Have you ever tried listening to a financial radio talk show? I used to listen to one where callers would ask questions like "I'm $200,000 in debt, and if we don't get that cut down, we're going to lose our house. Where do I start?" It was such an odd question to me because I couldn't imagine anyone even having access to that much money without selling black market babies, let alone losing it inside the ever-tightening butthole of debt. But the thing that always caught me off guard is that the guy never got into the fine details on where to fix their problems -- he always concentrated on the basics, and the callers seemed genuinely surprised every time.
Now, my own problems (and those of many of the people reading this article) weren't so much "I don't want to lose my half-million-dollar home" as it was "I'm one step away from stealing a car because prison food is free." But the same basics apply no matter what tax bracket is slapping you in the face with its dick. If you already know these, that's great. Please teach them to someone else, because there are millions of us out there who could benefit by knowing things like ...
The bottom of the job ladder takes longer to climb, and is more covered in shit, than anyone realizes. You can get fooled by that classmate or friend who got an overnight life-changing job or promotion, but that's reserved for certain highly skilled people in certain labor-starved fields. The rest of us average types have to go through a humiliating, years-long grind during which progress isn't apparent. Trust me, there are hordes of people out there who don't realize that until they're balls deep into their first job search.
So these people fall into a pit of depression when they find themselves doing the same thankless bullshit task a few years into that job before they're finally rewarded or even recognized for their efforts. They ask themselves where it all went wrong, when in reality, that's what "going right" looks like. You have to pay your dues with demeaning bullshit before the world lets you advance. I think that this is something an unhealthy portion of college graduates don't quite get, and it hurts them in the long run.
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"Bring on the $200,000-a-year keg-stand jobs!"
"I have a master's degree in sound engineering, but the only studio willing to hire me is some crappy local outfit that wants me to sweep the floors and wipe the ass sweat off of the drummer's fart pad." So they pass on it, thinking, "I'm not a janitor. I'm a highly educated musician, and I deserve more than that." Meanwhile, the last "janitor" that studio had is now running the sound checks and is next in line to enter the production team.
It's extremely easy to overlook how many people in your chosen industry have the same education, only with the added advantage of patience. And that patience is almost always manifested in putting up with jobs like "run the errands that none of the higher-ups can lower themselves to do" like "change John Mayer's ejaculation bucket."
"Dude, you really, really need to get to a doctor."
Yes, it's going to feel like you've been working your ass off for an eternity without any hope or signs of growth, but I promise you that if you're doing your job (and more than they expect you to do), you are growing. Because they have no choice but to notice you, and that puts you on their mental list of "Chad Workjob is next in line to promote."
I talked in another article about how one of the true measures of success is when everyone demands your time all at once. Your boss needs you to finish a report by tomorrow morning. The people who work under you (or even on the same level as you) need your input on stuff that they should be able to do on their own. Your kids need help with homework. Your wife is getting pissed because you haven't taken her on a date in four months. Your parents are bitching because you haven't restocked their heroin supply in almost a week. Well, I'm finding that the main difference between success and failure is in how well you learn to adapt to that mad panic of being at the bottom of a multiple-deadline gangbang.
"OK, good enough. Date's over -- get in the car."
The mistake people make is in assuming that this means rigidly budgeting your time down to the minute, but I've found it's the opposite of that -- it's being able to adjust on the fly and still get everything done on time. Because trust me, a minute-by-minute schedule will get blown apart by noon -- the real world is too messy for that. So mastering time is less about having a book that carefully tracks every minute of the week and more about having an incredibly clear idea of your priorities. Are you working on the thing that actually needs to be done first, or are you working on the thing you find most interesting? If you just spent the last two hours arguing with somebody on the Internet -- are you sure there's nothing else higher on the list you could be working on? Because this is how busy people do it: They learn how to juggle the important things and, more importantly, how to walk away from time-sucking bullshit.
From there, it's a series of trade-offs and adjustments. "This report has to be done by 9 a.m. But my kid is sick, so let's get her stable and taken care of first. Then, we can shuffle out the homework part, because she'll be out of school tomorrow anyway, and slide my work into that slot instead." And if you find yourself going so balls to the wall that you can't find a spare hour or two for yourself to just sit back and relax, you still need more practice. Relaxing is one of the things you have to stick on the priorities list, just like everything else.
"So ... I take it this means you don't want to hang out?"
And yes, I said "practice." It's the only way to learn how to do this juggling act, and the only way to practice is to overload yourself with projects. Even if it doesn't seem like you can work them in, you'll be shocked at how much time you can magically find when you don't have a choice.