(LONG POST) for those that hate their job, here are my thoughts
for context, here's the original: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/who-on-her…
hello wso, I got a lot of responses on my thread about people hating their jobs, and I promised you all a long form post, well here it goes. happy to answer Q's, and would appreciate feedback, this was not easy to write and quite frankly I'm an amateur at long form writing
First, it appears a lot of people hate their jobs, so we'll discuss that of course. Second, it appears many of you have (in my opinion) a distorted view of what happiness is and what it is we're ultimately chasing. And finally, some ideas on if you're feeling stuck, what I'd do to try to get out of that rut.
On hating your job, I've noticed a lot of commonality which I'll try to distill down, but one overarching thing I've noticed is the people. You could make a shitload of money but if your boss is a dick you'd leave for an equal or even lower paying job. Also, you may have an objectively great job but if your marriage is in shambles or your kids are pieces of shit, you will not be happy. Finally, even if you have a great job for a great boss/partner, if you don't have any friends or social outlets, your life will suffer and therefore happiness will be fleeting. Sure you like your 8-5, but what about the rest of your time? a life devoid of meaningful social relationships is not a happy life in my opinion. First thing's first, I'd focus on the controllable and if you've read me for any length of time you know this is a big mantra of mine. I don't think one can easily change a supervisory relationship but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to improve it. Be sure you have clear, concise communication with your boss, understand what success looks like and give updates on progress before asked to do so. As I've not had a boss since I was 25, I don't have a ton of insight here, but what I will say is this, read Jocko Willink's work on leadership, managing "up" is a real thing. Ok, more controllable, are you a good spouse? Do you call your parents and grandparents regularly? Do you maintain friendships with people you care about? So on people, here's what I'd say – mend the mendable and break with the broken. If there's a relationship that can be fixed or improved, DO IT. I've said it before, I'll say it again. Fall on the sword. Even if you don't fell 100% culpability for whatever soured a relationship (distance, time, whatever), just call up that family member or friend you've lost touch with and mend things. And here's the crazy part – IT DOESN'T HAVE TO WORK! Most of the stress with relationships I've felt personally is all internal but it's affected every aspect of my life. I feel bad about that one phone call where I hung up abruptly, calling my good friend an asshole when I was drunk, or something similar. If the relationship is broken? END IT and don't apologize for it. You are the product of your environment and those who you surround yourself with inevitably affects everything, from work product to happiness to blood pressure to sleep quality. Life is too short to spend with people who are not a net positive to your life, so be absolutely ruthless with cutting ties with negative people. Now, if you're like me, some of these people are in your own immediate family and therefore it's incredibly difficult if not impossible to actually sever ties, so in that case minimize contact. Yes if you have a bad relationship with your mother, you shouldn't call her every week, but you can check in monthly and have something scheduled 30 mins after you make the call. I could go on and on about how to be a good friend, a good spouse, etc., but that's for another day and I'd rather just see what the Q&A turns into.
Another thing I've noticed is perspective matters. A few respondents indicated in their post about disliking their job stories of people who hit it big and are living the good life or at least appear as such. Many respondents may have objectively good lives but lack the perspective to appreciate those lives and therefore do not feel happiness. I'm going to challenge a lot of what many of you are thinking and feeling with this part, it helped me, it might help you. First, count your blessings. If you're on WSO, sure you might be towards the bottom of the totem pole of finance, but you're near the top of the totem pole of life, you likely have a functioning brain (though some anonymous posters make me question this presumption), and you live in an area with working internet. That's insanely fortunate. If you spend your time thinking about all of the objectively positive things you have in life, your happiness and mood will improve. Sure, anyone on earth can bitch about something. Even the richest people in the world have problems: carlos slim is fat, elon is weird, bezos got divorced, Zuckerberg is pale and hated by many, and so on. The point is this: there is not a point where fortune extricates all of the misery out of your life, you will still have complaints. What is always controllable is the perspective you have. Do you look at things like this: man it sucks I've got to work this weekend, my fucking boss is breakin my balls, or do you think "yaknow, it would've been nice to day drink with the boys but at least I've got a good paying job, maybe I'll organize something after this deal closes and we'll get everyone together." Sure, that last thought sounds cheesy, but this is seriously how I have to trick my brain when I'm feeling down in the dumps "shut up brofessor, you have a hot wife, great job, functioning limbs, and live in the greatest country on earth, would you rather be digging ditches or threshing wheat or being enslaved? Count your blessings." Fair enough, this thought process solves absolutely nothing, but unless you're willing to do some of the radical changes I'm going to suggest, this is a great start. I'd also argue perspective is important in all parts of life, it will help you temper your elation, realizing when you've got it better than most, it will help you temper your sorrow, because you realize that everything is temporary, and so on.
