Wealth and Work: Too far in to Get Out now?

Do you feel like you are Too Far In to get out now?

In the finance world their is a concept called “sunk cost bias,” which refers to the phenomenon where an individual or company has spent so much capital on an investment or product they cannot stop even when failure is the only outcome.

They have gotten too far in (spent too much) and cannot justify the wasted time and cost (investment) if they drop the product.  Here is a definition from businessdictionary.com:

Expenses paid for previously that are not affected by current or future decisions and costs that should be ignored when analyzing new investment activities.

Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/sunk-cost-bias.html

What does this have to do with our job/work/vocation/career?  More than you might think.

Expenses paid for previously that are not affected by current or future decisions

At any point in our career path, we can look back at the work we have done, the various jobs we may have had, the rewards, raises and promotions we hopefully earned along the way, and all the things we helped accomplish.

None of that can be altered by the decisions you make now or in the future.  It is what it is.  Your decision to stay in a dead end job because you only have 10 years left to full retirement doesn’t change what you accomplished in the past, it doesn’t affect the promotion you either got or didn’t get 4 years ago.

The only value of the past is the experience you can take away from it.   Some example questions to ask yourself might be:

  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • What things did you do better than anyone else?
  • What things did you loathe doing?
  • What relationships were helpful to you in getting to where you are?
  • What skills did you acquire that you can bring to a different job or career?

Our possibilities now and in the future are endless.  We need to look forward and stop worrying so much about what we have done so far.

Cost that should be ignored when analyzing new investment activities

One of the biggest problems I had with leaving my previous career was getting over the idea that I had put too much time in to leave now – I would be giving up everything I had worked for so far.

Many colleagues stayed on in jobs they no longer enjoyed simply because they only had 5 or 10 years left to qualify for early retirement.

Then they would stay on 5 more years to max out their retirement benefit.   Sadly, a few timed their retirement perfectly to get the max benefit, only to pass away within a few years after retiring.

As stark as that sounds, this happened to more than one colleague I knew personally, and even more whom I knew professionally.  I took this lesson to heart when I made my decision to leave.

I could not justify staying in a career simply because I was only so many years away from one benchmark or another.  I left just three years shy of a full 20 years in, which would have significantly increased my retirement benefit.  But it wasn’t worth it.

I ignored the cost of 17 years in when I analyzed my options for a new career, a new vocation.

If you are facing a crossroad in your current career, analyze your new options, ignoring the cost or time in to date.  Set it aside and don’t allow it to skew your analysis for the future.

Moving on

Once we have done the clear analysis, and made a decision to move on or stay with a renewed sense of purpose, we can review our past efforts and glean out the experiences, skills, relationships, etc. that will serve us well going into the future.

These are not tasks we performed or even job titles we had.  This is an extraction of the valuable lessons, the interpersonal skills, and the expertise that we can continue to improve on and use to benefit our current and future endeavors.

Leave the titles and position descriptions behind and define your value in your own terms.

Wealth and Work: Co-opted Someone Else’s Calling?

Pursuing Someone Else’s Calling As Our Own

Have you ever wondered why you ended up in the career you are in?  Does it feel like you were pushed or pulled in that direction by other people?

If so, you may have co-opted someone else’s calling as your own.

Pushed

Sometimes we are pushed into a career or a particular vocation because our parents, teachers, or friends pushed us in that direction.  This push could be along the spectrum of forceful shove to gentle nudge.  They may have done it unawares.  Sometimes they knew exactly what they were doing.

Most of us can recall at least one story where a child was pressured to become the first doctor, lawyer or priest in the family.  Or to follow in their parents’ footsteps, regardless of talent or passion for the family business.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was pressured by his father to compose for years for people who did not appreciate his true talent.  Fortunately for all of us, Mozart eventually pushed back and pursued his love for opera.  This move destroyed his relationship with his father, but freed him to produce an unprecedented volume of compositions in a very short period of time.

Not all of us experience a strong push in our careers, but most of us have been influenced by our parents, teachers and friends because we love them and trust them.  We may have received slightly higher praise for efforts leading toward a favorable career versus a less favorable one.  Art is good as a hobby but no way to make a living; math, science and law are much more lucrative, responsible and secure.

Pulled

Others of us may not have been pushed so much as pulled.  We identified ourselves with someone so strongly that we followed in their footsteps – we wanted to be just like them.

