The First 24 Hours as a Cubicle Escapee
I caught up with an old work colleague from my corporate days, for coffee recently. We spent the first few minutes chatting about family, mutual friends and life in general. He filled me in on the office politics and empire building that had occurred since my departure. He went on to vent about the crazy hours, unachievable targets and relentless pressure to deliver results. When he’d finished venting, he took a depth breath, leant back in his chair and said: “I really envy you Cian.”
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“You’re your own boss. You don’t have all of these office politics and unrealistic sales targets to contend with. If you want to take the afternoon off to go to the beach or take your son swimming, you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to do it.”
I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or him, when I leant across the table, smacked him hard across his face and shouted “WAKE UP” so loudly, it woke the baby sleeping in the pram near our table.
The other diners in the café were pretty taken aback too. My friend sat there with a look of abject horror on his face, cheek smarting, eyes watering, struggling to comprehend when had just happened….
Ok, I’ll admit it. I didn’t actually smack him, but I was sorely tempted to. Not out of malice or anger, in fact for exactly the opposite reason. I felt it was my duty to snap him out of this fantasy, that life in Small Business land is all rainbows and lollypops. I wanted him to understand that:
- One day, I was carrying a business card with one of the most recognisable brands in the world on it. A brand which opened doors, ensured phone calls were returned and provided me with an inflated sense of my own importance. The next day, I had no business card, no brand, no website and no real clue where to start.
- One day, I had an IT department, a finance department, a HR department, a marketing department at my disposal to take all of the noise away and allow me to focus on doing what I did best. The next day, I suddenly had to learn how to do all of those things for myself for the very first time in my life, whilst also trying to begin building a business from scratch.
- One day, I was sitting in a well-appointed office, with fruit, snacks and coffee on demand, an ergonomic chair (oh, I miss that chair), a corporate AmEx card, lots of international travel and nice hotels. The next day, I was staring at the wall of my 2nd bedroom with an Ikea desk and chair, pondering the life altering decision I had just made and slowly freaking out!
- Perhaps most importantly, I wanted him to understand that one day, I was receiving a very generous monthly salary, with super, health cover and insurances all rolled in and it didn’t even occur to me to wonder would I be paid at the end of the month. The next day, I was responsible for closing every piece of business, sweating on invoices to be paid, agonising over whether to buy a new printer/laptop/coffee machine this month or wait until next month.
Above all else, I wanted my friend to know that the grass is not always greener on the other side, even if you do occasionally get to cut it on a Tuesday afternoon.
Then when he’d had a moment for all of that to sink in, I could share with him that 5 years down the road, I am healthier, happier and humbler than I ever was during my 15 years in the corporate world and I wouldn’t change a thing.
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