Working at Misery
While I am not a big fan of catch phrases, I will now use one. I had an “aha moment” of my true career interest in 1991. After three years in Dallas, Texas, working at two radio stations, my life had come to a point of satisfaction in a “ministry driven” job. And then it became “life interrupted.”
A few years earlier, I had been doing marketing work in Sacramento, California. One of my projects was writing brochure copy for a new trade show concept. The event became successful, and the company was developing similar ones in New York and Texas.
The owner of the trade show company called to tell me of this success. Then he invited my wife and I to join him for a nice weekend in Austin, Texas, at the Four Seasons Hotel. We gladly accepted.
My friend Gary knew of my background and interest in business and marketing. Over dinner, he asked what it would take for me to move from Dallas back to Sacramento to “head up operations” for his trade show business. Boom. Quite the unexpected.
In short, I gave him my parameters. He later called and offered me the job. We accepted. I left my ministry related work to go back to making money. And hopefully, lots of it for all parties concerned.
About a year later, I was at work and glanced at my watch. I gave a personal sigh and thought, “Good. About an hour and I can head home.” And that’s when it hit me. Working in radio, I rarely felt like I was looking forward to ending my day! Sure you get tired. But it was work I enjoyed and with which I connected. Especially…being on air.
Two months later, I was contacted about an on air job in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In an awkward but important decision, I shared with my employer how I felt “called” back into radio. While painful to him, he released me from my obligation and sent me on my way.
The bottom line to my story is that since then, I have avoided any significant management role. My satisfaction has been met not by moving up any corporate ladder, but by seeking excellence in the work I enjoy most: being on air. Fortunately, that opportunity is still available to me.
This came to mind recently in reading an article by Arthur Brooks. And it serves as a good follow up to my blog of last week on Labor Day. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute and an opinion writer for our company, Salem Media Group.
Brooks’ piece, “Rising to Your Level of Misery at Work,” was recently published in the New York Times.
He reasons that in this age, people are not necessarily rising to their level of incompetence (The Peter Principle) but more commonly to a level of misery. They have accepted promotions that drive them from what they love doing to what they come to disdain. It’s about increasing pay, prestige, and responsibility.
Asks Brooks, “Why don’t people stop rising when they are happy? Because we are built to think that more is better — more power, authority, money, and responsibility. So we incorrectly infer that promotions will equal greater satisfaction. In an economy that has left so many people behind in recent years, this might seem like a nice problem to have. But it is a problem nonetheless, as recent research clearly demonstrates.”
Some of that research shows that while poverty creates one kind of stress, wealth creates another. A performance stress, if you will. These workers live under undesirable pressure.
Apparently, alcohol use increases with pay! Of those making over $75,000 per year, 81 per cent consume alcohol — much higher than those making less. It’s probably also why yoga or meditation has become more popular. You know, for stress — medicate or meditate … or both.
The reason I found Brooks’ piece to be a good follow up to my blog of last week is based on a single word: service. A 2014 article in the Journal of Positive Psychology revealed lawyers in public service roles were happier and more satisfied in their work than those driven by high incomes.
And the clincher? As Brooks notes, “Through this added layer of intentionality, almost any work can be understood as a genuine service job. The type of work is actually less important than the attitude of the worker.”
Jesus taught it this way: “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.” (Mark 10:43 MSG)
What a concept!
Originally posted on Mark Elfstrand’s blog.