What is this all for?
I grabbed a graham cracker from the micro-kitchen at my office today. I looked at the square glass bowl nearby filled with smarties, nerds, chewy lemonheads and, ooh, they’ve replenished my favorite snack mix. And suddenly, like a groundhog popping out from the soil, I realized “Wow, the office novelty has worn off.”
In July when I started consulting, it was nice to be back in an office, to actually socialize (ok, sit in the midst of people talking around me), get free cereal and snacks, free copies and printing paper, consume someone else’s toilet paper, and receive external feedback! My God, I had missed external validation. Not that I wasn’t getting it from friends when I was doing my own thing – this was just different, B.F. Skinner type instant gratification.
Now, on the verge of finalizing a fairly flexible work offer with a very progressive and understanding boss, I find myself wondering “What is this all for?” I had just spent my entire morning not doing work (and continuing that by writing this blog post). Heck, I’ve spent the past 3 days of my morning commute testing how long my commute takes depending on the time I leave and the route I take (101? or 280 to 92?). And the past 2 days walking from my car to the building, counting the BMW to Hybrid car ratio (9 to 2, today).
On my last days months at Google, I found myself waiting for the shuttle counting the number of BMWs/Priuses (or Prii?) that would pass by before my shuttle arrived. Apparently, I can count pretty high. The good news is that it took me 4+ years to reach that point, whereas now it’s only taken me 4 months. My processing speed has improved 12-fold.
Admittedly, financial stability and benefits of a job are the draw but at what price?
What IS this all for?
I laugh because a week ago, I was sitting around a dinner table with 3 friends when one of them asked the exact same question. I was surrounded by some naysayers (or skeptics). I was feeling confident and encouraging, so after giving my advice, I sent him a list of questions that I asked myself (and others) a while ago to help figure it all out.
Here they are:
- If you could create a job for me what would it be? and why?
- What have you seen me get passionate about? or when I talk what do I get excited about? What angers me? What do I complain about that could be done better if I did it?
- When or what situations have you seen me at happy or at peace?
- Do I have things that I talk about doing year over year?
It was pretty eye opening (and parts amusing) to have friends/former colleagues answer this question for me. Also neat to see some reoccurring trends. Another exercise I did shortly after, as part of an organizational behavioral class was asking some of my Google peers the following question. I set up a Google Document so that they could answer anonymously and candidly.
- How would you describe my personality?
- How does my personality impact my interactions with others?
- In your opinion, what appear to be motivating factors for me in the workplace?
- What (if any) are my work-related strengths?
- What areas could use further development?
This one is where I learned, based on friends’ observations, that repetitive tasks bore me to tears. And insanity.
Looks like it’s time for me to ask myself these questions again. But first, I have to get to work. Well, after I grab lunch, of course.