Despite what some might think, not every moment I worked at Novell was torment. In fact, most of my time there was pretty good. But I admit there was a time when I got pretty discouraged.
It was some time after we’d shipped Novell Forge. Multiple attempts to expand the scope and vision of Novell Forge had been thwarted when I’d repeatedly failed to make a good enough case to invest further in it. The Developer Services organization was growing smaller and smaller, through layoff and attrition — Novell, sadly, never really did understand the need to invest in their developer community. I’d been reassigned to a new team from a boss I really liked, and had been given what seemed like a busywork assignment.
I used to joke back then that I could prove I was the least important employee at Novell. First, organizationally: Developer Services was surely the most underappreciated and least important organization in all of Novell, and of all the assignments in our organization, mine was the lowest priority assignment. This part I’d actually confirmed with my management, who had presented a slide deck with our ongoing objectives listed on one slide and those we’d rejected on a subsequent slide. I’d verified that the first slide listed the accepted objectives in priority order, and my assignment was last.
Second, geographically: You could (jokingly, of course) judge an employee’s importance by a) how close their building was to campus center, b) what floor they were on (higher floors being more important), and c) how close their office was to the corners and edges of the building (corners, then outside walls, being more important). Since my office was the ONLY office not on an outside wall on the bottom floor of the building farthest from campus center, I’d joke that this also proved I was the least important person at Novell.
So I joked about it, but also wondered most days whether it really mattered if I came to work at all. Did anyone care if I showed up? Did anyone care if I left early? Did anyone care if I actually accomplished anything during the day? Did my assignment really matter at all?
I kinda wallowed around in this mire for some time, still coming to work and going through the motions, but wallowing anyway. I thought about leaving Novell but nothing really materialized. I’d heard all my life that you should love your job; shouldn’t I be finding a place to work that I loved?
Then one day it finally hit me: Instead, shouldn’t I be loving the job I have?
I realized that, regardless of the importance of my work to the company, I could make it important to myself. I vowed that I would take a lot more pride in my work, that I would try to deliver software of high quality and craftsmanship regardless of the assignment I was given, and that I would find other ways to get involved. I started delivering better on my project. I created a new technology. I worked with some great guys at Red Hat to start a new Eclipse subproject. I got involved with Novell’s Software Development Community of Practice and eventually became one of the practice leaders and one of Novell’s primary thought-leaders and bloggers around agile development methodologies. I enjoyed my job much more and got an opportunity to move to a different team, a product development team, comprised of some great individuals whom I would never have gotten to know otherwise.
I’ve just finished reading Hugh MacLeod’s book “Evil Plans.” One of the key phrases in that book is: ”Life is too short not to do something that matters.”
I’ve been thinking about this and about me and my past and about tidbits I get from conversations with friends and things I pick up on Twitter and Facebook. How many of us wake up every day with the sole goal of getting to the end of the day? Every day?
What is it you are looking forward to?
When you wake up in the morning, are you most looking forward to about 16 hours from now, when you can go back to bed? Or the time when the kids are finally asleep?
When you head in to work, are you most looking forward to noon, when you can take a break from work for an hour? Or five o’clock, when it is time to go home? Or the weekend? Or summer vacation?
Isn’t that a waste, to spend so many hours of the day waiting for them to be past?
I realize that not all of us have our dream job. But, as I learned, instead of yearning for your dream job and lamenting all the ways that your current job isn’t your dream job, you can also decide to love the job you currently have. You can give more than you are currently giving — not more time, necessarily, but more heart, more care, more passion. If you are a schoolteacher, you can yearn for summer vacation and lament those kids you have to put up with for such a low salary until then, or you can ignore the voices telling you how poorly you are paid and decide to make a difference in the lives of as many of your students as possible, a real difference, and find fulfillment in being the best in your profession.
And if you can do that with your job, if you can choose to love your current job instead of waiting until your dream job finds you, can’t you also do that with your life? Can’t you also take the approach of choosing to give more heart and passion and care and love to the life you have instead of waiting for the life you want to come and find you?
The funny thing is, in my experience I found that as I gave more to my job, it started to become more like the job I wanted. Things started to happen in my favor. Opportunities came up that weren’t coming up before.
I’ve found this on other occasions as well. At times when my career wasn’t heading quite where I wanted, choosing to care more and give more seems to get things moving again. Things just start happening when you do that, somehow.
The best part, however, is that you have more days that are meaningful. Each day is a day to give and add value and feel important. You find meaning in your life every day when you stop worrying about all the things that aren’t working out for you and start finding ways to give.
Enjoy your job more by giving more of yourself at work. Gain better friends by seeking opportunities to be a better friend. Take time to read a book to your child, or play with the trains or Polly Pockets, or watch “Tangled” again even though you watched it yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, because they will not be little for long.
Make your days meaningful and live every day. Don’t spend your days waiting for your dream life to happen to you. You deserve better than that.