It Can't Be That Bad

Over much of the last six months, I've been battling a slow-losing battle with the Demons of Self-Doubt. They sneak into thoughts and ideas, sowing the seeds of uncertainty everywhere. After a number of months, one is left wondering whether there's ever any such thing as a "good idea". Many people all over the world struggle with a ceaseless pessimism, and a high percentage of people likely listen more often than they should. When I'm feeling particularly low, one thing I tend to do is just do a random image search for simple words that describe abstract concepts, such as "happiness".


Looking at these top search results, I can't help but wonder if the results would be exactly the same if I were to look for images that describe "freedom". This is what most of the pictures say to me, and it likely goes without saying that people who feel the most free are likely the most happy with life. I'm more like a fish in a Kool-Aid pitcher-sized bowl.

Is This Freedom?

Is this feeling of entrapment the result of life changes involving young people and large mortgages? This most likely plays a large part of it. But the intrinsic pessimism that burrows itself deep into my creative processes isn't helping matters at all.

While it's still way too early to know what 2018 might have in store1, I do know that some changes need to be made at the day job as well as with my personal time management. This coming year simply cannot be as rushed as this one, where every spare minute is dedicated to some fabricated priority. There must be time to sit down to think. There must be time to sit down to play. There must be time to shoo the Demons of Self-Doubt away.

  1. aside from moving into a new house, that is

Post 2484

Today was one of those days where you get into work with a plan to do one thing, get side-tracked with an email outlining a different thing, and complete something both wonderful and unexpected half an hour before the end of your Friday shift meaning you might actually have a few minutes of peace before leaving to catch the train home. All in all, it wasn't bad. There is still quite a bit of work waiting to be done after the weekend, but that's par for the course and ultimately good for a person who wishes to be gainfully employed for the next little bit. Unfortunately, while on the way home, the good efforts of the day took a turn for the worse when email was used instead of a telephone call to announce that a server was down at the day job. As one might expect, there's squat I can do with downed servers when outside the corporate network, and VPN access is pretty much forbidden at this point.

But the struggles of work and the institutionalized silliness that one finds in any corporate environment isn't really the topic for this post. Instead I'm thinking more about something very different: the pursuit of happiness.

One of the greatest things anybody can figure out is how to be happy. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, nor is it a static answer. Instead we find that the ultimate set of conditions that go into making a person "happy" expands and contracts over time as one's fickle nature adapts to the changes that accumulate day after day. That being said, the one thing that I have long sought in my own pursuits has been the incredibly fluid and immeasurably precious resource called time. Like millions of others, I want to have more control over how I use my time. Sadly, the only way to do this while enjoying a decent standard of living is to somehow acquire a great deal of money or fall into a time warp like Bill Murray did in the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day.

Time is one thing I will not have a great deal of for quite a while.

Staying Happy at Work

Beeping incessantly, the small alarm clock announced the arrival of yet another day. It was ten minutes before seven, and the sun was already high in the sky. A clear blue sky could be seen through the thin curtains, with the distant sound of highway traffic signaling that another work day was at hand.

Looking to their left, the half-awake slumberer watched as their spouse continued to rest. Though their hair was in shambles and falling in every direction, they looked just as gorgeous now as the first time they met.

No time for sleep, came the thought. It’s time to get ready for work!

Sitting up quickly, the 30-something employee took in a deep breath before sliding off the bed and getting ready for whatever trial life might throw at them today.

The month of October has recently started, but the weather has yet to fully go into “autumn mode.” Typhoons are coming and going without hitting much of the mainland and, aside from a few days of sub-20 degree weather, the temperature has continued to sit between 26 and 29 degrees. If this part of Japan is anything like Southern Ontario (which it’s not), then this means we’re either in for a very short winter, or a very strong winter with bitter-cold temperatures and mountains of snow. Either way, I’ll be happy to see another year roll over and begin.

Why the positive attitude towards the end of summer, you ask? It’s quite simple. Autumn is one of the best times of the year, rivaled only by the spring, summer and winter months. Baseball coming to a close, bringing with it the championship battles. Festivals all over the country are being held to celebrate a relatively decent harvest. The fall lineup has started in North America, which means that we can now enjoy new episodes of American Dad, Family Guy and The Simpson’s. And, perhaps most enjoyable of all, it’s time for my Year End Performance Review at work.

What? Me worry?

When it comes to performance reviews, I love them. Whether they’re announced, unannounced, done behind my back, or completed in front of me, it really doesn’t matter. The reason for this is quite simple: my PDA.

Not my trusty HP iPaq 211 Personal Digital Assistant, mind you, but the Personal Drive and Ambition that attack everything with. I’m sure that some of my previous employers and co-workers can attest to one basic truth about my work attitude: I’m either “on” or “off”. There is no in-between. Heck, my Reiko even says this very same thing about how I attack things at home. It’s either something I will do, or I will not do it. There is no middle-ground, which means that nothing is ever done half-assed.

While this little trait does cause problems from time to time, there are quite a few advantages. Advantages like:

  • very few things are ever left half-done

  • all tasks, regardless of how mundane they may seem, can be a chance to excel

  • likes and dislikes are very cut and dry … there’s no room for gray

  • logical subjects such as math and science are incredibly enjoyable and can be integrated into most aspects of daily life

But, this doesn’t mean that having an On/Off attitude is a great thing, either. There are some pretty big disadvantages to living in a world of mostly black and white situations. Disadvantages like:

  • people find it very difficult and frustrating to compromise when everything is put into a Yes or No framework

  • you have good days or bad days … period

  • opinions are usually cut in stone within seconds of being made

  • there’s no such thing as “a little stress”

Like all things, though, we need to take the good with the bad. What’s great about being either on or off, though, is the ability to take advantage of all the advantages.

My first job was at a Burger King in Hamilton (technically Stoney Creek) and, after just a few weeks of making burgers, I started to feel bored. To alleviate the mind-numbingly repetitive process of making a Whopper, a cheese burger or some other meat-laden sandwich, I started to have competitions with the co-workers. Who could make the most sandwiches in the least amount of time, while ensuring they looked great? The manager, Bill, was incredibly strict about the appearance of the food and would often drill us with his signature line: “If you wouldn’t eat it, then the customer will not eat it.” This was something I have brought to every job since then, as it’s a great way to ensure quality while also making a job or career more interesting.

Over the years, this On/Off attitude helped make it possible to accomplish difficult tasks like managing a store, dealing with furious people, organizing a constantly-revolving inventory, creating complex algorithms, and studying subjects that had no clearly identifiable purpose, not to mention several other regular tasks and duties that are performed by millions all over the world. By always being “on” at work, one can better stand out from others when it comes time for management to hand out new responsibilities, pay increases, or promotions. Considering the difficult times ahead for countless companies and millions of people around the world, making sure we’re always “on” could make the difference between staying on board and being laid off.

But how can someone make sure they’re “on”?

Lots of Coffee and Rap Music

Being “on” all the time takes a lot of energy and can sometimes cause a person to turn off. However, in my case, I tend to stay on thanks to large doses of coffee and Eminem. Will this work for everyone? No. However, so long as you know what makes you feel like a million dollars at work and can play on your strengths, then you’ll never need to worry about things like performance evaluations, customer reviews or any other kind of test from your employer. On top of this, a career is much easier to advance when you play to your strengths and stick to them.

Many of us were taught as children that we can do anything so long as we stick our mind to the task at hand, and this is 100% true in every respect. All we need to do is make sure the job matches our interests or, if push comes to shove, we need to find a way to integrate our interests to match the job.

So how do you keep your job interesting?