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What ever happened to the mirror that showed me a happy face? Friday November 15, 2013

I work in a big company. It is a successful, innovative and profitable company. My co-workers are bright and nice people in their late twenties or early thirties. Some of them have started working here recently, others have been around for three or more years.

My direct managers have worked here for quite a while - at least for four or five years, and obviously they are highly competent in what they do. One would think they should be happy - they have good jobs, they are still young, and they are successful. But when you talk to them, they seem to be tired, almost drained, like they don't have living power. As obvious as it may be, the reason is that they work really hard. But I think it's more than that.

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through some old corporate pictures, and there were several shots taken four years ago. I recognized familiar faces among happily smiling bunch of people: my now-managers seemed to be very happy, energetic, and looked much younger than they do now. And it struck me: how come that their happy and almost boy-ish faces turned into the tired and always busy ones?

I may be wrong, but I think that four years ago they were happy because they were working on things that excited them. They were working with passion. Now they seem to have lost it. And now they are not ready to switch to something new, whatever it may be: another role in the company, or maybe even something completely different and not-at-all-corporate.

I am definitely not the one to judge. But I believe that each of us should at some point ask oneself: do I actually do the things that excite me? Do I work with passion? Am I being honest with myself? Of course, we all need security, and having a stable and a well-paid job is a blessing. But I believe that somewhere in the corner of our mind there should be a space for those lines from a song:

So if you're careful,
You won't get hurt.
But if you're careful all the time,
Then what's it worth?

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Aeia Fri, Nov 15th 2013 @ 8:31am

I can relate to this. When I was younger I used to change job fairly regularly. Now I have a house with a mortgage and an elderly parent I've moved close by its not as easy to change to get that passion about work back. I'd love to find a job I could remain passionate about throughout! :)

Anonymous Fri, Nov 15th 2013 @ 9:19am

I read an interesting blog yesterday about passion in the workplace, and it suggests that you create your passion, from within, and striving to find your passion, externally, only puts pressure on yourself. I've been unemployed for sometime now and spend every day trying not to lose my confidence and spiral into depression. I'm not looking for a job I'm passionate about, I'm looking for a job that we will keep me busy, pure and simple. Maybe whatever I end up doing, I could become passionate about it because it comes from within. Maybe Oleg's co-workers should remember how lucky they are and make the best of the situation? Here's the link:

Keith L Fri, Nov 15th 2013 @ 10:04am

That story is like it was written for me. But like Aeia, as you get older you become less bolder, and in the current economic climate you are grateful to have a job.

I tried to create some excitement at work, w

Keith L Fri, Nov 15th 2013 @ 10:07am

which was not work related. But I burnt myself out, and now on long term sick.

Mindwriter Fri, Nov 15th 2013 @ 10:36am

Reading "Soulshaping" by Jeff Brown. Hugely relevant to this dilemma, for anyone interested in their inner life.

Heather Panter Fri, Nov 15th 2013 @ 12:01pm

I am all as above, my story is bad marriage,a car crash that took my life, but I am building my life every day

Neil Fri, Nov 15th 2013 @ 1:21pm

I too can really relate to Oleg's story and I am also off of work and aged 52. Lots of changes were going on at work and in my life. I am an IT worker and supported a mainframe for many years and I did it with passion and to the best of my ability and for the most part I kept things "running" and serving or meeting the needs of the organization I work for (or at least in my opinion). I was working way too hard and long hours for many years and could not or would not turn it off, so to speak and now I am paying the price in more than one way.

Julia Fri, Nov 15th 2013 @ 2:18pm

I think if ones working environment is making you ill, it's time to take a risk however much you may need the income. Such people who take sick leave, in itself an enormous risk, or leave their jobs and look for another are very very courageous. Particularly men who may be the main breadwinners for the family and for whom it still is more difficult to show "weakness" and inability to cope. (Hoping this sexist situation is slowly changing) However I did notice Oleg that in your blog, you said the photos of the managers when they were younger had boyish looks which makes me think there are either no women at the top in your work place or if there are, they either also look boyish in their pre stressful position days (!) or hide their stress better? On a different note, I think parents have a tremendous responsibility to encourage their children to take risks when starting out in the job market and not automatically think of a career which brings in the most financial gains and status. It's a risk for parents too but well worth it in the long run to see a child happy and fulfilled in his/her job even though the financial bonuses are non existent. A great blog Oleg and such an important topic to reflect upon.

lel Fri, Nov 15th 2013 @ 3:14pm

Reading Oleg's post reminded me of starting out in the mid 1980s near London in an exciting, adventurous fast paced IT company, in an era of greed, questionable morals and faster is better. Burn out and deep depression, fibromyalgia ensued. FM was hardly known then and I struggled to find a new life. 25 years on and 3 major relapses, 2 marriages lost, periods of self employment and complete rest, the adventure then was not worth it. The tortoise beats the hare any day. There are two ways of looking at work - follow your true passion and talents and over time you will probably be fine, or don't define yourself by work alone. Do the work and inside develop the person you really are. Don't give yourself to it. I have learned this late in life. I sit here smiling after 2 days pain free in 18 months. Growth as opposed to striving. Oleg, you guys could do some fun activities together. Play. Have some company time for being silly. I honestly think that grown ups need playgrounds just as kids do.

Anonymous Sun, Nov 17th 2013 @ 11:53am

we won't all like our jobs, it's just not possible that everyone will be able to have a job that is exciting and they are passionate about. we all need to work to live, but as said above we shouldn't let it define us. if our jobs aren;t that exciting all the more reason to make it a means to an end. enjoy your life outside of work. of course if a job is making you ill it's a different matter and maybe time to change. i'm not that happy with my line of work but i try to find the positive, i'm lucky to have a job. it allows me to plan and look forward to things like holidays. i'd like to buy house of my own and i'l definitely need a stable job for that. i just think don't be too harsh on yourself if you are not doing your dream job.

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