Getting Hit By A 8,000 Tonne Train… 2 Times

By Russell Sekeet [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I had lunch with my previous line manager’s line manager, and I was asking him for career advice, and he punched me in the gut with the question, “What do you want in life?

He didn’t literally punch me in the gut, he metaphorically punch me in the gut. Without knowing too.

And it hit me like a 8,000 tonne train (probably one of the heaviest trains ever), because that’s the question that people have kept asking me one way or another in similar wording.

What do I want in life? What is my end game objective?

And these two questions are just depressing since I’m an Absurdist, and I don’t believe it’s humanly possible to answer those questions.

But as a good Absurdist, I will go ahead to answer it nevertheless despite the futileness of such an exercise.

I want to surround myself daily with people I truly respect, admire and love; and I want to work towards making Earth a more sustainable environment for the human species.

In life it’s really the relationships that drives most of my happiness, it’s what I’m passionate about. And if I love my relationships enough, I just feel compelled to protect the environment we all live in since it heavily affects the happiness or survival of the relationships I truly treasure.

Oh and I forgot, the reason why my line manager’s line manager’s question hit me like a 8,000 tonne train is because of what he said prior to his question. He explained that in terms of career direction you should always ask yourself whether your current role and potential next move can get you to where you want in life.

Which is why he delivered the question, since it logically slid right in after his statement. And which is why I got punched two times in the gut, without him knowing, by a 8,000 tonne train twice.

That’s a 16,000 tonne train impact.

And the reason why it’s another 8,000 tonne train is because I just don’t see how my current role or potential next move is getting me to where I am besides just providing monetary benefits (as in allowing me to survive and save money).

I’ve basically out learned what I need for my next goal in life, which is to invest and engage in making Earth a more sustainable environment. Nothing I will do from now on in this company will provide much marginal utility to my skill set or provide progress for this endeavor.

And that fact was just depressing. Here I am, making a decent but not spectacular living, having good work life balance, but not growing as fast as I want. And this was made even worse when I was going through resumes for potential hires, and some very impressive resumes made me question whether I’m stagnating.

Sure, I really don’t think I have that drive to aggressively build my resume anymore (never was that type of person to begin with, relationships and work / life balance has become more important, don’t believe in “saving up sex for your old age“), but I obviously could be more aggressive with my career in going ahead and dive into fields that contribute to a sustainable environment with heavy impact.

I don’t need get promoted (power isn’t a huge motivator for me, and money only motivates up to a point of not needing to survive), I just need to have meaning in my job, and I need to have my career align with my end game objective.

What I’m seeking is Christoph Waltz’s expression, “You gave me my vocation back, to Quentin Tarantino when he won his award in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

And for me at this stage of my life, my vocation seems set on anything related to a sustainable environment.

For investing , I definitely don’t see it as my vocation. As a hobby it’s a fun game to play by being able to be above-average by just being rational and disciplined in only making a few moves when favorable odds are present. But as a career, I can’t see myself spending most of my day just analyzing annual reports of essentially junk companies (that’s where the really big money is earned).

I like being above-average, but I have no desire to be over the top above-average for no reason, and achieving that goal by doing stuff that I really don’t enjoy.

I essentially want to prevent myself ending up having the same regret as Charlie Munger regarding his early career, where he said, “Early Charlie Munger is a horrible career model for the young (aggressively getting wealthy by running a hedge fund) because not enough was delivered to civilization in return for what was wrested from capitalism”, especially when considering I can’t even imagine myself having that much fun spending that much time on investing.

Which makes me even more miserable, for two reasons.

Firstly, I may be putting too much of my sense of purpose onto work, and maybe duly disappointed when I finally get there.

Secondly, even if it makes sense to align my purpose with my career, I’m in a dilemma because of three questions / issues:

  • How much is loyalty worth,
  • Do I have a duty to my company, and
  • How to make a potential departure painless.

To a certain extent, loyalty and owing my company is linked together, since I can discredit loyalty to just win-win transactions that are going on. You could say my loyalty to my company is not warranted because my company needed me as bad as I needed my company when I first graduated for various reasons.

You can always argue from a process-driven perspective whether or not I should consider loyalty into my decision making, but you cannot argue from a consequentialist perspective that I’m treated well. And I feel compelled to repay my company, even if I know I’m falling for reciprocity bias and that I’m just a cog in a well oiled motivating machine.

But the fact I know I’m just a cog in a well oiled motivating machine makes me want to leave, because I think I’d regret not going all out to pursue a more meaningful career just because I feel that I have a strong sense of duty to do something unpleasant.

Duty is important, especially in being consistently on-point in commitment through the ups and downs of life, but not everything deserves that level of commitment. My relationships do, but my career doesn’t, especially when you consider that of the 4 aspects in life (career, friends, family, health), the only thing that can be lost and regained is career.

As for whether I will be duly disappointed when I get to where I want to be, I think the dilemma is easily solved.

If I’m going to feel the grill of meaningless in my next job just as I feel the grill of meaningless in my current job, I don’t lose much in the sense that maybe I’ll have a slight deterioration in work / life balance or relationships at work (which I can remedy by changing companies again) and money (which isn’t too big of an issue right now).

But if I change to my next job and really find the meaning in my life, then I basically got a “That’s a Bingo” moment. I also don’t have to regret on my deathbed that I never tried to find out whether it’s possible to have a fulfilling career filled with meaning.

So essentially the downside is limited but the upside is unlimited.

Which logically leads to questions, when and how do I leave my company? And where do I go?

I think I’m going to leave only after my current project if I have the right job offer. My current project puts so much global and regional exposure to the Hong Kong subsidiary that I just cannot let it abruptly end mid-way because of my departure, lest I make the Hong Kong subsidiary look very very bad at all levels globally. My loyalty is worth at least that.

So to make the transition process less painful when I do get the right job offer, I’d probably give my company a heads up a few months beforehand when they start planning my next position after the project.

And where would I go? I’d probably look into finding a job in any company that’s directly involved with sustainable environment / energy. That could mean established companies like BYD or Tesla, or startups in Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks.

The next question would be, how would I get to where I want to go? And I think I’d do it two ways.

I’d join as many career events related to companies involved with sustainable environment / energy to know what kind of positions they hire and what kind of candidates they look for. Hopefully I can also build my network.

At the same time, I’m going to launch a separate website called Snowball Blessing. I’ve been having Snowball Blessing in the back of my mind for a long time, and have talked about it on several occasions on this website (here, here and here). It’s about time to put my thoughts to action and test out how strongly I feel about doing this.

And I think the Snowball Blessing project’s a great way to test out whether my interest in sustainable environment / energy is just a fleeting thought or a long term thing. That’s what I did with technmark which helped me realize I wasn’t as into Marketing as I thought I was.

So we’ll see. I’m looking forward to see how the mystery of my next phase of journey unravel.

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