I was fortunate to have some hard-working role models in my early life.
Most notably my step-father. He was an enlisted man in the Air Force, a Staff Sargent or E5 whose earnings peaked in 1965 at $244.80 a month pay and a family allowance of $105.00 for my Mother, two brothers and sister. So Woody, that’s what my brother Walter and I called our step-father, took as many as outside jobs as he could find; cleaning bowling alleys and doing the window dressing at the local Sears at night. Picking up what ever odd job he could.
It was the financial pressures that finally forced him to leave the Air Force, with I think about 16 years service. Now as a civilian life was a bit better; but we never had a new car, we never had our own house, the most upscale store was Sears, and the best vacation was when Uncle Bill Meyer lent us his cabin on the beach in Clinton.
He was my primary role model; as I result by age 10 I was taking farm work picking peas and mowing lawns outside Greenleaf, Idaho. By the way I went to a two room schoolhouse and the lawn I mowed was my closet neighbor’s 1 acre lawn for $3 a pop. Did I mention he didn’t have a mower and his house was a 1.4 mile away? Thank God the out house didn’t stink.
We eventually moved to denser population centers. Wall, South Dakota for example, where I got better jobs. I clean windshields, pumped gas and checked your oil at the local Sinclair station for awhile until I got the position of town paper boy. The only one; seven days a week; sun, rain or snow. I visited more houses than the post office.
By the time I turned 16 farm work, but not paper routes, were set aside. By the time I entered the Navy in 1972 I had worked at McDonald’s, my morning motor paper route was 200 houses, cleaned a bowling alley with the old man and delivered auto parts; all at the same time. Ok so I exaggerate a bit, I did give up the bowling alley and only delivered auto parts on school vacations and eventually the wear and tear on my pink 1960 Dodge Pheonix caused me to give up the paper route. However, until I graduated from College at the ripe young age of 33 in 1986 I never had less than 2 jobs.
A college degree changed everything; not only did I make more Ca Ching! but I only had to work one job!
But that’s the crux of my current dilemma, the monkey on my now curving back. I only work one job, and while the work isn’t physical labor, I don’t work any less or fewer hours, in fact I work more. See I am free to work any time, all the time, even in my sleep. I dream work. I’ve recently realised I rarely dream about my darling 5 year old daughter, my wife, my car, my dream friends. No, I dream of solutions that will allow me to use eForms in new creative ways, how to resolve business problems with creative implementations of business process management and how to use analytics to create out-of-the box solutions. I am driven to make the work of others, more productive, more easy, more, more, more, more….
Whenever someone else stumbles I try to be there to catch them, even if that means working any time of the day or night. Mentor someone in India at 11PM I’m there, talk to a project team across three continents at 5 AM I’ll be there. Why not, I’m dreaming about work anyway right?
Why? I mean why do I do this, why?
For one thing, I have developed a neurosis. I heard on the TV recently that a new neurosis has been submitted for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I think it was called “nocellphoneanosis” or something like that found in younger members of our society. Some of these people live in constant fear that their smart phones are going to be lost or stop working and they no longer have the ability to interact except via SMS, Twitter and the occasional obligatory call to Mom.
I now believe that shortly after Y2K. when suddenly all those thousands of off-shore technology workers and “consulting” firms suddenly had to, and I might add very successfully, change into real consulting and staffing firmsl there has been constant competitive pressure on my job, not from the bottom up, but from the top down and either side.
Second, certain former manager’s have found this to be a marvelous motivational tool. Yes, I one time had a manager say to me, in public, “I don’t like you and if I could I would get rid of you“, it became an innate neurotic need to ensure my talents were indispensable and irreplaceable. Now in his defense I do have to add I am not the most loveable person who ever walked God’s Green Earth, I accept that and I work very hard at being personally acceptable; I’ve resigned myself to possessing a limited LQ or Loveabilty Quotient.
I want to interject a little thank you to my wife who has an LQ of “adorable” , so when we got married my LQ increased from “cretin” to “average guy“.
So I’ve been much more fortunate than many of my peers, lost over the intervening years to the great off shore body snatch. First of all I didn’t get married and start a family until I was 53 freeing me to work 26×8 (consultants do double book,) and I fell into a niche with lots of demand, where I seemed to posses a modicrum of talent. With very little competition and comparatively good opportunities for self-study and work I’ve continued to do well. I have been able to leverage my work ethic, these opportunities and my skills to be that critical need person.
I was doubly fortunate to secure my current position. I’ve likened it to the Elephant’s Graveyard for the IT professional. Here to my chagrin most of my peers had anywhere from 15 to 35 years employment in many respects I was mid career not end career. OH JOY OH JOY!
But the one thing I don’t know about the Elephant’s Graveyard is this, once and awhile an elephant is cut from the herd and is forced out to die a cold and lonely death. If the King of the Elephant’s decides Dumbo’s peaked and he’s hogging the hay, well say la vie Dumbo. It doesn’t happen often and there are earmarks when it will, but it’s happened here and it will happen again. I am determined to be Jumbo not Dumbo.
So even though I really haven’t cut back on my work, my laborious dreams, I’ve been happy these last 18 months. But after some of the herd disappeared I sense the neurosis returning, becoming more impatient, more infected with my own personal neurosis: “ICANDOIT“!
I have to confess I am scared, scared how this neurosis will affect my LQ and even a realization and expectation of what happens if I don’t disappear from the herd too soon, I can deal with that I still have mad skills. But what if I make it to retirement. How the hell can I turn this thing off and how much worse can it get?
By the way if this story bores you, look up the history of elephant’s like Hanno, Pope Leo the X’s pet white elephant and Muderous Mary. I would rather be Dumbo!