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Notes to a Discontented Generation Y

Notes to a Discontented Generation Y

Well, I just turned 25 last Saturday.

It’s hard to believe I’ve already been working for 10 years. During that decade of “gainful” employment, I’ve gone through a huge transformation in thought regarding careers, passion and purpose.

My first job was as a YMCA camp counselor. I was 15, and I was excited to be getting a paycheck with my name on it. I thought a little money in my pocket would be the ticket to freedom, but within 2 weeks, I’d come to the realization that while I was really good at “pitching” myself during the interview, the work sucked. It was boring and tedious, and it showed. It’s pretty hard to stay enthusiastic while you’re fishing HotWheels out of the toilet.

I thought it was just the job that sucked. Everyone told me that my first job would.

Over the next 6-7 years, I moved through a series of other jobs hoping that one would really appeal to me. I worked at museums, retail, grocery stores and restaurants. I even worked at UPS. Yes. With the brown short-shorts.

Each one had some element that I liked, but within a few weeks, the same familiar feeling always crept back up.

Emptiness.

I always felt like I was literally an indentured servant working for pennies, with no end in sight.

The worst part about this servitude is feeling like you’re the only one experiencing the pain. I can’t tell you how many people I’d see who had been at their jobs for 20+ years, in a state of zombie-like compliant quasi-misery.

I imagine that this must be what it feels like to have a terminal disease that takes 20 years to fulfill its promise.

I specifically remember during my training at UPS, one of the assistant directors pointed to his boss endearingly and said “Richard hasn’t missed a day or called in sick in 27 years.”

He flashed a grin at me, then looked expectantly, waiting for me to be impressed—as if this was a good thing.

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I just remember thinking to myself “What the fuck is wrong with these people?”

I quit that job faster than Kim Kardashian quit on Kris Humphries.

At this point, you might be thinking “Sure Daniel, but those were all just JOBS. You’ve never had a real career. Once you get a career, things will be better.” At least that’s what my family told me. Just toe the line, Daniel. Just toe the line.

Eventually, I came to a much different conclusion. I came to the realization that I could job hop my whole life and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. I could go to college and get a degree like I was supposed to and hop around with that on higher-paying jobs (which adults like to call “careers” to make ourselves feel better), but in the end, the problem wasn’t with the jobs or the employers; it was with me.

I had the problem. It wasn’t about getting a different job, or a better PAYING job. It was about having a job period.

I was experiencing a major case of cognitive dissonance between what I wanted my life to be and the options I saw available.  Part of this was coming because at a very deep level, I was afraid to admit what I really wanted. As funny as it is to admit this in writing, I felt wrong or dirty. I felt ashamed of these feelings and above all, I was afraid. I was afraid that I would be called lazy, stupid, impractical, a “leech”, etc by people I cared about. I didn’t want to be ridiculed.

I’m not afraid anymore.

You know what I want? I don’t want to work. Like, not ever.

I don’t want to be forced to show up anywhere and do something for someone else, simply because if I don’t show up, I might not be able to feed myself or have a home.

I don’t want to go to any more mindless meetings with 20 other people who also don’t give a shit, and are just there because if they don’t show up—you guessed it—they might not be able to feed themselves.

I don’t want to have to ask “permission” to take a day or three if I’m sick.

I don’t want to have to kiss ass for years to get a raise, just so I can work harder on more stuff I don’t care about.

I don’t want to spend my days punching Excel spreadsheets, hoping that I’m making someone happy.

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You know what I hate? When people ask me “what do you do?”

What do I DO? I breathe, motherfucker. What do you do? What do I do? I don’t DO anything. I AM somebody. And since I am somebody, there’s no limit to what I can DO. I’ve never felt it was fair or accurate that our culture defines people by the narrow set of skills they use to generate income.

What does that have to do with anything?

What you do to make money is completely separate from how you spend your life or who you are as a person. Ironically, many people auction their entire lives away to get more money.

Am I the only one who sees the twisted contradiction here? If it were up to me, you know what I’d do? I’d spend my life traveling, learning languages, practicing martial arts, reading, programming, eating good food and (eventually) raising smart, open-eyed children.

I’d spend the time that I was supposed to be “working” to create something of value for others and use my creativity to leave a mark on the world. Isn’t this what we were made for?

All the other shit can suck it.

Look, it’s just you, me and this letter. We can cut the pretenses. Just be honest with me: if it were up to you, you wouldn’t go to work tomorrow, would you? Come on, I said be honest. Even if you “like” your job, wouldn’t you much rather be doing exactly what you want to do at the pace you want to do it?

