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Want to hear from some others who are conflicted about hating work

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Velocke

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A lot of things I read about work and jobs speak as though everyone works in some kind of corporate business environment. When I've looked for advice on how to ask for a raise or improve my resume, it always seems to fit well for business or sales...but not the environment I'm in. MJ's books talk about hating ties, being a "corporate drone", and working for a company that worships profits above all. That doesn't fit for me.
I'm a research coordinator and I work on the medical campus of a private university. My research group is focused on curing Alzheimer's disease. This is a wonderful goal. My coworkers and bosses are passionate, caring people who never mistreat me. Working in this area, nobody is really in it for the money. We never have enough money since it all comes in the form of research grants from the government or generosity of for-profit companies or foundations. We spend a lot of time trying to justify on paper why we deserve that money and you'd better believe there are dozens of hoops to jump through before we get it followed by endless documentation of how we use it. My university has good healthcare, my hours are flexible, I have paid time off and sick days. The university offers a lot of other fringe benefits, like free classes and a pass for local public transport.
But I am still miserable there every day. Our overall goal is great, but I am not a scientist. I spend most of my time working on what seem like random fringe projects, wading through stupid layers of large-organization bureaucracy, trying to make sure everyone has the inane paperwork they need, asking five people how to get something done and eventually getting directed back to the first person I talked to. I'm lucky to have an office (part of the team works in a cube space), but the office just feels like a little box that I am put in each morning and released from in the afternoon. A lot of my projects are things I work on nearly solo, so I can sometimes go a whole day with nobody needing to talk to me in person. I work fine on my own when I know what needs to be done and have a definite direction. But a lot of research-related operations don't exactly have obvious solutions and the lack of real teammates can be discouraging. Overall, it feels like my contributions are small, my presence is negligible, my income potential has very strict limits (again, grant funded jobs have a lot of rules), and a lot of the skills I have picked up along the way are so specific to this job that I don't know how much good they would be anywhere else. These are the reasons I want out, but I often feel ashamed of my wishes and dislike for where I am.
Would be interested to hear from others who may feel this way.
 

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You only have one life to live. You can make the decision to spend it doing what you want.

Isn't it more selfish to indulge in these thoughts instead of going out into the world and doing something that is 1000x more valuable?
 
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Velocke

Velocke

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You only have one life to live. You can make the decision to spend it doing what you want.

Isn't it more selfish to indulge in these thoughts instead of going out into the world and doing something that is 1000x more valuable?
Definitely the direction I want to go in (something more valuable). I know I contribute to the group overall and feel a certain sense of guilt about wanting to leave. However, it's not like another person couldn't do my job. There's a significant learning curve because the research group is so big and complex, but I try to organize my things and make notes with the goal of a smooth transition when the day comes that I can leave for one reason or another.
 

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You seem to be doing work that has a commendable and noble purpose, a cause worth caring for. But that in and of itself doesn't mean you should pursue that effort. The example MJ uses is that of the corporate drone, but really what he's talking about is breaking all sorts of conventional norms. It's about seeking an UNSCRIPTED life, it's about personal freedom, about having the choice to do what you want, the color of "F*ck you" if you have it.

What do you want? Why do you want it? If you feel unhappy but can't quite define why, maybe it's because you haven't thought enough about what you actually want. Once you make that clear, other decisions in your life will become easier to justify as you navigate your path towards the attainment of your new objectives.
 
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Velocke

Velocke

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You seem to be doing work that has a commendable and noble purpose, a cause worth caring for. But that in and of itself doesn't mean you should pursue that effort. The example MJ uses is that of the corporate drone, but really what he's talking about is breaking all sorts of conventional norms. It's about seeking an UNSCRIPTED life, it's about personal freedom, about having the choice to do what you want, the color of "F*ck you" if you have it.
Yes, personal freedom. If I didn't "need" the job, I could even help them out on certain things just because I want to, without the expectation that I also do ~8 hours of a$$-time in my office chair.
 

analogue

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But I am still miserable there every day. Our overall goal is great, but I am not a scientist. I spend most of my time working on what seem like random fringe projects, wading through stupid layers of large-organization bureaucracy, trying to make sure everyone has the inane paperwork they need, asking five people how to get something done and eventually getting directed back to the first person I talked to. I'm lucky to have an office (part of the team works in a cube space), but the office just feels like a little box that I am put in each morning and released from in the afternoon.
That's why I've never regretted saying no to an academic position but that wasn't the reason why I refused in the first place. In fact, I was very depressed at the time and was planning to end it so I didn't want to take any more responsibility. But in hindsight I don't regret it.

Overall, it feels like my contributions are small, my presence is negligible, my income potential has very strict limits
How can you change that? And what purpose can you create to give your life meaning?