In this case we adopted their vocation or calling as our own, and while some may experience success in doing so, others pursue a futile fantasy.  In either case, we deceive ourselves and deny who we are.

When I think back to my own childhood, I remember the admiration I had for my brother, who in his early teens joined the local Explorer’s club and began volunteering at the local ambulance corps.  It seemed so cool, and he enjoyed it so much, that I wanted to do it also.  So I joined the Explorer group after him without really thinking it through.   Fortunately, it didn’t take too long for me to realize my brother’s calling was not my own, and I eventually wandered down another path.  (I have wandered down quite a few other paths since then – in fact my calling could end up being “wanderer”).

Unlike being pushed – where we feel a sense of resisting or pushing back, being pulled can feel like a free fall, or give the sense of being off balance, as if we are about to fall on our face.

Path, Pace & Purpose

The solution here is not to make drastic changes or even blame anyone, but to take a moment to stand still and observe the paths available to you.  Which one feels right?  Now imagine that path merging with your current path for period of time.  You don’t always need to leave the path you are on to journey down another.

Go slow – find your own pace and move forward with grace as you stumble here or there.  As you find your balance you can quicken your pace – you are in control – but not so fast you miss where the path turns left or right down paths less and less traveled by.  Remain present and observe.

If you feel like you have been pushed into the career you are in at this moment, take some time to reflect back on when you felt pushed, observe the dynamic of what was going on in that moment, and uncover what it was we were being pushed away from as this may provide clues about our true calling.

If you feel more pulled than pushed, ask someone close to you who knows you well to reflect back what they see.  When pulled we often need others to help us see what we were running from, which is often another clue about our true calling.

When you have reflected a while, move forward with purpose.

 

Wealth and Work: Rather be doing something Else?

Rather be doing something else?

Let’s face it – we all encounter this at some point in our work, no matter how fulfilling we may find it at times.  When our minds wander to other things we’d rather be doing, it may be due to burnout as I talked about in this previous post.

But other times it may be due to unresolved desire to pursue something else.

I struggled with this for years, working a day job in government finance and accounting, while my creative juices were getting little attention.  I would find ways to accommodate my creativity in designing reports, but that wasn’t enough.

I have always been fascinated by music, and played piano since 4th grade and french horn since 5th grade, adding guitar in my teens and buying my first of several electronic keyboards.  As new technology emerged around digital recording, I resolved to teach myself how to record, mix and master music on my PC (not a cheap hobby through the 90’s and into the new millenium!).

Later on, I also started a small record label and have released a total 7 records, the most recent one on vinyl – who knew we’d come full circle back to vinyl?

But, I digress – we are talking about wealth and work and the occasional pull we feel to do something else.

This is where hobbies, or avocations, come in (from the Latin avocare – “call away”).  When we get the feeling we’d rather be doing something else, we are being “called away” from our vocation or work to think about something else.  When this happens it is may be due to some aspect of ourselves that is not receiving the attention it deserves.

Instead of fighting this urge to do something else, it is important to pause for a moment and observe what it is we would rather be doing.  What is the call or pull that you are sensing?  This is a critical step – it may identify a new and distinct calling on your life, or it might identify a part of you that you have been neglecting.

Once we identify what is pulling at or calling us, it is important to schedule time to give it our full attention, even if it is only for half an hour.  It is important to actually schedule it, block out the time for it, and commit to doing it as scheduled.

The importance of scheduling is, once scheduled, the distraction of rather doing something else is diminished or even disappears.  This won’t work long term if you neglect to address it as scheduled.

The worst thing you can do is attempt to ignore and push through.  You only end up wasting energy fighting yourself, and both you and your work suffer.

Finer Fruits

Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.
– Henry David Thoreau

Wealth and Work: Are you Burned Out?

Wealth & Work - Are You Burned Out?

Are you Burned Out?

We all experience burnout at some point.  I left a 17 year career because I sensed it creeping up on me.

At the time I left I had well over 15 years left before I could qualify for early retirement and I knew I could not last that long just for the full retirement benefits.  So I left, and even though my income has been substantially less, I am less stressed, much happier in general, and able to actually encounter the world in a way I would not have been able to if I had stayed.

I am not recommending you all go out and quit your jobs by any means, but I do have some recommendations from what I observed in looking back at my career that might have helped me avoid the impending burnout:  take vacations, observe a Sabbath day, and delegate more (read: do less).

