This weekend was relatively sedate – friday was a night out for one of the guys birthdays where he went off on a long speil about how you just need to say “yes sir” and get things done to be good at your job, not so smart that you can tell your boss six different ways how it cannot be done. This was an interesting point, there is something to it but I’m not sure I fully agree, but the next point he made blew my tiny mind – you don’t have to be very good at your job to be “Good At Your Job”.
He told a story about moving to Dubai & finding out just before he moved that his live-in girlfriend of some four years had been sleeping with the tennis coach. He was not best pleased by all this and spent the first couple of months in Dubai licking his wounds & being non-productive: turning up at his desk but achieving very little. Then word came that there was an audit or review and so the things he had been neglecting for months had to get done and sharpish. He stayed in all night one night before the presentation and then was just leaving at some unreasonable hour the next morning when he ran into one of the high chiefs coming to work. They spotted him, asked him what he was doing and he said he’d been there all night working on The Thing. This, not the months of neglect and being useless, got noticed, this made his reputation and all of a sudden he was “good at his job”.
The point is – most of the time “good at your job” is just being mediocre at your job – “good enough” – except when the bad news has really hit the fan and if you can pull something useful then, thats what counts. Most of the rest of the time its just be at your desk in case they need you and do what is needed to avoid the worst of problems.
This chimed with some experiences I’ve witnessed – busting ass to get things done only to find the criteria have changed, interest has been lost, etc. The wonders of Presenteeism is this in a nutshell – as long as you are seen at your desk at wierd hours, good enough. The whole “work smarter, not longer/harder” notion seems not to have gotten traction like it should have.
I love the Zone: when you can just lock in on something useful, doing the thing that people seem to be willing to pay a fortune for, move heaven and earth to put you in a place to do and in deed have other people on the payroll dedicated just to making sure you can do this thing. This is nothing to do with hours worked, or when. For me, I tend to zone on arrival at my desk with fresh hot data ready to be looked at, so with breakfast coffee but before morning coffee. Then the day starts, chaos ensues and the Zone is lost. It may or may not be regained sometime after lunch, maybe around four, maybe later.
The Zone is the antithesis of Good Enough. Just hanging about is not being in the zone, just hanging around is boring as paint – or worse, stressful junk-work making slides in a different colour because someone objects to the original colours. I like going to work in the morning, I’ve worked jobs that I hated, its not worth it. Its Most Of Your Life. I realise that many people have little to no option, its work a job they dislike or starve, but I’ve been freed from that by the grace of fate. I want a job where I can Zone.
The final point my friend made was “make your boss look good, thats what they want” – which I guess gels onto the point I try to live by which is “don’t provide problems, provide solutions” – it you are going to go bug someone with “Its Fucked!” run the conversation in your head – its probably going to go ‘damn, why? how do we fix it?’ Have answers to both of those questions before you go anywhere – don’t just pull back the bosses rug to reveal a pit full of scorpions, hand them an industrial DDT sprayer to fix the problem. That point I could live with.
So to go back -clock-punching is a step up from just waiting to die, for sure, but if you can actually turn that time in your life into something you enjoy, you have clawed back most of your waking hours from the Machine. You have Won a vast fraction of your time on this earth back from the millstones of society. Thats worth trying, enjoy yourself *and* get paid for it.