The university offers a lot of other fringe benefits, like free classes
That could be useful for the time being but don't limit your learning to the available classes.
 

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People in non-profits have a hard time with this kind of thing. There's a level of guilt that people in the private sector don't experience. In the for-profit world, if a job isn't working out, its a bummer to move on if you like your job, your boss and your coworkers, but you just move on. There's some angst about it, but not nearly the level of angst in the kind of situation you're in.

The thing here is that this feeling of yours is NOT going to go away. You want something that this organization isn't able to provide you. You also want to contribute in ways that this organization isn't set up to accept.
 
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Velocke

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That could be useful for the time being but don't limit your learning to the available classes.
I have taken a couple of classes, but overall, I think I am just tired of sitting in a classroom and sort of "waiting" to be something. Six years of college classroom learning got me where I am now. Maybe just getting out there in the crash course will go somewhere better.
 
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Velocke

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People in non-profits have a hard time with this kind of thing. There's a level of guilt that people in the private sector don't experience. In the for-profit world, if a job isn't working out, its a bummer to move on if you like your job, your boss and your coworkers, but you just move on. There's some angst about it, but not nearly the level of angst in the kind of situation you're in.
Precisely. A lot of people would love to throw the massive "F*ck you" to their employer. I don't have any desire to do that, but I sure would like to leave the little office box and not go back. My coworkers are mostly kind, helpful, decent people, but I don't want to hear "Happy Monday" or "TGIF" anymore.
 

analogue

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Six years of college classroom learning got me where I am now. Maybe just getting out there in the crash course will go somewhere better.
I feel the same way about college but I was pressured into a major that was doomed from day one. If fact it was chosen by my mother's cult leader at the time. Anyways, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one.
 
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Velocke

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I feel the same way about college but I was pressured into a major that was doomed from day one. If fact it was chosen by my mother's cult leader at the time. Anyways, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one.
Well, that's intense, haha. I saw your post saying you were homeschooled; I actually was also. Not for cult-related reasons, though. My mom just sort of...thought it seemed like a good idea. :p My parents have always done a lot by default rather than by design. They had no idea how to advise me during the whole college/pick a major thing, so I just followed the script. I was good at the college game, but two degrees and a few quarter-life crises later, I just felt pointless and trapped. Nobody in my life knew how to help me with my anxiety, since from their view, I'm doing fine. Unscripted was the first thing that really helped me start to pinpoint what I was ACTUALLY so upset about.
 

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What would make you love your work? What would your work or day-to-day need to look like and/or require?
 
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Velocke

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What would make you love your work? What would your work or day-to-day need to look like and/or require?
Questions that I spent a lot of time and research trying to answer. I really dislike the "passion" narrative we have going on these days, because I don't think I've ever had one. I liked the idea from MJ's books that you can be passionate about building something, without the "something" itself actually being the important part. I feel like I would be happier doing almost anything as long as that thing could be built up to a point where I'm not trading time for money. Research coordinators, like other office-type workers, trade hours for money. If I went back to school for a PhD and tried to become a lead researcher, I would spend my time begging for money (research grants) to keep doing my work. Neither sounds appealing.
 

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Questions that I spent a lot of time and research trying to answer. I really dislike the "passion" narrative we have going on these days, because I don't think I've ever had one. I liked the idea from MJ's books that you can be passionate about building something, without the "something" itself actually being the important part. I feel like I would be happier doing almost anything as long as that thing could be built up to a point where I'm not trading time for money. Research coordinators, like other office-type workers, trade hours for money. If I went back to school for a PhD and tried to become a lead researcher, I would spend my time begging for money (research grants) to keep doing my work. Neither sounds appealing.
You said that you`ve acquired skills in the job which are very niche.
What kind of skills?
 

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1) There are soooo many people that need help, and soooo many ways to help them.

If you want to help people, then how can you help each one better, or help more of them?


2) It sounds like you need a positive feedback loop?


3) I recommend reading/listening to “Give and Take” (and probably getting your bosses to).



I also like helping people. I try to *harness* that desire to build a business that helps people as well as gives me and my family the freedom and lifestyle we’d like.
 

