Monday, February 1, 2016

Sell those beds

This past weekend Full Throttle and I were talking about my career prospects.  He was surprised that I never became a stock trader since it seemed to him that I would be extremely talented at it.  After all, if I spend my life trying to optimize my way through games why not play the big game and win gigantic sums of money?

I think the answer is similar to why I never ended up being a professional poker player.  In both cases I think I have the raw talent to succeed but I couldn't bring myself to be such a leech.  Neither of those careers brings anything to the world.  Both traders and poker players just move money around, hopefully taking a bunch for themselves, but neither can say that they have ever done anything to improve the world they live in.  They simply use other people's effort for their own gain.

While most people wouldn't consider a mattress salesperson to be bringing a lot to the world, I think doing that job suited me because it was clear that if nobody did it things would be worse.  People need to know how their delivery will work, they need to find a bed that suits them, and they want to be comfortable so they can make a choice that is good for their health.  If I do that job right, I am helping people.

I was making good money doing it, no question, but I don't have qualms about gaming a system to make more money while also being a net positive force.  Both of those things together work really well for me.

It got me thinking about my co-op placements in university; which were an absolute disaster.  I was writing code and I absolutely despised the work.  I got very little done, was miserable, and dropped out after just two terms.  I wonder now if the real problem was not the coding but rather that my efforts seemed completely worthless.  In particular my first coding job was a make work project, since my direct manager cared not at all if I did the work and refused to help me figure out how to tackle the project.  Nobody else in the organization even knew that my job existed.  Why work when it is clear that completing the work will accomplish nothing?

I have this struggle going on between my enjoyment of relatively theoretical, esoteric challenges and my apparent dislike of projects that don't have any concrete benefits.  In one sense I would be happy with a job shovelling dirt from one pile to another because at least the job matters and something concrete gets done.  On the other hand I would be bored silly.

It makes me wonder if this is something influenced by my dual personalities.  Passion wants to be challenged, to do something hard, to think about obscure stuff.  Passion likes competition and would find stock trader or poker player to be glorious professions!  Smash your enemies!  Keep score with giant wads of bills!  Director, on the other hand, would despair that all that is for naught.  He would be sad that nothing is being accomplished, that I might as well not exist.  Director is happy shovelling dirt (so long as the dirt needs to be shovelled) but Passion would be miserable and bored.

Rolling that around in my head a bit makes it seem reasonable as a theory.  It would explain why finding a job was always such a problem for me... not in that I couldn't get a particular job, but that I couldn't figure out what job I would even want if it was offered.  One half of me or the other would be disappointed bitterly by almost any job I got offered.

How do you find a job that works for someone who on one hand is a cross between a bloodthirsty berserker and a mathematician, and on the other hand is a twitchy, anxious nerd, always worried about having done the wrong thing?  It would be easier if I was a mix of all of that, but instead I am either one or the other, but never both at the same time.

I guess being a homemaker kind of works in this way.  Passion loves to play games, and I have time at home to be competitive and get my fix.  Director is perfectly happy with a job that consists of cooking, cleaning, volunteering at school, and parenting because those things have to get done - they fill his need for doing something useful in the world.  It isn't a perfect fit, but it does tick the necessary boxes for me to cope.

The more I think about this the more I am glad that I randomly walked into a job I could live with right out of university.  There are a million alternate lives where I wander from job to job, hating them all, being alternately bored by the work or depressed by the pointlessness of it all.

Better lucky than good, I suppose.


  1. Project Manager. You get to use the elbows when pushing things through, but you also get to sit down and work out the fine details and worry about risk all the time.

  2. He would get bogged down with schedules, RAID logs, RACI charts... unless it was his own project management firm...

    He should be a professional reviewer... see if Amazon will start sending you product in exchange for unbiased, well written reviews.

    Ties in with homemaking as well...