for more on perspective, one of my favorite stories that speaks to this is the story of Marc & Janet from Nassim Taleb's first non technical book Fooled By Randomness. like you, your happiness can be a product of your environment: https://franklycurious.com/wp/2015/03/16/survivor…
Autonomy is also a big one. I've seen a lot of complaints about leadership, lack of control over schedule, and even if you've made it to VP you still have to deal with MDs and Principals, and even if you've made it to MD, you still have some lack of control. That said, this isn't an issue for everyone, so I won't make this a super long paragraph, but here's my advice. If you're like me and you demand autonomy, you're a self starter who hates having a boss and would gladly take volatile income in exchange for more control, then look up the ladder wherever you are and ask yourself how much autonomy those people have. If they have none, get on a different ladder before you're 45 years old and it's probably too late. And don't think I mean you start your own company because no one but God has complete autonomy, so just ask yourself what it is you value: your schedule, the projects you work on, the clients you work with, what? To give you some specifics, a big thing for me was never having to request off for vacation, and being able to ditch work whenever I want so long as the tasks of the day are done. I am still at the mercy of regulators, my firm compliance, client demands, and so on, but the simple fact I can ditch work and go surf when a good swell pops up or go for a jog in the middle of the day means the world to me. Ask yourself what you want, look up the ladder to see what kind of freedom various seniors have that you'd like, and there you have it.
And now let's talk about being trapped. Maybe you got into IB because you wanted to make the most amount of money out of your contemporaries or to get that PE job, and now you realize 3-5+ years later that you hate your job, your health is suffering, and you don't see a way out. Perhaps you framed this as everybody has to pay their dues, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps your goalpost keeps moving, and after you've had a W2 of over $300k, you're chasing $500k, then $1MM, and if never "stops." On paying your dues, absolutely. Every job, field, or worthwhile endeavor has an amount of time where you're paying your dues. I'm not a father, but I know my dad had to wipe poop off my butt a lot of times before he got to see me steal 2nd base for the first time or get into college. I had to make a lot of cold calls and shovel a lot of metaphorical shit before I got to where I am today. And so it is with IB, you go through a hazing period of formatting bullshit slides for deals that have no chance of materializing just to please your sociopathic MD in hopes that you'll get called by that recruiter who has a spot at KKR for you, as if things will be better (hint: they won't). Here's what I think this suffering comes from: lack of intentionality. Everybody knows life isn't all roses (and I'll dive deeper into this later), but there's a big difference in your assessment of your own happiness if you're shoveling shit for some indeterminate amount of time, or if you're approaching it like this: yes I have to shovel shit, but I'm going to make the most of this experience, try to learn as much as I can, and if there's still a shovel with my name on it in XX months, I'm out. Nobody likes to be a passenger in their own life, so I'd argue that approaching life with more intentionality can help.