Benedict

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A lot of things I read about work and jobs speak as though everyone works in some kind of corporate business environment. When I've looked for advice on how to ask for a raise or improve my resume, it always seems to fit well for business or sales...but not the environment I'm in. MJ's books talk about hating ties, being a "corporate drone", and working for a company that worships profits above all. That doesn't fit for me.
I'm a research coordinator and I work on the medical campus of a private university. My research group is focused on curing Alzheimer's disease. This is a wonderful goal. My coworkers and bosses are passionate, caring people who never mistreat me. Working in this area, nobody is really in it for the money. We never have enough money since it all comes in the form of research grants from the government or generosity of for-profit companies or foundations. We spend a lot of time trying to justify on paper why we deserve that money and you'd better believe there are dozens of hoops to jump through before we get it followed by endless documentation of how we use it. My university has good healthcare, my hours are flexible, I have paid time off and sick days. The university offers a lot of other fringe benefits, like free classes and a pass for local public transport.
But I am still miserable there every day. Our overall goal is great, but I am not a scientist. I spend most of my time working on what seem like random fringe projects, wading through stupid layers of large-organization bureaucracy, trying to make sure everyone has the inane paperwork they need, asking five people how to get something done and eventually getting directed back to the first person I talked to. I'm lucky to have an office (part of the team works in a cube space), but the office just feels like a little box that I am put in each morning and released from in the afternoon. A lot of my projects are things I work on nearly solo, so I can sometimes go a whole day with nobody needing to talk to me in person. I work fine on my own when I know what needs to be done and have a definite direction. But a lot of research-related operations don't exactly have obvious solutions and the lack of real teammates can be discouraging. Overall, it feels like my contributions are small, my presence is negligible, my income potential has very strict limits (again, grant funded jobs have a lot of rules), and a lot of the skills I have picked up along the way are so specific to this job that I don't know how much good they would be anywhere else. These are the reasons I want out, but I often feel ashamed of my wishes and dislike for where I am.
Would be interested to hear from others who may feel this way.
Hey Velocke,

first, I want to tell you something: I have contact to MANY people who describe the same feeling in different words. They should be happy because of all the stuff they do, the money the get, the contribution they make, etc etc. - But they are NOT.

Then they feel, just like you, ashamed and ungrateful.

They often describe it like a bird sitting in a golden cage. You got all you need, more then most people probably have. But you don't feel it.

In my experience, this has a direct relation to your values - and the top 3-5 of them not beeing fulfilled. Or to be more precise:

Probably many of them, if ranked from 0 to 10 (10 being "totally fulfilled") you'd probably rank them somewhere around 4-6. Which is not bad enough that you quit the job, but still not enough to really feel good and be happy.

Just a guess, but I could imagine, out of your story, that you one value of yours is Connection/ Relationship. How would you rate it from 0-10?

Another one could be Contribution - you know your work really contributes to cure or help people. But you don't feel it enough. How would you rate it?

Again, my guess is, both are around 4-6.

So how do you solve this?
1. Find out, what your values are (max. 10)
2. Rate them from 0-10
3. Identify your top 3-5 values (Core Values)
4. Ask yourself: What would need to be or happen in order for them to be at a Level X/8/10; How would you notice that this value is at level X/8/10?
5. Now, you have a idea on which you can act. Maybe you already have something in mind.
6. Change the circumstances, change your perspective.

An example: Maybe you come to the conclusion, that your value "Contribution" is at 6 and you want it at 8 or 9. You would need to see the effects of your daily work to the ultimate patient/ client (maybe). Then go, look and ask, research how exactly the research you took part in has really helped a real person.

To find out your values, I think there are some good posts around in the forum.
 

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Questions that I spent a lot of time and research trying to answer. I really dislike the "passion" narrative we have going on these days, because I don't think I've ever had one. I liked the idea from MJ's books that you can be passionate about building something, without the "something" itself actually being the important part. I feel like I would be happier doing almost anything as long as that thing could be built up to a point where I'm not trading time for money. Research coordinators, like other office-type workers, trade hours for money. If I went back to school for a PhD and tried to become a lead researcher, I would spend my time begging for money (research grants) to keep doing my work. Neither sounds appealing.
You want freedom enabling and true wealth generating work then, is what it sounds like?

I am mixed about passion. I think passion does go a long way, but passion alone is not very useful. I take my passions and direct them towards helping people, which makes my passions coincide with business and wealth generation and asset creation. The problem is when people are self centeredly passionate - that often leads to not helping others sufficiently as is required for a business to typically succeed.

About happiness, well, continue on to my reply to Benedict...

Hey Velocke,

first, I want to tell you something: I have contact to MANY people who describe the same feeling in different words. They should be happy because of all the stuff they do, the money the get, the contribution they make, etc etc. - But they are NOT.

Then they feel, just like you, ashamed and ungrateful.

They often describe it like a bird sitting in a golden cage. You got all you need, more then most people probably have. But you don't feel it.

In my experience, this has a direct relation to your values - and the top 3-5 of them not beeing fulfilled. Or to be more precise:

Probably many of them, if ranked from 0 to 10 (10 being "totally fulfilled") you'd probably rank them somewhere around 4-6. Which is not bad enough that you quit the job, but still not enough to really feel good and be happy.

Just a guess, but I could imagine, out of your story, that you one value of yours is Connection/ Relationship. How would you rate it from 0-10?

Another one could be Contribution - you know your work really contributes to cure or help people. But you don't feel it enough. How would you rate it?

