How I Found My Dream Job and Why It was Lost

By Matthew Monk

A couple years ago I was stuck in a bad cycle. You know the one I’m talking about. Waking up every morning with a clenching feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. Another day, another dollar. More like another day, another five cents. I knew what to expect. Another day to feel exhausted, out of control, as if I don’t have enough time. Another day that feels like a chore, and the only thing I’m looking forward to is the five minutes between my shower and dinner where I’m not too tired to think and can actually be present for my family. And it was during those five minutes where I would routinely fall asleep on the couch.

Daily I found myself begging for an escape route. Something to change the nature of the playing field. Maybe I’ll win the lottery, or a mysterious benefactor will pay me $6million a year just to be myself. Or maybe a book deal will go through and publisher will buy the rights to my work for seven or eight figures $$$. The entire thing was madness. Only two years beforehand I was hustling hard and begging God to land me the job I was now currently so miserable at.

Why did I hate my job?

I don’t like my boss. So what? It’s a long commute. So what? It’s high stress. So what? They don’t pay me enough. So what? I don’t get to write enough. So what?

As you see, I didn’t have a real reason. It had nothing to do with the job. I was committed to nothing, to no one but myself. I was suffering from a classic case of an inflated ego. Rather than looking at my job as an act or service or opportunity to serve, I was expecting my job and the people I was forced to interact with on a daily basis to serve me. Thus I felt like a hamster on a wheel, running, running, running to get the next paycheck and I was mad at the world because I still had not yet found a way to make a living doing my dream job.

Then, something changed.

Outwardly, my circumstances remained the same. Yet somehow, I began to love my job. Why?

It wasn’t the job I hated. It was the amount of time of felt I was spending on something I wasn’t passionate about. As author Tim Ferriss says, “…For most people, somewhere between six and seven billion of them, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time.” If I had more time to do the thing I loved would I be happier? The short answer is yes. So I started getting up two hours earlier every morning to give myself time to work on the things I was

“passionate” about. What I very quickly realized was that if I did these things full time as my living, they would very easily fall from the status of “dream job” to just something I had to do for money. In the meantime, I began to really enjoy my day job. Which lead me back to the question. Why wasn’t I passionate about my day job before? Because I wasn’t fully committed to it. And because I wasn’t fully committed, I wasn’t demanding excellence of myself in that job.

The extra time I was spending every morning working on my “passion projects” created a massive snowball effect of commitment in my life. Since I was getting my needs met by working on my “dream job” like every good spoiled millennial should be able to, I didn’t feel as if my day job were a time vampire and I was able fully dive-in at work and demand excellence of myself. Because I was getting my needs met both before work and after work, I had no grievances to air once I got home in the evenings and was thus able to be more fully present for my wife and daughter instead of spending most of night with a feeling of dread about having to get up and do something that made me miserable the next morning. The job itself was never the issue, it was my lack of commitment. I realized that even if I did have my dream job, there would come a day when I would wake up and just not feel like doing it. What then?

Commitment breeds passion. Passion wanes when the going gets tough. Commitment carries us forward when the heat is turned up and things are hard. I realized that even if I did have my dream job, there would come a day when I would wake up and just not feel like doing it. What then?

I didn’t like my boss. Great. Now I had an opportunity to ask questions, to see what his/her long term vision is and how I fit into the picture. Turns out we both wanted the same workplace goals. Our methods of execution and implementation were just a bit different.

I had a long commute. Awesome. Now this was an opportunity to listen to podcasts and audiobooks to grow my mind and enjoy the scenery of the drive.

I worked in a high-stress environment. Excellent. This job would make any other one seem easy, and if I encounter other stressful situations in life, no big deal, I already am accustomed to the stress. It was an opportunity to perform under pressure daily.

They didn’t pay me enough. Good. Everyone on the planet thinks the same. This was an opportunity to learn how to make the most of our resources and motivate me to move up in my field, or to create other streams of income on the side.

I didn’t get to write enough. That’s fine. I’m a teacher I’m not getting paid to write. If I wanted to write I could do it on my own time or quit and find a job that would pay me to write. So guess what? I found time to write on my own, which made my job much more enjoyable.

