30 April 2013

Is it all worth it?

I took a friend to Heathrow this morning. It meant a drive through Kent and round the southern part of the M25.

The timing of my friend’s flight meant that we caught the tail end of the morning rush hour seeing all these people driving to work and to meetings got me thinking. Is it worth it? We passed a junction which had a queue of traffic about two miles long. We saw a near miss between two cars, other people were pulling in front of each other where there wasn’t a safe space. All this at 50+ mph. It’s a risky business going to work!

It used to be me too. In my last job I spent 2 hours a day in the car covering 50 miles there and 50 more back. There were road accidents on a regular basis. Once I was in one of my own.

This entry is not about road accidents and risk. I am more interested in the personal sacrifices people are prepared to make for their jobs. Also why people don’t divert some or all of the energy they put into building a career into finding an alternative? Can it be true that commuting, meetings and long, probably often, dull and stressful hours building a career is what many people really desire in life? What is it that hooks us in? I know that some make a lot of money so that they can buy a lot of things. Others spend their career hoping that the ends will meet and that there’s enough for the holiday they deserve. Perhaps it is that when we start on this path it doesn’t seem so bad. After all isn’t it just what all that education was for? Then as time goes on people are looking for the next promotion or pay rise when things will get a bit better. So much time is invested and so many ‘rewards’ are purchased (car, house, another house designer this and that) that after a while the risk of stopping working is just too great as there is so much to loose. But really is there so much to loose? Is it worth it for all that stress and all that commuting and sacrifices made? Never seeing the kids or the other half. Loosing the person that you once were to make a better life. Isn’t a better life one where you have more time for family? Even if that means a bit less money, it would certainly mean there is less need for more money and I would like you to think that a life could be really improved by a different kind of working and having just enough money for your needs while having as much free time as you want.

I made one other observation on my trip this morning. I stopped at a motorway service station to answer the call of nature. These days you can’t get to the conveniences without walking past as many of their tempting offerings as they can manage to tempt you with. On the way in I saw several people actually working in the service station cafe area on their laptops. Using Blackberrys and phoning people up. There were a lot of very large paper cups full of weak coffee and frothy milk. Nasty suits and a general impression of hopelessness. Perhaps it’s the financial climate.

On the way out I saw the pièce de résistance: a man eating what vaguely passed as a full English breakfast out of a takeaway polystyrene tray with a plastic knife and fork on a table that was barely wiped clean. It was the worst parody of a full English breakfast that I have seen. Surely mankind was made for greater than this?

Now, I don’t want you thinking that when I was talking about finding an inspiring place to work on a previous post I meant a place like this. When I wrote about finding a cafe I meant café!



  1. I did a weeks work back in London recently, at a big media company, and i suddenly realised how far i had actually got away from all that. Now I drop the kids at school, i walk down to my studio (just off the seafront), work hard.. but share it with friends, then i walk back and pick my kids up and get to hang out with them, cook dinner... then i do any extra work. It's a lot nearer to what i want than i thought. It was that week, stuck in an office listening to mindless meetings where nothing was achieved and people ate their 3 meals at their desks,then didn't want to be seen to be the first to leave, that really shone a light on it for me. What were they working for? to pay for the life they only get to see on a weekend? Crazy. Crazy and wrong... and they will have nothing left of it when they're gone. No one will remember that pitch, or how good a presentation was. They will have barely left a mark.

    1. Hi Scott. I feel just the same. I am pretty much unemployable now. Not only would the thought of having a job make me want to run away very very fast. I really don't think anyone would give me a job now.


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