From the Breadboy to the Boardroom and everywhere in between.
I have lived and worked in 5 different countries, doing jobs I didn't know existed, meeting more people than I ever thought were alive on earth, and came out of it no poorer and much wiser than any other stick-it-outer or loyalty pigeon slaving a 9-to-5.
When it came to Job Hunting, I was a Warrior and with relentless and often naive persistence, I stopped at nothing in my pursuit of the coolest jobs I could find. I wore them like medallions, a collection of memories and adventures that made me 'worldly'. But even butterflies have got to go through a crappy couple months as a caterpillar, and thus my journey of a thousand miles starts here. This is the story of how I went from toasting garlic bread in a smalltown bistro to rubbing shoulders with billion dollar oil tycoons, and why I ultimately gave it all up to be a happy person.
Chapter 1 - Marcoola
The town I grew up in was a small beachside suburb and with a population of approximately 2000, I hesitate to call it a shanty town only because the houses are nice, the people aren't (that) weird, and the blue-green water on the white sandy beach was beautiful. It was the kind of town where you could think you knew everyone but you didn't, though everyone around you was aware of each other thus your bubble knew wayyy too much about one another. Other towns in the area were named after indigenous plants or words of significance, but Marcoola was aptly named as it was located between MARoochydore and COOLum....Lame. In any case, growing up by the sea was amazing and a huge part of who I became as an adult.
Growing up I was never pushed to get a part-time job. I didn't have many things I wanted to buy so money was never really a motivator besides having enough to buy an ice cream or a cool shell at the souvenir shop. My Mum and Dad were well-to-do in as much as I, as a child and teenager, never had any "we can't afford it" problems. It was usually just "Well maybe if you ask Santa?" or "I won't buy you Pokemon cards because you just give them away to kids so they will like you". My parents weren't rich (although people would make aggressive accusations that we must be because we had a boat and a laundry chute, no not a boat with a laundry chute...you get it), but they were both extremely savvy and had worked hard enough that in my lifetime at least, we very luckily never had to worry about buying clothes or food or anything serious.
As a teenager, everybody was getting jobs to pay for the movies or the latest Nintendo or whatever. Texting and mobile phones were only just coming in so it wasn't really a thing to have Phone Credit until around age 16. I was playing a lot of Rugby and doing lifesaving volunteering on the side, and generally wasting my time f**king around as any teenager will do. But around age 14, pressure seeps in and you begin to consider the idea that:
A. People want 'things' or they want 'things done'
B. Not all people can get things, or do the things that need to get done
C. People will pay other people to give them things, or do the things they can't/don't want to do themselves
Thus the concept of employment and economy rears it ugly head.
After much deliberation and no interview process whatsoever, my first job was as a Cashier in a family friend's Fish & Chip shop. I was awkward with customers and learnt for the first time that I multitask like a fish speaks German.....not very well. The owner was my buddies Mum which made any discipline or "What are you doing?" moments difficult I am sure. It was hardly a life changing experience, but I officially lost my employment V-card so had one down on the board. Thanks Margy ;)
My second job was as a Dishwasher at the local Surf Club Bistro. Surf Life Saving Clubs in Australia are an incredibly impressive movement, a volunteer lifeguard organization set up to keep watch of the beach in daylight hours during the busiest beach seasons of the year. Tens of thousands of highly trained volunteers watching nearly all the beaches on the Coastline of Australia, prepared to prevent and treat incidents like drowning, shark attacks, jellyfish and marine stings, and any other intermediate first aid. A lot of this is based out of individual satellites called "Clubs" intermittently spaced along the coast around populated towns. To help sustain themselves financially, a lot of Clubs had developed Supporter's Clubs on the land filled with Bar facilities, Restaurants and the devil himself, virtual gaming (slots/poker) machines aka 'Pokies'. When I was growing up, the Surf Club regulars consisted of the same ilk as any community-based liquor serving venue in Australia; brat children, drunks, creeps, friendly volunteers, tourists, sunburnt retirees, and a mixture thereof. I got a job at the local 'Surfy' through my Dad's involvement at the club. This again deferred my CV and interview education until the next opportunity, a circumstance that I don't regret but am at least aware of its implcations.
