I seldom bring blogs over here from Gratitude and Trust. Today I am making an exception. We posted this insightful, moving, important blog by a friend I made through another website. I met Carl Rahn Griffith on Fred Wilson’s AVC. We become cyber friends. He wrote this for us early in the year. Carl died suddenly yesterday at the age of 55. In his honor I am reposting it at Gratitude and Trust and putting it up here as well.
There is great truth and wisdom in Carl’s words. Read them and honor a man for whom life was not always easy, who had dreams for the future and sadly died way too soon.
Unprecedented numbers of white-collar workers are facing the prospect of losing their jobs; this has happened to blue-collar workers over many years and, somewhat patronisingly, been deemed inevitable/acceptable and a necessary trait of industry modernising via automation, etc. There has been little sympathy for such job losses. With white-collar workers the reaction has been somewhat different, largely because this impacts a whole different demographic and is part of the narrative chronicling the demise of the middle-class, its impact on consumerism and being a broader threat to people with hitherto comfortable lifestyles.
Blue-collar workers can, and will, adapt far easier than white-collar people when it comes to losing a job, finding another, and adapting to the economic challenges. They are tougher people.
Get over yourself. The graveyard is full of indispensable people. Don’t be precious about what you will consider as a new job.
Embrace change. It can be turned into positives: mindless consumerism can soon be eliminated and this is hugely refreshing. You adapt. You can delight in a healthy cynicism regards ‘the system’ and relish freedom of thought, and saying what you think as you are now an ‘outsider’.
Closing down my business gave me a whole new set of mental stimuli and revitalised my curiosity about economics, technology, business, society, art, sustainability, life, purpose. A few folk I greatly respect (eg, the VCs Fred Wilson and Albert Wenger) have suggested I write a book – which, come 2016 I am going to set my mind to. It is a daunting prospect, but who knows where that may lead?
Don’t judge people. That lady who is cleaning toilets was quite possibly a secretary a few months ago. That guy washing dishes in a kitchen could have been living/working in NYC a while back, establishing a technology startup over there (yes, me).
You may lose some ‘friends’. You’ve seen ‘Trading Places’ I assume? If not, watch it: laugh and learn. See the shallow absurdity of the environment you once worked in; don’t lament for it, scorn it.
I went from jet-setting to washing pots in a kitchen. Now I am in a front-of-house hotel role and, for all the low wages, challenges and anti-social hours, I love the restaurant and bar/hotel business. It’s real: the work, people, and results are tangible. There are no bullshit jobs in this industry, I assure you, everyone is crucial to success: from the pot-washer to the sommelier, and everyone in the business knows this so there is mutual respect and trust. How many companies can you say that of?
Sure, get angry about your ‘loss’, but see the bullshit you endured for so long in your ‘career’ – laugh about it: dumb meetings, asshole colleagues, absurd sales-conferences, meaningless products. It’s much better doing something real, even if it means you no longer have that big salary, company car, and a business card with a pretentious title (that, ultimately, meant nothing).
Be careful if tempted to hold-out and focus on only getting a job comparable to your previous one. I knew a guy who waited 3yrs for the ‘right’ job to come along, turning down ‘lesser’ jobs. He eventually lost his wife, family, car, house – everything – and most importantly, he lost his self-respect.
Don’t spend all your time engaging with job-agencies/head-hunters: they are, after all, little more than realtors, and do not have your best interests at heart. When I look back on my own career pretty much all the decent roles I have had, including my current one, came via people who knew me.
Learn to say ‘no’.
Since I wound-up my business I have had a number of approaches/offers to be involved in startups, or join more established companies; whilst the appeal of earning more money is hard to ignore, in each case (thus far) it has been clear the opportunities are not what they seem.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Einstein.
Learn to say ‘yes’.
To opportunities that you may have once dismissed as ‘beneath you’. I started working in a kitchen, as a plongeur; I must admit I undertook this with rose-tinted spectacles from Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. It was hard, dirty work but I loved the atmosphere and that job led to my now front-of-house role: bar work, engaging with guests, etc.
Your job does not define you.
Embrace any chance to learn new skills: expand your transferrable skills, no matter how humble they may seem. You will always find work in a kitchen, or behind a bar; as reflected in the huge growth in service-industry employment. Sure, the wages are poor, the hours anti-social, and the work is intense, but, it’s a source of income that is always available, anywhere.
If you see this as a chance to start your own business, great, but be very aware of the risks that entails: very little income (if any) for some time, long hours, no security, vague chances of even modest success. Be utterly objective and if it is not working-out after a few months analyse how much it is eating into your savings (if you had any) and loading your credit-card. If it is not profitable, stop as soon as possible and in parallel to doing this, never turn down any real-world, part-time jobs – any income is better than none. Additionally, totally different jobs (no matter how humble) lead to meeting new people, learning new skills – new opportunities.
Try it, you might like it.
Ultimately, it always boils down to money and self-esteem. The latter can be easily fixed; trust me on this: I am proud of what I currently do, and how I have adapted. Money is a somewhat different matter – I earn about 15% of what I was earning in the good years of my ‘previous life’. But, you can adapt. You have to. And, yes, it is bloody hard, all the time.
Read Desiderata, every day.
Age is an issue, and the discrimination is as rife and vile as is sexism and racism. But, it is somehow not as emotive in the media. If you are over 45yo you are pretty much on the scrap-heap. At 55 I have never felt healthier, nor more mentally stimulated, but, as far as the jobs-market is concerned I am simply waiting to die.
They don’t deserve you.
Written by the late Carl Rahn Griffith