One of my favorite writers/bloggers, Matt Taibbi, is leaving Rolling Stone to join the new investigative website, First Look. Tabbi can be brutally sarcastic and funny. In his farewell column, he was humble and grateful to the people at Rolling Stone who gave him a chance to move forward as a professional. In a time when many of see little to be grateful for when it comes to employers, Taibbi’s farewell is a welcome reminder that there still are some good employers out there. Good luck to both Taibbi and Rolling Stone.
I often cite Seth Godin, who’s one of my favorite writers and thinkers. In his book, The Dip¸ Godin explores how winners know how to quit the things that hold them back from moving forward. The New Yorker has published a short essay by Adrian Cardenas, who last played in the Chicago Cubs organization. He played in 45 games for the Cubs in 2012. Cardenas is eloquent in explaining why he left the big leagues to focus on being a student.
I was especially impressed by his confession that money took away from the joy of the game. That’s a hard confession to make. Most of us would kill to make the minimum big league salary. Baseball as a business was not what Cardenas, a student at New York University, wanted. Leaving the sport is his first step to a new life. May he find happiness.
[On Sundays, this blog explores topics beyond its normal focus in “Sabbath,” a feature inspired by the similarly titled poems and collections of Wendell Berry.]
I’ve grown fond of a new poet, Simon Armitage. His poetry is accessible without ever feeling dumbed down or cliched. In The Shout: Selected Poems, Armitage has several poems about a urban everyman named Robinson, whose life is tragic in the sense that he is constantly bored, a hamster on a wheel.
The poem Robinson’s Resignation captures this feeling and what can be done about it. It is a simple poem, three stanzas and a telling final line. In the first stanza, Robinson grumbles that he is “done with this thing called work, the paper clips and staples of it all.” He is sick of complaining customers and their “foul-mouthed” children. In the second stanza, poor Robinson spews hate for something almost everyone loathes – meaningless, endless meetings. In the final stanza, he explodes the myth about the “friendship thing”: “I couldn’t give/a weeping fig for those so-called brothers/who are all voltage, not current.” Robinson walks away with a last line that is pure dismissal: “This is my final word. Nothing will follow.”
Some people like to read into poems like this. They would say the final line implies an ultimate ending, possible a suicide note. My take is simpler. Robinson’s lament reflects a frustration I frequently see with my clients. People are pushed to the brink at their jobs, so they walk way. Nothing will follow with the job they are leaving, but they quit in the hope of finding something better: better pay, less boredom, a boss who is not a sadist. If Robinson were a real person and needed money, what would follow this poem is a job search. We often make strong declarations like “nothing will follow” only to change our minds the next day, if not the next hour.
I love this poem because it shows despair and frustration turning it a type of power: self-determination. One book I’ve often recommended to clients is Seth Godin’s The Dip, which explores how and when to quit things. Godin challenges the claim that winners never quit. He writes, “Winners quit all the time.” They know how to quit the things at the right times and stick with what will help them to achieve their goals. Based on Armitage’s other poems about Robinson, I don’t think this poor man will ever be a winner, but his world is much like ours, so we can laugh at him and ourselves, hopefully learning in the process. I strongly recommend – in particular order – The Dip, Seth Godin, Simon Armitage’s poetry, and quitting. All are empowering.
Huffington Post has published a brief article and slideshow on different reasons people have given for quitting their jobs. These testimonies indicate again that employers can push workers too hard. Even in a bad job market, people can be pushed too far. Here are some of the reasons given for quitting:
- Too much stress – 50 to 60 hours per week.
- An employees completes a project and meets all goals only to have her employer yells at her for something that did not happen.
- A boss screams at a worker for a small mistake, so the worker takes her coat and walks out.
- “Constant belittlement by my boss for every imaginable thing.”
Even when unemployment is high, there is a time to say enough is enough.
Seth Godin’s latest post is a classic.
Conventional wisdom in business tells us to find a way to say, “Yes.” Why? As Godin illustrates in his pithy way, there is great strength in “No.” There is also professionalism, commitment, and honesty.
Jobseekers and career managers can take a lesson from this post. If a job isn’t right for you (unless you absolutely need the income), say, “No.” If your current job isn’t working for you, it’s time to say no more and quit. Quitting things that hurt us is the first step in moving our personal and professional lives forward. Godin wrote the book on that subject, and it’s called The Dip. Read it, and you’ll be prepared know when to say, “No.”