Vacation

First things first, take a vacation!  Vacations (from the Latin vacare – “to be unoccupied”) are necessary to rejuvenate our mind, body and spirit.  We weren’t meant to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

And take an “unoccupied” vacation – don’t plan out an itinerary that rivals your pace at work!  Take a vacation where you unplug, spend time just reading, spend time outdoors just observing and soaking in the the fresh air and, hopefully, some natural sunlight.

Unplug from your phone, your TV and the internet, at least for the majority of the time.

If you are married, with or without children, enjoy the time with your family and spouse, allow yourselves all the flexibility in the world for that time. Linger longer somewhere that is enjoyable and leave the next destination for another time.

Be present for your spouse and family – don’t spend your vacation worrying about work.  It will still be there when you get back.

Taste the food.  I’m serious.  When was the last time you can remember tasting your food?

Try something you have never tried before.

When you return from vacation and before the relaxed calm wears off, take a look at your schedule and set some clear work boundaries.  Block out times for future vacations, family outings, time to read, time to spend outdoors, and set a specific time to end your work day, every day.

Sabbath

The Sabbath in the Judeo-Christian tradition has long been made out to be a day of restrictions, but it was meant to be a day of rest each week – a gift to us – a day that we did not have to toil under the curse but could trust that God would provide.

In New England sports vernacular, you might consider the Sabbath day as a “reverse the curse” day.

A Sabbath day is essential whether you are religious or not.  It is also difficult for many of us to observe properly.  Relaxation is an elusive concept for me, but as I continue to get older, I recognize its importance for my health more and more.

Think of your Sabbath day as the day you get to enjoy the fruits of your labors, spend time with family and friends, and experience the wonders of nature.  It should be a day to recharge your emotional and spiritual batteries, and give your brain and body a rest.

Treat it like a weekly vacation – unplug, be present with those around you, take a break from technology, enjoy some nature or even yard work (yes work of this sort is fine, as long as it rejuvenates you)!

Delegate More

We can all find things to delegate.  These are things that other people can do as well or even better than we can, and distract us from doing the one or two things that only we can do.

This is a lesson I didn’t learn until after I exited my previous career.  I took on way too much and got stuck in the self destructive mode of continuing to do things myself because it was faster and easier than training someone else to do it.

The fallacy in this is that I was killing myself to get all these things done, while the things only I could do were not getting the full attention they deserved.  One of these things was developing and leading my team.  I didn’t know how to draw the line between being productive and helping others be productive.

The first thing to do is set limits on your work hours and prioritize your work schedule to get your work done in that time.  This might mean clarifying with your boss whether the project you are working on takes priority over some status meeting, especially if you arrange for someone to brief you on anything important to your project.

Then take a hard look at the tasks you are still trying to cram into your schedule and ask yourself two questions.  Can someone else do it?   Is this task taking up time that could be better spent on those things that only I can do?

If you answered yes to both questions it is time to delegate.

Wrapping Up

Unplug.

Taste your food.

Be present in the moment with the people in your life.

Do less.

Do nothing, on purpose, at least once a week.

…and just plain smile more.

Wealth and Work: In it for the Money?

Work and Wealth: In it for the Money?

Are you doing your job just for the money?

Our jobs can easily become a simple means to an end.  We work to get paid so we can pay for shelter, clothing, food, transportation and a bunch of other things we may or may not need.

The good news is we have the power and the capacity to change our attitude toward our work, without needing to change the work itself.  Of course if you have an opportunity to change jobs to better align your work with your calling, by all means seize it.  In reality, those opportunities rarely present themselves if we haven’t already adjusted our attitude in our current situation.

We have the power and the capacity to change our attitude toward our work.  [Tweet]

A Simple Attitude Adjustment Exercise

For starters, try beginning your work day writing down different ways you can best serve your customers, clients, colleagues, supervisors, and anyone else you might interact with that day.  If thoughts come up like, “I’m not getting paid enough to do that,” or “that isn’t part of my job,” write those thoughts down on a separate column or page.

Review your lists and ask yourself

  • Which person would I rather work with?
  • Which person is more likely to be given more responsibility?
  • Which person is more likely to be promoted?

Make sure you follow through on at least one of the ideas for serving others during the day.