The big realization for me was that I wasn’t committed to anything in my life other than getting my needs me and my expectation was that everything around me was supposed to serve my needs. Unfortunately that kind of attitude is a recipe for bitterness and explosive behavior. I was a spoiled brat. Because I had been sold on the idea that if I made good grades, was involved in

extra-curricular activities, that if I went to college, and made more good grades that my dream job would magically fall in my lap. I’ve never seen a unicorn, so of course that didn’t happen. I’d done everything I was supposed to do, yet here I was with nothing to show for it except a massive load of debt and a laundry list of jobs I hated and irrelevant skills. But apparently I wasn’t the only one of my generation struggling with this.

I am 100 percent against catering to or coddling Gen Y. Giving in to our whims only reinforces the worst characteristics we bring to the workplace and creates a disconnect with the other generations already there. The bottom line is that every new generation that enters the workforce frustrates the ones already there, and each generation assumes the one after them has it easier than they did. –Jason Dorsey, aka The Gen Y Guy

See the study here.

I had to bring it back to my sporting days in high school. I was a jock. All I cared about was playing basketball. I was good at it too. And I had a group of guys around me who all shared my vision. Sure, there were days where we absolutely didn’t feel like practice.

Those summer workouts on the track or in the weightroom with no air conditioning (think Southeast Texas in July). But we loved what we were doing, not because it was always easy, not because the wins and the district championship were handed to us, but because we were committed to it and that made our passion grow stronger.

So if anyone out there is struggling with finding purpose. You need that elusive “dream” job or task to pull you out of the hole. My advice is: Commit to something. Put your heart and soul into a project. You might just find that your dream job or passion project had been sitting in front of you the whole time.

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2 Comments

Lisa

Forgive me if I missed this later in the article, but where did the two extra hours in the morning come from? (What shifted in your time management to carve that out and how did you protect it from other demands?) What lines would you draw in terms of a difficult/uninspiring boss vs. a bad boss that’s causing serious damage? For a Dad with a child, what’s the longest you would spend on a round trip commute that would still let you share her activities?

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MONK

Lisa,

The two extra hours in the morning came from me simply sleeping two hours less than usual. I just set my alarm two hours earlier than when I would normally wake up. My options to get more time were basically either to stay up later, which I didn’t want to do because my energy is low. So the getting up earlier protected me from other demands because everyone else in my house was asleep. And the night before I would prioritize–this is what I’m going to accomplish/work on in the morning–then I would get up early and do it.

In terms of the boss situation I think it comes down to recognizing what part was my ego and what part was a true concern about jeopardizing the safety and performance of my work team. Most of the problems I had with my boss were due to my own issues. The other problems were a simple matter that my boss did not do a good job explaining why we were required to do certain things, so I took it upon myself to find out why. Once I did that, most of the issues dissipated. I might not have liked the thing I was being asked to do, but I now at least understood why it was being asked of me.

I think even in the case of a bad boss that’s causing damage, it’s still your responsibility to address the issue. We can sit around blaming our bosses all day long. But ultimately the only person I am in control of is myself. As an employee and a teammate though, if a boss gives a bad order, and I’ve kept my ego in check, it’s my duty to disobey if that thing is immoral, or going to cause damage. It is also my duty to tell the boss I’m not going to do that, and if the boss does not bend, then I may be in a situation where I have to get other team members involved, or go over the boss’s head to confront the issue.

As far as the commuting goes, I’ve been doing a 2-hour round trip commute for the past 3 years. Personally, the shorter the commute the better. But I had to look at the bright side of the commute because it was my job and complaining about the drive wasn’t going to help. Even with the 2 hours a day of driving I was still able to be there for everything with my daughter, and have some solid time with her every evening during the week. Like I said, the commute was not ideal and really anything more than 15 minutes to me is too much in theory. It took 3 years to solve the problem, as in my new position I have only a 2-minute commute (15 minutes on foot, 10 minutes on a bike). I honestly feel like that because I stopped complaining about the commute, it helped create a wave of positive momentum that lead me to my current position.

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