A year at a fast-paced startup can teach you a lot.
For the past year, I’ve had a job some might call a millennial’s dream gig.
In our office, the kitchen’s bedecked with Mario decals and fully stocked at all times with the snacks I can’t afford to buy at the grocery store. We have a dedicated nap room, complete with a Millennium Falcon bed, that my 9-year-old self would’ve cleaved off his own arm to have (and my adult self, too, for that matter). Oh, and there’s the added bonus of my ACTUAL job being to write content that, provided I’m not a total hack, will be read by thousands of people.
All in all, being an internet writer is AWESOME. Is it what I want to do with the rest of my life? Nah, but that’s okay.
If you do what you love, congratulations?—?but you’re not most of us.
Imagine if every kid grew up and actually became what they wanted to be when they were a tot. The world would be full of nothing but soccer players, princesses, ballerinas, astronauts and rockstars. Nobody grows up telling their parents they want to be a garbage man. (If you did, and you’re a trash collector now, congratulations on finding your calling so early in life. Seriously.)
Most of us don’t hold jobs wherein the work itself is our primary motivation for coming in every day. It’s more than a little backwards: We get jobs with work we can tolerate so we can afford to do other things, like pay rent, eat, travel, go see movies and stuff. We find things about the work we do that we dig (riding on the back of the trash truck sure is fun) and things we don’t dig as much (coming home every day smelling of trash). Then, we work more so we can do it all over again. It’s kind of shitty, but it’s more or less inescapable. Yay, capitalism!
The point is: Despite your parents’ repeated assertions of your uniqueness and talent, no, you aren’t special, and no, you aren’t gonna be a professional LEGO builder when you grow up. That’s why it’s so important for work to be not just about, well, work.
Ok, so work isn’t about work. What’s it about, then?
The people you work with. Plain and simple.
Though unfettered access to a bottomless box of every flavor of Lay’s (Baked AND Original) is a superpower no one should have but I’m lucky enough to enjoy?—?it’s absolutely not a reason to hold a job.
On the days when I’d punch my alarm clock and think, “Fuck, I don’t even want to BREATHE today,” what ultimately got me out of bed were the spectacular people I worked with. Sure, I got to do cool, satisfying work?—?but that paled in comparison to doing that work with people who regularly went out to lunch together, exchanged ridiculous gifs and laughed through meetings (That last one’s really important. Meetings absent of laughter are THE worst.)
One gorgeous day, someone suggested we nab some Chipotle to go and eat it in the park by our office. If you can’t do that with your coworkers and have a blast, gtfo.
I know. I know. Such a cliché. Cue the eye rolls and cynicism. But clichés are just truths we’ve gotten tired of hearing, and all the free Clif Bars and company-sponsored happy hours in the world wouldn’t mean dick if you had to share them all with a bunch of jerks, right?
This has been true of pretty much every job I’ve ever worked.
Working at a Coldstone Creamery sophomore year of high school was a special kind of hell whose fires were only tempered by piles and piles of free ice cream and the virulent hatred of our managers, which bonded my coworkers and I like a squad of grizzled GIs.
During my senior year, I didn’t deliver pizzas because it was my calling in life. But it was still great, party because of the free pizza, but mostly because I was surrounded by a cohort of awesome folks. When we got a rush of orders, everyone chipped in to get them out on time. When a driver’s car broke down, someone went and picked ’em up. It wasn’t just an obligation of the job. It was what you did for a friend.
Steve Jobs had a theory that great people love to work with great people, and when they do, it makes them work better.
Most of us are going to spend our lives working. Work itself isn’t all that fun. But that’s okay, because if you’re with great people you can still love what you’re doing?—?even if you aren’t doing what you love.