Now, let me be clear: this whole idea of not working isn’t because you’re LAZY. Far from it, in fact. It’s because you see the Matrix for what it is, and realize the game being played around us. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t put effort into anything or dedicate our lives to a cause. I’m saying we should design our lives around a cause that we believe in, and stop lying to ourselves if what we’re doing isn’t something we’re passionate about.

Essentially we are trading something very real (life/time) for something very fake (money) and we’re always on the losing end since our time on this earth is finite but technically, the amount of money out there is infinite. We will always run out of time before the world runs out of money. As long as we carry on with the traditional mindset that time equals money, we will NEVER be free of the constraints placed upon us.

Now, 95% of people will say “But Daniel, you have to do SOMETHING for ‘work’. You’re going to be homeless. You need to get a job or something and then do stuff on your free time. That’s just life.”

False.

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This is a perfect example of being caught in what I call the “culture box” and having been in there for so long that you can’t even see the walls anymore. American culture dictates that work should be placed squarely at the center of your life, with any  personal creative interests only being pursued in your spare time.

There’s no reason why we have to work 40 hours, 5 days a week. That’s a structure that people with money have put in place so that people without money keep their heads down and don’t have time to ask too many questions.

Even the idea of retirement is a joke. Working until you’re 60. Saving, saving, saving and contributing to your 401k in hopes that eventually you can stop working and live the last 20ish years of your life in budgeted obsolescence, hoping to at least maintain a semblance of your standard of living in a dwindling middle class as your savings depletes by the day.

Is this what we’ve become? Is this the dream we’ve waited our entire lives for?

If this is all, please tell me now so that I can find a rope and save us all some trouble. If I knew that this was going to be the “apex” of my life, I’d just off myself right now. It sounds bittersweet at best.

I propose another way.

The key for us is to figure out how we can manipulate our environments to produce more of this imaginary currency without sacrificing the time (which is the real currency). That’s the game. Most of the time, we go at it the wrong way, trading it 1:1, as if a certain amount of money could equal even a fraction of your time. I can’t stress this enough. Time is LITERALLY priceless. It can’t be valued. “I make $30/hour”. So you’re saying your life, these next 60 full minutes of respiration, are worth $30 of imaginary bits? I’d say there’s literally no comparison between the two. It’s apples to potatoes. Completely different. We have to set systems in place to make the currency come out without the time going to waste – because before you know it, the time will be gone…and the currency…that was never even there to begin with.

We’ve seen what happens working purely for work’s sake, spending all your time making more money or obsessing about promotions or possessions. You’re ashamed to actually admit the things that you actually want to do. You’re afraid of being labeled “different”. God forbid someone thinks that you don’t have “work ethic”. This is one of my favorite cultural insults. It’s as if there were some morality attached to laboring on things that you don’t enjoy. Since when did capacity to suffer become an ethical issue?

What about this…

What if you were to make your life and the pursuits that interested you—traveling, learning, physical activities, creation, art, time with loved ones, whatever—the center(s) of your life and fit work in like a planet in orbit, with it’s sole purpose to fund and support the pursuits above?

How would your life and self-image change?

What would you REALLY do with your life?

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What if I told you that your presence wasn’t actually required to generate the resources that support you, and you were left to roam the earth freely?

Have you ever considered that in a completely digitized society this is a very real possibility?

Now, before you start pointing the finger and saying that it’s not possible to generate resources without being present, I want you to think about your boss’ boss (or perhaps THEIR boss). Somewhere up the chain, somebody is reaping the benefits of a system they put in place to generate resources without being present.

“But Daniel, I can’t manipulate my environment or set up any systems to make money. I HAVE to work.”

So let me get this straight: the Wright brothers—in their shed in rural South Carolina—can figure out how to bend a piece of metal and build a machine lighter than air that can fly across an ocean… but you can’t figure out how to make money flow to you? I’d suggest that you try harder.

The CEO of Walmart isn’t clocking in to make ends meet. That you can be sure of.

And the great thing about our generation is that you don’t need to be a Fortune 500 CEO to set this type of system up anymore. Many independent business owners have already realized this truth. Entrepreneurship is the key.

To be sure, this isn’t a popular way of thinking. And it’s even harder to imagine yourself living like this if you don’t have any friends or role models doing it. It is really hard to imagine that this is even possible. You go through a lot of the “Yeah, but that won’t work for ME” scenarios in your mind. Trust me, I feel you. I’ve been there. But as I’ve met more and more incredible people through my blog—people who are living that “fictional” life—I realize that it’s not only very possible, but that there’s a formula to creating these circumstances. It’s not luck, and it’s not voodoo or “positive affirmation”.

In the past 12 months I’ve gotten increasingly closer to this reality.

Are you one of the few who believes a better way is possible, not just for people in books or in the news, but for YOU?

Leave me a comment below and let me know.

 

-Daniel

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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