Every week, sometimes every day, I get people messaging me here on LinkedIn and through other social media channels telling me that they’re in toxic job situations, that they hate their work, and oftentimes that they’re stuck in a community where they don’t want to live. There are many different reasons but there is no denying that this is the reality for a lot of people. This is especially true for folks that are mid career who are hanging in there simply for the sake of the paycheque. It’s taking a big toll on them, and it is so unnecessary.
The Sweet And Sour Taste Of Success
For 5 years in my twenties I was living a lie. To my friends and family I was the poster child for success. I had a six figure income, tailor made clothes and gold jewelry, and I was rocketing up the management side of my corporate career. Everything was on track. I was married, had two kids, and a house. Life should have been perfect.
People didn’t see what I had to do to make the money. In an average month I was travelling two weeks out of four flying back and forth mostly between eastern Canada, cities like Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. On occasion I also flew out of my home base in Toronto to Western Canada. Anyway you cut it I was in hotel rooms at least 10 to 12 nights a month.
The traveling lifestyle was hard on my health. I fell into the habit of wining and dining customers or employees in those branches. The truth is it was expected of me. I enjoyed the people but these get togethers usually involved eating too much food and drinking way too much alcohol. Then I’d stumble out of bed the next morning and repeat the process.
When I was home, my life wasn’t a whole lot different. Like a lot of people that work in cities, the traffic was horrific in Toronto if you wanted to get into the downtown area. If I went to work on a Sunday, and I will honestly tell you that I did that on more than one occasion, I could drive door to door in 17 minutes. On a weekday, if I left any time after 6:30 I was into an hour to an hour and a half traffic jam stuck breathing the pollution and the smog of all of the cars. So I left early, before my wife and kids were up. I faced the same traffic at night and often missed dinner with the family.
It got to the point where I was drinking an entire bottle of Pepto-Bismol every night. I still had heartburn. An extra 30 or 40 pounds on my small frame didn’t help.
We’re My Friends And Family Blind
From the outside looking in people should’ve said, “Tim, you’re killing yourself.” But nobody saw that. They just saw the financial success. So there I was. I remember waking up one morning at 3:30 to find myself sitting on the toilet crying. I couldn’t tell you why. I just was that miserable.
Yet I Stayed!
Why did I stay. I stayed for the same reason that other people stay in jobs that they hate. I was scared. I was the sole breadwinner of the family at that time. I also felt that there must be something wrong with me. Everything that I had been raised to believe was the measure of success had already been achieved, and I wasn’t even 30 years old. The dialogue in my head went something like this. How could I be so selfish? People would kill to get a job like mine. Stop being so selfish. This is just what life is. It’s the price you pay to get money to support your family.
I also felt like a world-class idiot. I’d worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get to this stage, and here I was thinking about throwing it all away and starting all over again.
The Big Lie
I was paralyzed because I didn’t like my choices. At the time I was viewing it as an either or choice. I could have this high paying successful career or I could have a lifestyle where I could spend time with my kids and live in rural Nova Scotia. I was convinced that it was one or the other. It was the only choice I saw at the time. Looking back I know that I was wrong. It’s not like I would magically lose all my business skills if I quit. So I stayed. My health got worse and then one day my boss had a heart attack. I saw my future and knew I had to get out.
Infrastructure Rattling Events
I was lucky. For a lot of people the cost of staying is an infrastructure rattling event such as a major health problems or a divorce. In some cases brought on by the loss of that “secure” job. Faced with these kinds of challenges people often find the courage to make changes.
Just The Way It Is
Others are not so lucky. These people decide to hang on hoping things will get better. These are the ones that ultimately forget how to dream. They settle into a situation where counting down the days until retirement so that they can then count down the days until they die. It’s a horrible way to live your life.
And if you’re a parent think about the message your kids are getting. They see you and conclude that this is what life is all about. Settling, finding a way to survive, and living for the weekend. Is that what you want for them?
And it’s such a damn shame because the third choice, and it’s there for every single one of us, is to find the courage to act.
The Hardest Part About Change Is The First Step
Naysayers, including that inner voice that keeps telling you to stay, excel at making up long lists of everything that could go wrong.
First of all, what could be worse than a heart attack, a divorce or something big like that? Secondly, most of the bad things on your list will never happen. Especially if you stop thinking about them.
Reach out if you have an idea for a business and need help fleshing it out. Contact me here or on LinkedIn.