For the past four months I’ve been working in Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley. During this time I have seen little beyond the corridors of the office and the inside of a hotel room. This past Wednesday our team went out to lunch and I happened to be driving. I decided we weren’t going back to the office directly after the meal and made a detour to the Stanford Campus where we admired the expansive, beautiful sights of one of our country’s finest universities before making our way back to the office.
During our drive, one of the managers complained. He said we needed to get back to work. True, we are costing our client thousands of dollars a day to complete a project, but long lunches like these are an exception, not the norm, and we don’t have performance issues by any means.
Back in the office, my direct manager reprimanded me a bit, reminding me to be aware of my actions around other managers. It wasn’t a big deal and it needed to be said, but I was annoyed by the situation.
Working to what end…
Many of the managers I work with are very driven people. These people make a very healthy living. They wear luxurious, handmade shoes with matching belts, fancy watches, designer clothing and some talk regularly about their Country Club lifestyle, even if they don’t realize they are doing so.
One day I listened to one of these managers complain about that his wife wouldn’t let him buy a new fancy Porsche sports car. He moaned, “I want to have my mid-life crisis in my 30s damnit! I made Senior Director this year!” What a spoiled brat of a man.
These managers work extremely long hours. They arrive at work at 8:30am and will schedule meetings late into the evening if you don’t politely tell them to kiss your ass. And to what end? A life full of billing hours, updating gannt charts and tweaking numbers on spreadsheets in exchange for important sounding titles, fancy clothing, oversized houses and fast cars.
Not enough time.
Our jobs take us away from my families four days a week most of the year. I am hyper aware of time because of this. I keep my job because it allows me to see the country on the company dime and to allow my wife and I the luxury of her staying at home with our young children.
I am ambitious, I want promotions and the fat paychecks that come with them and I enjoy the finer things in life as much as anyone- but I do not live to work. I instead prefer to sample luxury from time to time instead of bask in it, and have more time as a result.
Each of us have a very finite number of hours ticking down, day after day, getting closer to zero all the time. I think many of us forget this as we get caught up in the rat race of life. We live paycheck to paycheck thinking about the things we’d like to buy, or worrying a bit too much about our next promotion or obligations at work.
I’ve accepted I will only climb so far up the corporate ladder as long as I continue to hold this attitude. Eventually I’ll be forced to bow out and move on to something else less demanding. I’m ok with that. I just need to be sure not to forget and get caught up in the allure of ever climbing paychecks, loftier titles and more demanding responsibilities along the way.