Again, my guess is, both are around 4-6.

So how do you solve this?
1. Find out, what your values are (max. 10)
2. Rate them from 0-10
3. Identify your top 3-5 values (Core Values)
4. Ask yourself: What would need to be or happen in order for them to be at a Level X/8/10; How would you notice that this value is at level X/8/10?
5. Now, you have a idea on which you can act. Maybe you already have something in mind.
6. Change the circumstances, change your perspective.

An example: Maybe you come to the conclusion, that your value "Contribution" is at 6 and you want it at 8 or 9. You would need to see the effects of your daily work to the ultimate patient/ client (maybe). Then go, look and ask, research how exactly the research you took part in has really helped a real person.

To find out your values, I think there are some good posts around in the forum.
It is indeed extremely common for people to expect to be happy based on their work and current life situation. That is not how it works however.

Happiness does not come externally. It is generated internally.

One can be happy doing anything, because what one is doing does not have any bearing on happiness.

Which is a great thing too!

Imagine if one's happiness is tied to their work, and then they lose their job or their business? Then their happiness would leave them too?

In such a case one was never happy to begin with.

The feelings of achievement and helping others and the pride of success and prestige may feel great, they may often be confused as happiness, but they are certainly not happiness. They are simply what they appear to be, good positive feelings.

At any rate, your list of finding one's values is quite useful. It helps one figure out the sort of work one should likely be looking to do! Not that it will necessarily make someone any happier or not ;)
 

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Velocke

Velocke

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You said that you`ve acquired skills in the job which are very niche.
What kind of skills?
For one example, I've gotten good at designing projects in an electronic data capture tool that is pretty much just used by universities or similar non-profit research organizations. This is useful, but the learning curve for it really isn't that bad, so I doubt anyone would want to pay me to help them with this tool vs. just chucking it at some post-doc they already have employed and telling them to figure it out.
For another example, I work in a BIG organization, so a lot of time gets spent just trying to track down the person with an answer or who knows how something is supposed to be done. That's learning how to adapt in my environment, but ONLY in my environment.
Finally, my research group is rather unusual. We're an oddball combination of pharma-funded clinical trials and more basic research activities that don't have to conform to the same level of regulation. We do stuff in weird ways and we constantly have to talk to our regulatory boards about how to fit what we want to do into their approval template.
I'm not saying the ability to spend all day finding ways to bash square pegs into round holes and navigate complex organizational mazes isn't useful. It's just not something that obviously translates to another industry or position.
 
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Velocke

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2) It sounds like you need a positive feedback loop?
I agree haha. I recently read a book called "The 1% Rule" by Tommy Baker which said that the number one thing that keeps people going is progress, or even the illusion of progress. Feelings of progress and positive feedback can be hard to come by in the research world, for sure. The part of my group that does clinical drug trials (testing of actual drugs) just finished a trial of two drugs that took seven years...and the "top line results" (primary indicator of whether the drug did what we want or not) came back negative. There's still a lot of useful data to process, but that's a huge gut punch with a seven-year windup. Unfortunately, that's how science and research work.
I have worked on ways to track my own progress, which does help to keep me at least trying to do my job well even when discouraged.
 

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Velocke

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Then they feel, just like you, ashamed and ungrateful.

They often describe it like a bird sitting in a golden cage. You got all you need, more then most people probably have. But you don't feel it.
Spot on.

Probably many of them, if ranked from 0 to 10 (10 being "totally fulfilled") you'd probably rank them somewhere around 4-6. Which is not bad enough that you quit the job, but still not enough to really feel good and be happy.
Yep. I've done mood-tracking exercises in the past and my day ratings were typically 4-6.

Just a guess, but I could imagine, out of your story, that you one value of yours is Connection/ Relationship. How would you rate it from 0-10?

Another one could be Contribution - you know your work really contributes to cure or help people. But you don't feel it enough. How would you rate it?
Another one is freedom to contribute where I wish, I think. For example, maybe I would like to spend some time doing basic data analysis for a volunteer group who can't afford an analyst. That could help them see THEIR progress and keep moving forward. But I can't because I have to spend minimum 8 hours in an office chair. Another example: I have a big fear that my parents may need financial help at some point. On my current career trajectory, it's hard to imagine me ever being in a great position to do that.
 
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Velocke

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Happiness does not come externally. It is generated internally.
I agree with this, but it is also a somewhat scary notion for someone who has struggled with depression for ~15 years. You start to worry that you just aren't capable of generating those kinds of feelings internally. I'm doing pretty well with medication and exercise at the moment, but my basic depressive nature is still present.
No external circumstances are just going to magically flip that switch, but certainly what you spend your time doing has an impact. What I'm doing isn't working; time to do something else.
 

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