I was hired as a 'Dishy' with the opportunity of making desserts, garlic bread and pizzas dangled in front of me like a strange stepping stone to kitchen glory. My job was mainly to splash water on dirty things and make them clean again. Not a whole lot of cognitive processing but you would be surprised in a time critical environment, just how many containers and trays can be greased up and how quickly they are all needed again ASAP. Mastering the art of splashing water, I moved up the ranks to make small desserts and garlic bread. I don't know how many times I burnt the garlic bread just having put it under the grill/broil and moving onto something else, completely unable to keep track of two thoughts simultaneously. Everybody should work in a kitchen or the service industry at some point in your life. You learn a lot about stress and emotions, and also about what really happens to food during service....not cool. Here is also where I learnt that I am anally detail oriented and need to process information before it is useful to me. I remember always having this trivial debate "What's more important, how fast I clean it, or how clean it is?" and the answer of "You should clean it well and fast" being utterly impossible in my mind. I also remember having a discussion with my boss about productivity explaining that we shouldn't be pushing for maximum meals because as a small team, we just can't handle the workload, we should know when to say No and where the overload is. He explained his response to me very succinctly with "Well if someone says to you, 'Would you like me to give you $10, or $20?' then which one are you going to take?" a concept I find recurs a lot throughout nearly every business I come across and that everybody has a different 'yea but' answer. Working in a kitchen is easy, but for me, every detail needed to be processed individually and any new information had to be filed carefully within that system. It meant I learned extremely well but relatively slowly and bombarded the cooks with minute scenario questions about what would happen if the tomatoes were cooked but the ham wasn't, etc. I developed an understanding and a respect for processes and routine, but also slowly figured out how to plug new information into that system. I worked there for 3 years and could make a mean pizza from scratch but still took 1 full hour to sweep and mop something that took others 20 mins. The perfectionist in me was taking shape, a details oriented obsession which really boils down to a holistic attempt at completing a job to its utmost fullest extent, or not at all. Thus the Breadboy was born, the beginning of a long journey in being brutally aware of weaknesses and that if I can't work on them, or improve them, I need to figure out a way to build a bridge to avoid falling down those holes.
Work at this point meant nothing, it was a place to mess about with my pals and earn some spending money. There was no existential "But what am I going to do with my life?" yearning, it was just another thing I did which resulted in an outcome, money and learning. I remember from an early age though saying that if I didn't enjoy it, I would leave. Why stay in something that doesn't please you or reward you in any way? There are tricks we tell ourselves depending on our motivation for being there, but in the end the most important thing should always be "Are you learning or gaining something?", and "If it's only money that you are gaining, how bad do you need it? What are you saving money for? Are there other ways to get what you want?".
At this point I didn't know what I wanted to be. Had no idea. My Dad told me not to be a plumber (he was a plumber) and that I could be anything I wanted to be. I think that's a wonderful thing for a young person to be told, but it needs a follow-up. It needs an additional tool to clarify the "BE" part and to help a person whittle down the endless possibilities of "anything". You can be anything you want to be, But......
You can be anything you want to be, do anything you want to do, but _________________
The blank is the all important question. It's the "ohmygod" twist-reveal of a thrilling movie, the moment of realisation pulling together all the pieces of which you held individually, but didn't know what linked them together.
BUT, JUST MAKE SURE THAT YOU KNOW WHY YOU ARE DOING IT!
Are you a bank teller because you like helping people? or understanding finance? or do the benefits get your kids health care? or does the short commute mean you can go to soccer practice after work? or does it let you save your energy for a hike in the afternoon? or is it the coworkers who inspire you to help homeless people?
Whatever it is, identify that, and if it's something you're OK with, then keep at it. If it's something you are not OK with, then do not hesitate for a second to change it. Do something! Do What though? DO ANYTHING, just think about what you want more of in your life; time, social life, money, experience. Pick a desire and literally Do Anything, just know why you are doing it. Once that is no longer being satisfied, it's time to go back to the drawing board and check priorities.
You can be anything you want to be, you can do anything you want to do, but just make sure that you know why you are doing it.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2 and check out the newer chapters as they become available. This series catalogs my journey through employment and the things I learned in the process. I'm not a professional at anything really, I am just another dude, but I have been lucky to do some cool things and learn some valuable lessons and I want to start a necessary conversation about employment and motivation. This series is ongoing, but works to come to a conclusion about why making decisions based on goals and dreams is much better than ones based on comfort or impressions.