Imagine waking up and doing the exact same thing every day for forty years.
Same car, same person, same route, same destination, same problems. Just different clothes on different days; an umbrella for rainy days.
Good morning. When is the meeting? Ok, sure I’ll get to it. No, it’s not my fault. I’m busy. I’ll get back to you later. Good bye. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Forty years can feel long, but you always get there… one year at a time.
The most dangerous thing about routines is not that they repeat themselves.
Have you ever seen the same clouds on different days?
I haven’t either.
But have you noticed that when you have a particular routine, the Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays of this week and next week will feel almost the same even though they are clearly different?
The most dangerous thing about routines is not that they repeat themselves, but that they numb you enough to think you don’t need to be present in your own life.
Like a pilot on a long haul flight, you have switched on the autopilot and let your plane cruise while you take a nap.
It’s fine if you’re cruising somewhere you want to go. But what if you are cruising and have no idea where you are going?
Or worse, what if you are cruising on a plane that will eventually crash?
To know if you’ll be happy in a job in ten years time, talk to someone who is already there for ten years.
In my third year of uni, I started reading books about landing high paying jobs.
In one book, it said, “It may come as a surprise to you but most of the best jobs in the world are not advertised.” (I paraphrase)
So how did people get hired for them? I wondered.
By the age of 21, you would expect a person to be already somewhat sociable.
But not me.
At the age of 21, I was an awkward introvert with no idea how to make small talk with her classmates, let alone network with professionals.
The idea of having to network with people frightened me. What would I say?
I had spent more time reading books written by people long dead than I did talking with living people.
And I was much better at writing research papers than I was texting my friends.
Nonetheless, I wanted to learn how to network. I needed a good job. I couldn’t afford to.
Out of my desperate desire to network, I found myself sat awkwardly next to a senior of mine in an event organized by a friend.
I’ve never told this to anyone before but this was a senior who I had admired from a distance. No, not in a romantic way, but in a way that juniors idolized seniors who seemed to have what they wanted when they ‘grew up’.
Nervous but also curious, I decided to ask him the question that I had been thinking about for a long time.
“So, what’s it like to work there?”
When I imagined this scenario in my head, I imagined my senior to be full of excitement as he explained his job.
Instead, after a momentary pause, he said, “Well, it’s just a job. You do what you have to do.”
Just a job, I thought. What’s it like to spend so much time on something that’s ‘just a job’?
Later I would talk to more than thirty people who were between 5 to 25 years my senior who represented different stages of the career I had initially wanted to embark on.
Each person regardless of their rank or age told me more or less the same thing:
The money is good. But I am too busy. I don’t get to see my family much. I have more money than I have to spend it. My job consumes my life.
Happiness is determined by factors like your health, your family relationships and friendships, and above all by feeling that you are in control of how you spend your time. – Daniel Kahneman
How can anyone be happy if they don’t get enough time to focus on their lives and spend time with their family?
I decided not to go on the path I had initially chosen.
So I picked a new path.
Very few people close to me supported my decision.
My beloved aunt once called my mother and told her that I was being stupid. “She’s a professional,” she said, “She has a degree. Why does she give it all up so easily?”
Life is too short. I don’t have time to do anything that I will regret one day.
I hope you understand.