The things we do for . . . money?

If I were to share with you the stories of what my friends have done for love, I would be a rather lonely gal.

So I won’t.

But they seem to have no problem with me sharing what they have done for money.

We are talking on a level somewhat more sophisticated than the elementary school dare to eat a live worm or stick your tongue on a frozen metal pole.Stressed and nervous businessman outdoor.

But when you see what people do for money to pay their mortgage, feed a family and the like—you may feel like we are all participating in some form of middle school torture.

Take my friend Pete, for instance (And yes, I’ve changed names. Again, the lonely bit is not fun.).

Pete was trying to pass a very painful kidney stone a few years ago. He was able to work from home, which helped, but it was no picnic. As luck would have it, he passed it in the middle of a conference call that he was running. And no one was the wiser.

I think it is safe to assume he put himself on mute.

Susan called me from Paris one day. It was evening her time and she could not stop crying. It was her son’s first birthday—and despite asking her boss to call into this meeting rather than fly overseas for it—there she was. Guilty, crying and thinking about resigning. Which she did about a year later.

woman with dog in bag, trendy lifestyle, isolated on white background
Conference leader?
I remember a trip to the West Coast. I sat in a small meeting with a consultant who had brought her dog in her purse to the meeting and let him run all over the conference table. As my boss gave me all the action items at the end of the meeting, he smiled and said, “Oh, and we’ll need these for tomorrow morning’s 9 a.m. meeting.”

Did I mention there was probably 48 hours of work in that list?

My reaction that evening, as I sat in my hotel room gazing at the Golden Gate Bridge and typing furiously, was the same as it had been several years prior when I was a young newlywed consultant heading home after yet another 16-hour day: What the hell have I done?

My San Francisco evening ended with me putting aside my laptop, calling a former colleague and heading out for dinner and a long walk by the pier. I came back to my hotel room tired but refreshed. And I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. getting 48 hours of work done in four. I’d love to say I was also passing a kidney stone, just for dramatic effect, but that honor belongs solely to Pete.

So many more stories I could add. The woman who was attacked outside her apartment and chastised by her boss for not showing up at work the following day. The peach who said she was paid to think, not to work, and had “minions” who should be doing the heavy lifting. Funny—none of those minions tended to stay on her teams for very long. The former vice president who shared with his former report (after both left the firm) that he had never liked him and had tried to purposely make his life miserable so he would quit.

usinessman hiding his fist in the back
Corporate America: Middle school on steroids?
Oy. Middle school on steroids—am I right?

I have a feeling even middle schoolers would be wise enough not to get themselves into some of these situations.

But there we sit.

A distinct difference exists between toiling long hours at a job you love (a joy) and long hours because you just have to put food on the table.

I am not naive or elitist enough to venture that many of us have the luxury of only doing what we love for people we admire.

If only it were so.

But perhaps this younger generation in the workforce—the ones we call “slackers” and “unmotivated” are just sometimes wiser than their older counterparts. They value a whole life, not just one piece of it.

Do what you love. Do it well.

And then go enjoy another facet of your life. Family, hobbies, fun.

Lest you end up as a cautionary tale on someone’s blog someday.

Oh, the horror.



28 Comments Add yours

  1. Yes, indeed, K. And there’s truth in this: “But perhaps this younger generation in the workforce—the ones we call “slackers” and “unmotivated” are just sometimes wiser than their older counterparts. They value a whole life, not just one piece of it.” I see my adult children trying to have a more whole life than my generation did at that age.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad! We need balance rather than constant seeking for more.

  2. I moved to the U.S. from Canada when I was 30, and had to re-start my career. I was truly shocked, then as now — 28 years later — by the utter brutality of the American workplace. I had managers who shouted and cursed at me without impunity; ignored me without impunity; colleagues who ignored me for months. It was…bizarre. Canadian workplaces are hardly all unicorns and rainbows but there is a much different cultural value place on LIFE and family, not just $$$$$$ and corporate profit.

    I was fired from my last job as a reporter at the NY Daily News 2 weeks after breaking a national exclusive…for being “unproductive.” I laughed through my termination, ignoring their Kleenex box. Such bullshit.

    I have worked FT freelance since then. I earn 50% of my 2005 salary. Happy as hell. NEVER again will I allow anyone paying me for my skills to abuse me.

