Tag Archives: change

Dr. Strangejob- or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Accept Change


Whenever we have company-wide “all hands” team meetings at work (every 4 to 6 months), we kick them off with a few volunteers who do 7 minute presentations on a given assigned theme. It can be a personal story but must relate back to our work lives in some way. I have given a passing thought to volunteering on a few occasions but never followed through. However this meeting’s assigned theme screamed my name; “Reinvention”. A single concept that can have so many intertwined connotations.

I jumped right in while I had an hour between conference calls and started outlining the talk. This was an easy one for me as I have endless reinvention material. I decided to make my story about all of the short term, highly diverse jobs I had before I found my intended career. To be fair, I work in web-based software interface design and that wasn’t even close to being a mainstream career choice when I was starting out. so I made do with what opportunities came along.

The title of this talk is “Dr Strangejob….or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Accept (Career) Change” It helps if you’ve seen the movie and some of my audience is much younger than me, so some of the joke will be lost on them, but I hope the overall theme is universal enough to speak to them. What I was forced to hold back in this talk was the mental struggles that made this journey all the more challenging, especially previously undiagnosed ones.

Here’s a sneak peek: I will have 4 lessons learned for each job and how they can apply those lessons in their day to day work lives. I am now realizing this applies far beyond the professional realm into the fabric of how we all live, so I thought I’d share some tidbits from the presentation with all of you. I won’t bore you with the whole outline, just a few highlights.

Job 1: Waitress- Lesson learned: Never punch a brick wall, especially mid-shift. 

Translation: Try not to let your frustrations overpower you. You will only end up hurting yourself in the long run

Job 2: Furniture Sales- Lesson learned: It’s a dog eat dog world out there.

Translation: There are situations and people in this life in which you will not be cut any slack. People are competitive by nature and we can all get lost in that, but if we lose the egos and work together sometimes, we can accomplish amazing things.

Job 3: Apartment Property Manager: Lesson learned- Never let them know where you live, especially when your property has faulty piping.

Translation: Sometimes we are too close to the problem, so caught up in the midst of the drama, that we can’t focus clearly enough on the solution. Try to find a way to step back, tune out the noise, and find objective solutions.

Job 4: Software Project Manager- Lesson learned. Everyone always has an agenda (some of them are even valid)

Translation: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, even if you 100% think they are wrong and a total asshat you never know what is motivating them unless you really listen. They may even have a point.

I then conclude by drawing the more literal connections to what I present to what we do for a living. I think there are 2 key universal points that apply to all of us.

1. Practice empathy every day. 

Empathy is a critical skill specifically to software design for end users, but more generally I think if we all made a daily habit of practicing it, we could change the world….end stigmas…stop bullies….help the abused (both human and animal). There are boundless possibilities.

2. Relax, we aren’t saving lives (unless of course you are actually saving lives to which I say….all due respect to you. You amaze me)

What I mean by this is that we all need a small butt-kicking in perspective readjustment at times. The world usually isn’t ending and lives usually are not at stake (unless of course….see above) so take a deep breath, be honest with yourself about the worst that can happen, and then put one foot in front of the other till you make it through.

That’s pretty much it….my rough draft of 7 minutes of attempted levity and education. And just remember what the picture says “You can’t fight in here, this is the war room”

On Changing it all at once

I posted several entries this past fall whining about needing to change my life… then I went silent for awhile…and actually changed my life. My job was a nightmare of constant travel and stress which I was allowing to impact my physical and mental health. Yes, I allowed it. There are many out there who can handle this type of work very well, and thrive in it even. I realized that unfortunately I’m not one of those people. I don’t admit defeat easily which is why the last few months have been tough.

Last we left off I think I was winging my way home from my spa vacation. Right after I posted my last post from the airplane something struck me. I realized that I had the ability to control what happened next, and I didn’t have to feel weak or guilty about it. So, I emailed a former colleague who had moved on to a different company and had at one point expressed an interest in bringing me along. I had dismissed the offer at the time because I was fairly new in my current position and was hopeful for a successful long term run there.

Alas, success is a relative term. I thought for awhile what success really looked like to me and somewhere during that flight my definition changed. Maybe it’s an age thing, or I finally just hit the endurance wall, but suddenly my priorities shifted. I weighed the potential career glory, financial rewards, and general reputation within my professional community with all the other things that had started to suffer in the wake of it all. It became achingly clear that my priorities had been skewed when I looked at all I had given up. Physical health, mental health, appearance, relationships, social life, community roots. At the end of the day, the math was obvious. I had to change.

This change needed to go beyond just quitting my job. I had to quit my job *with purpose*. My next move couldn’t just be change for change’s sake. It had to be backed by real lifestyle modifications or else it would be just another flakey job-hop. I would have to pack up and move again, 2 times in 10 months…so there had to be a good reason. The move, while painful, was also symbolic. A clean slate in a semi-new city (I had lived in the area before, so I was close enough to rekindle some old friendships which was a good thing)

But all and all this was a brand new ball game. I took this new position that promises much less travel and a 9-5 (ish) lifestyle. I even got MLK day off…for the first time ever. I’m 3 weeks in and even though those 3 weeks have resulted in 2 business trips, they were much smaller in scale and in the long term will be the exception rather than the rule (I hope).

The first thing I did when I knew I was going to be relocating and starting over was book an appointment with a Dr. who specializes in weight management. She was the first person I visited upon reaching my destination. It was an extreme experience. She put me on (a closely supervised) 800 calorie a day plan. This seems shocking and I guess it kind of is, but I see her once a week for a check up and weigh-in and this is just the first (albeit hard core) phase in a long term approach that will slowly reintroduce me to food over time. (I live mostly on protein shakes and soups in the meantime).  I predict it will take me about a year to lose the 100 pounds I need to lose. 100, really? I let it get that out of control? How does any sane person let that happen? I’ll address that in more detail in the next post. The reality is, even though there were factors working against me, this happened on my watch. I will accept the responsibility of fixing it.

The second thing I did was hire a personal trainer. I’m starting out with 28 sessions at great financial expense, but I know this is what I need in order to be successful. I know that, at first, I must have that structure and accountability in order to set myself up for success.

I’m 3 weeks in to all of this. at my 2 week weigh-in I was down 11.5 pounds. I know this pace will slow over time but I needed to start with a big number to get my head in the right place. I have to limit my workouts to light strength training only for the time being due to the strictness of the 800 calorie regimen.

The third thing I did was start a weekend pottery class. Pottery is something that I have always loved. Not only is it creative but it is in a way very spiritual. Well, that may be a bit of an overstatement but if you take a look at the process from an Eastern point of view, sitting at a potter’s wheel, completely focused on one thing…centering the clay as it spins in a mesmerizing dance, it can be quite a Zen experience. Plus, you get pretty pots when you are done. And you get to meet new people.

The 4th thing I did was reconnect with as many people as possible. This is a bit of a challenge because most socializing happens these days over food and drink, but I have a strategy for this. I will allow myself a single drink and a very restricted meal about once a week. I told my doctor that I was not going to become a hermit just because I need to lose weight, so we developed a plan that allows for the occasional well planned restaurant visit.

Add all of the above to starting a new job and moving into a new apartment and it amounts to a boatload of change all at once. It has been a bit overwhelming but I guess that’s the way I roll, rip off the bandaid fast. I’ve never been good at baby steps. Maybe that will be my next project, but for now I think I have my hands full.