I don’t remember much about my college graduation ceremony, but I do remember one of the speakers clearly. She spoke to the graduates directly. “You will have many jobs. You will wear many hats. You will get good at juggling all the things that you want to do. You won’t focus on just one thing, but you will succeed.” Of course, I am totally paraphrasing the eloquence of what she actually said, but that was the gist of it.
The “wearing of many hats” thing always stuck with me in the years to follow, but now I think of it more as growing extra arms. I can’t have just one job. Maybe it’s my astrological sign (Gemini) or my self-diagnosed ADD or my generation, but working at one thing for years bores the crap out of me.
I just gave up a steady paycheck, benefits, vacation, and a team of wonderful friends. But my small business needed me.
A few years ago I had six jobs. Seriously. I worked for REI as a sales specialist; I was a petsitter and dog walker; I had my own massage therapy practice; I hosted a pub quiz for Geeks Who Drink; I worked at my small business The Octopus and the Fox; and I taught sewing classes mornings, evenings and weekends. It was insane.
The first thing to go was the petsitting. It was just too much to have to drive all over town to take care of rich people’s animals. The tipping point was when I lost a hamster. It didn’t die, it just escaped out of its cage for a couple days…in a house with two cats. Granted, the cats were both very lazy and fat and needed insulin injections and pills, but I was still worried. I spent one morning searching the rooms for the beloved hamster and was then 30 minutes late for my job at REI. The owners of the hamster were not impressed that it was in fact found, but deeply upset that it had been lost in the first place.
After that debacle, I accepted the full-time position at REI (woo insurance benefits!) and focused most of my time there while juggling the other three jobs. The next thing to go was the sewing classes. I really enjoyed teaching, but after doing a year’s worth of Groupon specials, I was burned out. And the scheduling was killing me. I carried around a huge planner at all times and I couldn’t get a cup of coffee with a friend without consulting the monstrosity first.
My most recent change though, was leaving REI. That was an insanely difficult decision to make. I just gave up a steady paycheck, reliable hours, insurance benefits, vacation, and a team of wonderful friends. But my small business needed me. Not to mention corporate retail was kind of crushing my soul. There is something about wearing a name tag that gives people permission to be shitty to you.
So now I’ve narrowed my focus to three jobs (not mentioning the writing I am currently doing) and I feel fantastic. Three arms are much more manageable than six. The reason octopuses are able to deal with all eight of their arms is because each arm has a mind of its own. It would be like having clones who can focus on different tasks without bothering the main brain. But I am not an octopus, so for the sake of my sanity and productivity I had to decide what arms to cut off and how to be more human.
If you feel like you are starting to the drop the plates, balls, or chainsaws you may be juggling, I advise you to step back and evaluate the following things:
- What job or activity do you honestly enjoy the most? Keep that one.
- What job or activity makes you feel tired, unhappy or unfulfilled? Get rid of that one.
- Repeat as needed.
As clichéd as it is, life is short, and allegedly, it’s the only one we’ve got. Do what you love and you will have a richer life and be happier in the long run.
Photo courtesy of Jessi Campbell.