Friday, August 22, 2008

An Uncommon World Calls For Uncommon Strategies

I am in yur box, thinking outside of it

When I was in my early twenties, ready to leave college, I was still in a world that believed the best thing you could achieve was the security of a steady 9-to-5 job. This job would be one you could stay in for thirty years and which would provide you and your family everything you needed for the life you have grown accustomed to. Sure, you would start at entry-level at this great Job, but, as the years went by (and you caused no trouble), you could count on steadily moving up the ranks to a higher position, perhaps one day becoming a manager or even a manager of managers.

The old paradigm: Dagwood Bumstead, suburban breadwinner

My father had such a job. It was a job that managed to support a wife and three kids, and provide us all with medical insurance and regular trips to the dentist.

While he struggled for years in the trenches, finally my dad built things up at the job where he could be a Supervisor. Part of this meant that he could have the type of job so many people dream of -- a bureaucratic position which entailed him spending long stretches of time sleeping or doing nothing. I'm not exaggerating this. He often had nothing to do. He had nothing to do but had to stay in that goddamn office.

On one of the days he went back into the field, during an emergency, he had a heart-attack and died. Just days short of his pension. Which his employers saw fit to deny his family. Because while he played the game -- oh, so sorry, you're a couple days too late. Do not win, do not collect $200, do not cross "Go."

But back then, there at least was still a game to be played.

I think that the notion of job security I referred to earlier -- such a staple of life when I was growing up -- was just part of an era. I don't think it's the defacto way things are with working in America, or even should be. This notion of one's employer as the God-like father-figure who provides, who gives food and shelter and health and a future -- as long as you play by the rules and think inside the box.

The new paradigm: Lucille Van Pelt, entrepreneur

I just made a sum of money this week doing two things I enjoy -- writing and blogging. Neither path was a common strategy. The more I let go of my attachment to the common strategies, the more opportunities I encounter. It's as simple as that. It's as literal as that.

Just wanted to share that with you. This week was very very cool for me.


  1. Congratulations! Also, thanks for posting this. I often contemplate following my own path and leaving the day job grind behind. At one point in the past, I did manage to leave it behind and managed to land a gig doing something I really loved. But for some reason, the stability thing brought me back to cubes. Financially, I'm much better off. But I often wonder what would have been if I had just stuck to my guns. And now I miss the freedom I once had.

    Ah dammit. Now I have ideas!

    Seriously though, thanks for sharing this, Val. It's a lesson I will ponder for a while.

  2. I think a lot of this has to do with the changing shape of the world and the economy, especially today. I'm two years out of college, had a job as soon as I graduated, but had to move after a year and now I've been out of work for a year. And I've been to a lot of different places, everywhere from DC Comics to A & E to Target.

    I've found that people are afraid of confrontation, people don't want to confront applicants face to face because everything is done online.

    And yet I agree, the more you go out and try to handle things yourself in less "traditional" ways, the more opportunity and possible success you may acheive.

  3. You're not wrong. In a common world it's best to have uncommon ideas. Or something to that effect.

    Very cool on the very, very cool week, by the by.

  4. Thank you so much for this entry. It's very inspiring to me. I have made a commitment this year to go into my own entrepreneuer direction. I'm getting serious about my artwork and really trying to make a career as an illustrator and artist for myself.

    I think it will bring me more happiness, success, and financial gain than working in an office all of my life. It's posts like these that give me another nudge that I've made the right goal.

  5. the 9 to 5 , er shall I say the 8 to6 grind being that employer no longer count lunch hour as being time paid, it's not easy to balance the day job and one's dreams/aspirations. And in this new era as Valerie pointed out is even more daunting since employers expect and want more out of their paid personnal yet redice the compensations as time goes by.

    Now returning to the dreams/aspirations portion, it may ba hard to balance out but it can be done. I, like angry zen master, did the same thing. although now i maybe financially "secure" it's not that type of thing that gets me going in the morning. Coming home from work to then start the dream/aspiration part of my day is perhaps the best part of any day and that keeps me going. That and knowing there were others doing the same thing at one point or anothr in their lives.

    Carmine Infantino once told me how he had 2 jobs and was taking drawing classes at the Art Student's League in NYC just so he could then get a job in comics. And it worked.

    And I too believe and encourage handling life and career items in non-traditional ways, why? Because it sets you aprt form others and immediately gives the impression that you can think outside of the herd. Or collective for you borg fans.

  6. After grabbing my fine art degree and spending a long time in a 9 to 5 job, I somehow find myself in the position of being a full-time blogger (for the most part) writing about hackers and tracking them down and stuff. Some days nothing happens, other times you'll be awake for three or four days at a time doing the equivalent of "digital stakeouts" and then turn it into blog writeups.

    It's definitely not what I thought I'd be doing all those years ago, and its a strange sensation sometimes. Especially when you bump into colleagues from your old workplace and wonder how on Earth you ever did that same job for so long.

    It's always fun to come across other people who arrived at a non-conventional place to express themselves through their work and I salute everyone who risks certain things to make the leap.

    *Everyone* should attempt that leap at some point in their lives, just so they can say they did it.

    Even when it goes horribly wrong, you learn quite a few things!

  7. Yep. Way back when, they whispered plastics into The Graduate's ear.

    Nowadays, the word is freelance.

    It's a wild, wacky ride, this world is.

  8. Yeah, I think you have to shoot for the moon first and settle for 9-5 as your safety fallback point, rather than the other way around.

    I've worked 9-5 jobs and I know my mentality is not the best for those environments. I have to be somewhat self-employed, doing something creative. Have to be.

    So I tend to agree with you- keep going for it, and if you can make following your own path work, that's awesome.

    In fact, that's the best!