Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 21, 201211:04 AM

When The Going Gets Tough

"This will be my last day shining your shoes."

I like getting my shoes shined. I don't do it often enough, but I do my best to keep my shoes (and yes, even my leather sneakers) as clean and scuff-free as possible. Lump that value system into my own, personal "measure of a man," but to me, dirty shoes is a leading negative indicator (while I'm no snob, I realize this may make me a little vain). My favorite place to get my shoes shined is at the airport. I typically do this prior to departure, and it's always the same person at the shoe shine stand. He's never happy. I've known him for close to a decade and he spends his time shining shoes by complaining to every patron who sits in his station. He'll complain about politics, the weather, the airline, the airport, the security and the shoe shining session usually ends with the line, "this will be the last day that I am shining your shoes... I'm closing this stand down on Monday." It's almost become laughable. I once jokingly said to him before getting started, "will this be my last shoe shine?"... he didn't think it was a funny joke at all. He became beet red and didn't say a word to me. I felt very bad.

Going out of business sale.

It's like the running joke when you're in New York City and see those "going out of business" signs at the retail level on stores that have been there for years. Being trapped in a job or business that you do not like is a terrible experience. I did a short stint in a service-based industry that made me miserable several years ago. It got so bad, that towards the end (right before I quit), I would actually get a physical reaction to being in the office (I affectionately called it, "scratchy throat"). I knew it was time to go when I was having physical reactions to a job that just wasn't for me. I could not imagine being there another month (let alone for the rest of my life).

How to control misery.

As a business owner, I've seen people be unhappy. It's never pleasant. Odds are that you know several people - right at this exact moment in time - that are struggling with their work. They're not fulfilled, they're not happy and they're simply not achieving. Who is to blame? This is the tough part, but it's the cold hard truth: the business will rarely change to align with your value-system. If you feel like you're not able to accomplish something because of your teammates, your supervisor, the boss, the clients or whatever, guess what? It's not them... it's you. Don't get mad straight away and start leaving nasty comments below. Think about these last few lines, internalize them, let them baste around in your brain. My friends at Bazaarvoice have a very interesting human resources policy that they call, "the ride home": if someone no longer wants to work at the company, they pay them a couple thousand dollars to leave. Why? They're not just trying to find the right person who meets a criteria for a list of job responsibilities, they're looking to hire people who are suited to work with their team.

What works here does not work there.

People often take work for the wrong reasons (a lot of it has to do a self-perceived desperation): more money, trying to pad a resume, a feeling like they have no other options, etc... It's very hard (and intense) work to figure out what you really want to get out of life. Sadly, most people think that a job's main raison d'être is to keep them out of poverty, and that becomes the main focal point: survival. I've seen people perform very poorly in one environment, change jobs and work for a similar company (in a similar position) and they thrive like never before. We see this in the marketing industry almost daily: a client/agency relationship falls apart, the brand does an agency review and finds a similar company that offers similar services with very similar people, but it's simply a better fit and they all thrive.

Think about thriving.

Are you thriving? What will it take for you to thrive? These are core questions that will shift the focus from the work and the supervisors to you... and only you. Personally, the minute my professional career and trajectory changed and become that much more positive (in all aspects of it) was when I shifted my mindset from it being about the work and my bosses, to me and my personal responsibility - instead of whining about my lot in life. BTW, I'm still working on it. Life isn't perfect, but accepting that it's not perfect also enables me to spend the better part of my time self-evaluating instead of blaming it on everyone else.

What's your take?

By Mitch Joel