal pressures and is also a learned behavior. The social pressures come from some perceived need to achieve wealth, status and things. The learned behavior is driven by; my Dad worked like this, my boss works like this, my neighbor works like this and if I am not working like that, there surely must be something wrong with me.
For my German friends; in America at the end of the calendar year your employer issues you a document to you called a W-2. This document provides your total annual earnings and the amount of taxes and social security that was paid to the government for the year. You need this document to file your Federal and State income taxes each year.
It is now the tax season in America. Americans have from now until April 15th to file their taxes with the government. Most American’s participate in this annual ritual, mostly because it is the law. I say most American’s, as some celebrities like DMX, Willie Nelson, Martha Stewart, Nicolas Cage, and Lindsay Vonn somehow feel they don’t need to file their taxes, resulting in getting slapped with big fines or an all-expense paid vacation in Federal prison.
This past weekend, I started working on putting together my documentation for my “tax guy”. Remember in American, we have “a guy” for everything. I downloaded my W-2 from my company’s payroll site. I was a bit taken back by the total earnings number (not in a good way). It was a lower number than I had seen in a few years and because I don’t track this on a month to month basis, I was just a little surprised.
I sell software and a portion of my pay is commissions earned on my sales. So my total annual earnings vary from year to year. 2018 had been a tough year for me in sales. Sales is a tough gig, one’s success can be impacted by many external variables; the economy, the quality of the technology, customer demand, marketing, etc. It was a hard year and I was really missing the glory days of selling, back when a couple of times a year a huge deal would come in and I would get a crazy big commission and yes, I would break into the happy dance.
I suppose seeing my total earnings for the year in black and white was a reminder of what a tough year it was. Don’t get me wrong it was still good money, it was just not what I was used to seeing. As I begin to think about this, I actually started to get depressed. I thought to myself; what could I have done differently? what did I do wrong? am I going backward? I was really letting it get to me.
Then I thought about why was I feeling this way? A lot of you will understand what I’m about to say. In business (particularly in America), many people consider their W-2 information for their total earnings as their social ranking and the job title on their business card is their badge of honor. Hey mate, did you make six figures last year? Yeah!!! I did too, but the first number of the six digits begins with 2? I am the VP now. Blah, blah, blah.
I found myself pulled back into this old way of thinking and was beginning to beat myself up about it. Then, I said STOP!!! I did work hard, I did use every bit of my experience and the professional skills I have honed over the years to bring in the business and well it just wasn’t there this year. But what was more important than that is; I am healthy, my children are doing well, my Father is happy, I have a great circle of friends, I am making music once again and I have everything I need. These important things did not appear on my W-2 (which is probably good, because I am sure the government might find a way to tax that too).
My current business card has the title, Manager of European Business Development. I have had many business cards over the years with titles such as; Sales Manager, Vice-President of Sales, General Manager, Account Executive and so on. You know what? Forget the title, I AM A SALES GUY. (I want that printed on my next business card). I earn a nice living and I get up every day and work hard. But, I will not allow myself to be defined by a piece of paper from the payroll department or what is written on my business card. There are a lot of things in life that simply cannot be measured by a dollar amount or defined by a title.