    I truly wish more Americans understood this.

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree that Americans have the most to learn. I do feel the generations up and coming seem to get it more. Corporate downsizing, their parents’ heart attacks and the general misery of so many in corporate America have taught them to rethink things, I think. At least, I hope. We should take a page out of Europe’s or Canada’s book–not vice versa.

      1. I think that’s true. The American dream too often looks like work-then-die. Not my dream, ever.

  3. Jackie says:

    This post is full of so much truth. Best decision I ever made was to quit my corporate job earlier this year. American work culture is sick – and sickening.

    1. candidkay says:

      I do so hope that we become more enlightened really fast. So many people miserable; so many people making other people miserable. There is a better way . . .

  4. Brilliantly written. #truth

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). And remember, while you still can, to stay reasonable! You’re at the starting gate. No need to join the crazies:).

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    ‘Do what you love. Do it well.’ Never truer words spoken. We all know people who hate their work and who live for the weekend, just to pick up the money. Life’s too short but some people are just trapped by necessity.

    1. candidkay says:

      So very right, Roy. Life is short and we forget that. I wish necessity didn’t play such a role for so many . . .

  6. Oh, Kay, this is RICH!! So darn funny and so true (sadly) in many cases! I am finally at an age where I’m confident enough to call someone out if what they are looking for is ridiculous, and luckily I have enough credibility at my work to do so. Love that kidney stone story!!

    1. candidkay says:

      I think if more of us did what you do, the world might have to change:). Wouldn’t that be nice?!

  7. shunpwrites says:

    Sage wisdom that echoes and often goes unheralded.

  8. I’ve had a kidney stone. Oh, Pete! I love the mention of the “slacker” generation. It’s so true. Perhaps they are learning from their parents. I hope so. I hope they find a way to put food on the table and enjoy the meal. Less, make do with less stuff and more time. That’s what I try to tell my “slackers.” Great Post!

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah, yes! Put food on the table and enjoy the meal. Versus rush through it like so many of us do. So we can get back to our laptops.

  9. MrJohnson says:

    I’ve been with my company for 7 years and they won’t give me any unpaid time off for more than a week. My last day at my job is on Friday..haha(I won’t be laughing one day, I know. We’ll see). If it was 25 years ago I would probably never quit because of how much further a dollar went. Wages have doubled since then but housing has gone up almost 10 times. It makes a mortgage even less exciting.

  10. Great post Kay. But I think their lives are driven by greed. The workforce are their minions…not realising they are attracting exactly what they put out there. Most not being liked or having any true effort put into their ‘company’ because they give no reason to give that effort.
    How can they build trust and compassion to what they represent when all they do is distrust and have no empathy for those that work for them. Climbing the ladder is based on fear…and they use that a lot. Even just to keep your job.
    Lots of cars, houses, holidays…oh, and did I mention the very shallow lives in their relationships because the business is the be all and end all. Lets be successful but at what cost.
    Now, I know that is not all of them….but, it takes its toll.
    It’s all in the attitude. Yours has been found…amidst many a tale, I venture to add 😀

    1. candidkay says:

      I saw my mother come to the realization, after her retirement and toward the end of her life, that people (her family) was more important than work. I wish she’d had a bit more of that in her whilst I was growing up. So I understand what you’re saying Mark. And I’ve seen how lonely it is at the end for those who place value on achievement versus love . . .

      1. Wisdom gained…but only probably learnt from how she was brought up by those SHE loved and looked up to.
        It can be a cruel world at times, but it always gives us a chance to re-find the truth of what we truly are within.
        I found many years down the track that I was like my dad….I cringed at the thought. Then I realised I needed to forgive him…and myself, for it was only built on the love that they were given also.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Cynthia! For stopping by and for the kind words.

  11. It is a great feeling now (retired) that I am not at the calling of someone else (either superior, subordinate, or someone I care for) and I can choose how it works for me. I see the flip side coming in now the budget is tighter. Needing to sacrifice leisure activities to save money as opposed to increasing work time making it.

    1. candidkay says:

      And do you prefer the sacrifice to the increasing work time?

  12. Wise words Kay. I think we can all relate to these cringe worthy stories. Glad you still have your friends!

    1. candidkay says:

      Crazy that we can all relate, isn’t it? 🙂 My European friends don’t seem to have the same experience.

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