At the end of the day take 5 minutes to write down then names of those you served, and how you served them.  Reflect back on their responses.  How did it make you feel after serving someone well?  As you do this day after day you will find your passion for your work will slowly increase, and your concern about money decrease.

You may find that your change in attitude toward your work and your increased passion to serve others well will present new opportunities or promotions, and money will no longer be something you worry about.

Wealth and Work

Wealth and Work

Vocation: A Calling

Our work, our vocation (from the Latin vocare – “to call”), is meant to be a source of wealth for us.  While financial compensation is one way for our vocation to be a source of wealth, it is not the sole source, and our pursuit of financial gain over and above every other aspect of our work may make us rich, but seldom wealthy.

The pursuit of financial gain at the expense of one’s calling may make one rich, but never wealthy.  [Tweet]

 

Finding meaning in our work and ways to positively impact the lives of others through our work is the true measure of wealth in our work.

When we continue in a job we hate, regardless of the money it pays, there is little wealth in or produced by that job or ourselves. We go through the motions, miserable and creating misery in everyone around us. This is the opposite of wealth – it is poverty.

When we do not give our all to the work set before us we are stealing from those we are meant to be helping, and robbing ourselves of the wealth gained by a job well done.

There are several reasons why we might find ourselves in such a state of vocational poverty:

The good news is we can counteract each of these with discipline and some help from friends, counselors, or coaches.

We’ll examine each of these in greater detail in upcoming posts, exposing the poverty in each, and in doing so discover the way to wealth.

 

 

 

 

 

My One Word for 2017 Is…

SeveraMy One Word for 2017l years ago I started a practice introduced to me through the book One Word That Will Change Your Life (Britton/Page/Gordon).  At the end of each year I do some reflection and pick a word that will be the main focus for that year.

My One Word for 2017 came to me with some difficulty, partly because I was resisting it.

Discipline.

Yuck, right? But as I was reading a similar book called The One Thing (Keller/Papasan), the authors described discipline in a way I had never considered it before. Discipline for me was always a long term continual process that was necessarily painful in some cases, but nearly impossible to maintain and ultimately resulted in crashing and burning and starting over.

This new way of looking at discipline was as a temporary intense effort, reduced to as simple an action or practice as possible, that would eventually become habit, done automatically, no longer requiring the same discipline energy to do it.

For example, two of the big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs) I set for myself in 2017 are:

  1. Read 36 books (3 per month) and
  2. Drop my weight to 220 lbs by 2/20/2017 (I started the year at around 255 lbs – more than slightly overweight for me).

The discipline I instituted was going to the gym on a consistent basis 4-5 times per week every week. To keep it simple, I decided to focus on just getting to the gym and walking on the treadmill for 50 minutes or so while reading e-books on my iPad’s Kindle app.

After about 2 weeks I started to enjoy this time at the gym. It was no longer a dreaded thing that required the same amount of discipline, but a habit I looked forward to and actually miss when other responsibilities take precedent. I converted what I thought was time consuming to something enjoyable and productive for my health and brain.

Of course I missed my 220 by 2/20 goal and am now on my 220 by 5/20 goal, but I have made progress, tracking my weight daily (“what gets measured gets managed“), and as of the past few weeks I am weighing in around 240 lbs – that’s 15 lbs since the beginning of the year.

More important than the weight loss, I feel better about my health and about myself, and hope this successful use of discipline will continue to help me with my other BHAGs for 2017, which I’ll save for a later post.

Oh yeah, what about the books?  So far I have finished 16 books and almost finished with 2 more (4 Fiction/14 Non-Fiction). that’s a pace of at least 4 books a month, so I am well ahead of my goal.  (If you want to know what I’ve been reading let me know with a comment and I’ll include in a future post).

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 


Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of More

We can’t be content with more if we have not yet learned to be content with less.

Interestingly, once we become content with less we seldom want more, but are better equipped to manage it when it inevitably comes our way.

When we are content with less, more seems to come our way, and we are more likely to give it away or share it with others. Our generosity increases as our contentment grows. When we no longer find ourselves in the pursuit of more, and begin to pursue less, our focus inevitable shifts away from ourselves and towards others.

No one can be generous while they are selfish. We can appear generous to others, but if we have ulterior motives – like having others think we are generous – this is selfish. When we do something for our own benefit it is by nature a selfish act.