Take this job and.... LOVE IT!

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Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a demonstration at the office of one of our business partners. It was a really exciting demonstration of a new SAN (Storage Area Network) device that we're interested in implementing across our data centers. I could bore you with the geeky details but that's not why I'm here today.

As I was driving to the demo, I listened to a story on NPR by writer Mark Peter Hughes. Mr. Hughes provided a commentary to All Things Considered that detailed how he struggled with the idea of leaving his "regular job" to pursue his "dream job." He shared his fears, his dreams, his visions, and his last day "at work." He made it sound like working from home, while doing his own thing was a dream - with nary a downside. He seemed to glamorize leaving the "corporate world."

I had to chuckle. The piece was titled, "Take this job and shove it."

It's not that he disliked his employer, or that he was genuinely unhappy with his worklife - he just wanted to focus on writing teen novels, and decided to leave his job to do so.

For those not familar with my past, I did something similar in 2001. I quit "corporate life" to pursue a dream job. I had started a website with my spare time, and a few people took notice. Soon, I had offers from all corners of the world. I was offered free trips, free products, and plenty of opportunities.

I had always liked cars, and I had always liked writing, so I took a job as a "partner" at an automotive website - one of the largest at the time - as the editor in chief. My first task was to publish a magazine that would be based on the content of my website (which my new employer had purchased from me). This was my big break - I got to work my "dream job," and I got to work from home. It seemed so glamorous.

The truth of the matter is, I hated it. I hated almost every minute of it. Sure, it was cool to hang out with Jay Leno, Chip Foose, Alton Brown, G Gordon Liddy, and the like. It was cool to be something of a "celebrity" - appearing on telelvision shows, being quoted in mainstream magazines like Men's Health, and being treated like a "god" within certain automotive circles. But I didn't like it.

What?! How's that possible, you ask?

No matter how you slice it, work is work. Working your "dream" quickly diminishes the dream and converts it back to good 'ole fashioned work. And the dream fades even faster when your livelihood depends entirely on your ability to be successful. If you stink at your dream job, you're not gonna' eat well for very long. No one cares that it's your "dream," except for maybe you and a few loved ones.

I found myself working 12-, 13-, 15-, and even 16-hour days. I became married to my office and my computer. Every minute away from my desk was an opportunity "wasted" in my eyes. I gained a lot of weight. I stoped being active. I lost social skills. I grew increasingly jaded and withdrawn - I lived in my 14' x 16' office. I worked day and night. There were times when I'd work until 3am, only to start back at it again by 7am the next day.

I justified it by telling myself that this was my chance to live my dream - to write about cars, celebrities, technology, and so on. Don't get me all wrong - there were good times, and lots of them. It's hard to complain when you're driving a $300,000 Bentley, or dining with BMW executives. But in reality, I wasn't living anything - I was working myself to death and not really accomplishing much of anything.

I grew to hate my employer/business partner. He was, for the most part, the only person I consistenly interacted with, and we repeatedly stepped on each others' last good nerve. His voice was like nails on a chalkboard. His e-mails went straight to the trash. I loathed seeing him online and wanted to just get away from it all.

And so I went about finding a normal job again, and I eventually landed with my current employer. And I couldn't be any happier. I love having a "regular job." I love taking a shower each morning, getting dressed, and commuting to work. I love having meetings, attending seminars, performing research and generating reports. I love the PowerPoint presentations and the business trips. I love going to lunch with coworkers and spending a few hours after work enjoying a beverage with them. I love my office, with its view of the horses, and its glorious fluorescent lights.

It's so great to have a "purpose," and to work with people that I respect and genuinely want to be around. I learn from them, and I enjoy exchanging stories, experiences, and ideas with them. It's great to be able to surround myself with people that are smart and confident without being arrogant and condescending.

And it's even more great to have free time.

Free time? Yeah - that's the best part. When I leave my office at 5, 6, or 7pm, I go home. And my work stays at work. Sure, I may spend a few hours every so often working on something from home, but it's not all that often, and it sure beats the 15 hour days that had become the norm from 2001 - 2005.

Weekends are all mine, save for when there's a huge conversion project at work. But I even like those. Holidays are spent enjoying myself. I'm not slumped in front of my laptop on Christmas Day trying to finish a story idea or checking a message board for spam.

So, Mr. Hughes, I have to let you know that life isn't always better on your own. I love my job. I love it, I love it, I love it. So much so, that it may in fact be my real dream job.

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