This is the part I was nervous about writing, but here goes nothing. You may have to completely change your life to achieve happiness. You may have to leave your job, your city, your income, and so on. You might not have to, but you need to consider this as a possibility. I say this for people who are trapped mostly. If your work isn't intellectually interesting, you don't have meaningful relationships, you lack autonomy, you see no end to the rat race, and all you're doing is hanging out for a good salary but without anything else, you should completely change your life, and that's not easy. Money will eliminate all of your money problems, as Naval says, but it doesn't solve all of your problems. Ask yourself why are you trapped? Have you gotten accustomed to a lifestyle that most other fields can't accommodate? Do you have financial problems and this income is the only way you see out of them? Or, have you always thought of this as a temporary thing where you stack as much chips as possible before early retirement/career switch? Whatever the case may be, be intentional. If you've trapped yourself because of a lifestyle you can't see yourself getting out of, that's your fault and you need to ask yourself why are you trading misery for material possessions because if what you're buying isn't making you happy, you're only making things worse. If you have financial problems, I'd ask yourself if a miserable job is truly the only way out, and most of the time the financial problems I've see are lifestyle driven, conspicuous consumption via credit cards and having friends that have similar habits so you have to keep up with the Joneses. Again, I'd ask yourself if what you're spending money on is actually making you happy, because if you're working a miserable job just so you can buy things that don't solve your misery, you're not being intentional and you need to alter your mindset to get out of this rut. I have some experience with this and had some come-to-Jesus moments along the way. I was the lowest earning 25 year old among my friend group by a pretty wide margin, my salary was about $35k in 2021 dollars when I started out, yet my innate desire to keep up with everybody caused me to rack up some considerable credit card debt. While I know many of you are likely not in the same debt situation I was in, you likely have similar spending habits to what I was doing, living day by day and shoring up finances come bonus season only to repeat the cycle all over again. Stop it. if the only reason you're friends with certain people is because of shared habits, you don't have friends, you have bad influences. Break or minimize those relationships. You may have close friends who are living a lifestyle you can't keep up with, so if you want to maintain that it's incumbent upon you to suggest things that are more in your wheelhouse or do what I did and instead of going out 8x a month, make it once or twice. Your wallet will thank you and you really won't miss that much. most of what I missed was my single friends failing hitting on chicks (most of us were in LTRs), hopping from crowded bar to crowded bar, and more often than not just ripping shots with the boys which is always a good time but it's not necessary to do that frequently to maintain a good relationship if you're worried about money like I was. Part of getting out of traps is ceasing to give a fuck about others' perceptions of you, and this is really really really hard. What got me here was self confidence, and what worked for me may or may not work for you, but if you aren't happy with yourself, you will not be self confident and therefore more susceptible to these traps. Side note: did you really think I'd write thousands of words without telling you to work on yourself?! In all seriousness, when I discovered Paul J Meyer and began to turn inward and work on my life, this is when I got out of various traps I was in. I simplified my life, took inventory of who was really important to me, where I'm lacking in confidence and worked on controllable things I could do to change that.
Now, on happiness. As I've mentioned before, the moving the goalpost will be consuming, and part of me believes that individuals believe that achieving X will make them happy, and therefore they don't expect happiness (or at least significant happiness) until X is achieved. Bullshit. Life is more like baseball than golf, you're going to miss, waste time, get rejected, slog forward with unnoticeable progress, beat yourself down only for a shot at glory. But that's the beautiful thing about life. Happiness is fleeting. If it was constant, it wouldn't be any fun. Variability is what we crave, and I firmly believe that a "happy" person may not have a higher quantity of happy moments in life, just simply that the happy moments outweigh all of the bullshit they had to go through to get there. back to some of the struggle comments, think about the happiest activity you can possibly think of for you. For some, that may be a sport, it may be a trip, a place in nature, or maybe it's just chilling with your favorite person. Now, let's dissect that for a moment, you just thought of the happiest thing in your world, well let me burst your bubble, I'd argue that the majority of the time that was spent leading up to your happiness was not in fact happy, but you still remember that thing in the fondest sense. My example would be surfing. the bliss of riding a wave is something that I can only truly describe to anyone who's actually done it. I imagine there are other sports out there that give you similar neurological effects but the pure joy when you're able to propel yourself forward against the raw power of nature that doesn't know you're there and glide along it if only for a second, that's my happy place. So what's negative about that? Well, for starters, in a dreamy 3 hour session I might catch 5 waves an hour, so 15 waves lasting on average less than 10 seconds, so 150 seconds max or 2.5 minutes surfing out of 180 minutes. The rest of the time I'm paddling, sitting, getting my ass kicked by whitewater, and so on. before that? I likely had to sit in traffic and barely find parking at a crowded beach if it's summer, or brave the cold and squeeze myself into an initially uncomfortable wetsuit and resign all of my extremities to numbness for the balance of the morning. None of those things are "happy" per se, they're not what a surfer talks about when he recounts a session to a friend, but they're all part of the process of achieving bliss, and so it is with life. So ask yourself this: if your current job is not giving you, either directly or indirectly (by allowing you time/space to do) moments of happiness that for a time, make you forget about all of the bullshit, then I'd say you need to change your scenery. If, however, you're expecting happiness to be a state of being rather than a flash of light in a sea of darkness, I'd suggest you adjust your expectations, look around and see the beauty of what's around you and enjoy the process. If you can't enjoy the process (I still dislike making cold calls), at least get yourself to a place where the good significantly outweighs the bad, so that when you're happy, you forget all about getting nearly drowned by whatever your "whitewater" is.
And if you've just got done reading all of this and think it all sounds like a bunch of fluffy bullshit that won't have any impact…ask yourself this: what have you got to lose by trying some of the stuff?