Note: I wanted to make sure to publish this before being happy with it because of the timing. Many of you are graduating or getting your Master's around this time, and even more of you have expressed to me how unhappy you are with your current job or life situation otherwise. We've all been there and we will all be there again. I can't give you a roadmap to success and I'm not telling you that I am "successful." But the one thing you absolutely cannot do is be passive about it. I wrote this with all of you in mind. If I can ever help, please don't hesitate.
We pulled into that parking garage for the first time Monday morning. It was an office park complete with cafeterias, a dry cleaners, a fitness facility and a fountain outside in the middle the campus.
During our two mandated 15-minute breaks and after lunch, we’d sit by the fountain and smoke a cigarette before heading back to our desks. We’d take exactly as long as we could.
I had just been fired from my first “real” job out of college a few weeks prior (another story for another time).
I was crushed. I had put all of my eggs into this digital and social media basket, a basket that was (at the time) controversial, polarizing, unproven and in need of vindication in the business arena.
There I sat in my car outside the old axe factory in northwestern Connecticut – broken and in tears.
At the time, I was driving my buddy Randall to his hockey games in Plainville an evening or two each week. During his games, I would sit in the stands and read the book my girlfriend and I were reading at the time. I should have been applying for new jobs, but I was so completely and entirely directionless. My resume was bare (no real jobs and no internships from college) and the cover letters I wrote came off desperate and lost.
I was so uncomfortably lost.
Randall, who had majored in finance and was still breaking into the industry, told me one night on the way back from his game that he had gotten set up with a recruiter who, in turn, found him an entry-level gig as a “case manager” at Prudential.
Knowing that I was looking for work, he gave me the recruiter’s number.
“I know it’s not what you want to do. But it’s something until you get a break.”
It would become the jumping-off point for both of our careers – for very different reasons.
I never said thank you.
A week later I had the job. The following Monday we pulled into the parking garage.
“Right Above It” had just come out. Only years later did I connect the lyrics of the song with where I was at the time in my life. When I hear it now, I’m right back on Route 8 driving the 25 or so miles between Waterbury to Shelton all over again.
Prudential had used the recruiting agency to hire about 50 of us for the same position. I’m still not sure how many they had intended to keep in the first place. It was a quantity over quality play.
It was glorified data entry, to be honest. All we had to do was take the information from a PDF on our screen and input it into the company’s online database.
Twenty percent in this fund. Fifteen percent in that. Thirty percent in this. Thirty-five in that. Click.
Annuities. We were handling “successful” people’s nest eggs. Hundreds of thousands of dollars each day.
You weren’t allowed to take a day off for the first 90 days of your employment. If you got sick, the company would tell the recruiting company that you were no longer needed. Vacation? Not happening. It was one of the company’s arbitrary way of narrowing the group down.
The room we worked out of reminded me of a college classroom. Fifty someodd twenty-somethings all facing one direction, sitting in identical chairs, in front of identical computers, not one of them with a single idea of what the fuck they were doing with their life.
The second day of the job people had started lining their desks with pictures of family and friends, decor, nick-nacks and other items to make their work environment more familiar.
They customized their desktop background with a photo from college or vacation. Anything to make the job less soul-crushing. I changed my background to a picture of us from UConn, the one thing keeping me strong enough to keep going at the time. The Green.
The third day on the job we had to set up a password for the internal system. It had to be at least eight characters long, contain one capital letter and at least one number. The password would reset after 30 days and you’d have to come up with a new password following the same criteria.
I was so grateful to have that job. But when we had to set up our password, I just sat back in my chair. I looked around the room at everyone, 50 of us at the same point in their lives, all needing to do the same task and having it being explained to us like we were children. I looked at people’s computer backgrounds, picture frames next to their screens, mouse pads they brought in from home, sticky-notes on their desks.
I don’t belong here.
All of a sudden, something came over me. In my mind, I was back in my car outside the axe factory. My rock bottom. My motivation. I didn’t know exactly what I would do, but I knew what I had to do. I had to get out of there.
I stared at my computer screen, at the picture of us. Right click. Properties. Background. Color. Gray. Save.
I set up my password and I promised myself I wouldn’t be sitting in that chair by the time I would need to create a new one.
“Success” is not a destination. Success is not a place or even a noun to be used in the present-tense. Success is not something you should ever feel like you’ve reached.
No, success and all it entails is an endless pursuit. It is something you long for, run toward and continue to chase as long as you breathe.
If you’re unhappy with where you are or what you’re doing; if you want something more than what you have; if you believe in your heart that you are meant for greatness in whatever way you define it, – despite a lack of rational thought or empirical evidence to support that notion – don’t sit still.
If you are not yet where you want to be, the worst thing you can do is get comfortable.
Do it big and let the small fall under that
Damn where you stumbled at?
I was at Prudential for nine days. But that was only the beginning.
DAY 26: ON THE THREE THINGS DAY 24 & 25: WEST CLIFF & COLUMBIA DAY 23: ON FLIPPING OVER THE DESK DAY 22: STYLE DAY 21: THE MAZE DAY 20: HALFWAY DAY 18 AND 19: ON THE BIRDCAGE DAY 17: WHEN I SEE THIS BAR DAY 16: DEAR MOM DAY 15: IF I WON THE LOTTERY DAY 14: ON CATS AND DOGS DAY 13: ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS (PART 1) DAY 12: MAKING MY WAY BACK TO CLEVELAND DAY 11: ON FIRE DAY 10: ON CONNOTATION AND DENOTATION DAY 9: ON THE TIME I BROKE MY RIBS DAY 8: ON THE FOUR UNDERSTANDINGS FOR A HAPPY LIFE DAY 7: DEAR ERIC DAY 6: ON WHY YOU’RE HAVING TROUBLE DATING IN YOUR 20′S, LADIES DAY 5: ON SUNRISES AND SUNSETS DAY 4: ON PARADISE DAY 3: ON SMOKE AND WHISKEY DAY 2: ON HOW CLOSE I WAS TO NOT EVEN GOING TO COLLEGE DAY 1: WHY I’M WRITING EVERY DAY FOR 40 DAYS