You are not your job!
This is what Tyler Durden proclaims in David Fincher’s 1999 cult movie Fight Club. And since then, generations of angry, frustrated, exhausted workers felt like Tyler is finally someone who gets it. “Of course I am not my job! My job is boring, but I am not! My job is dull, but I am not! There is more to me than sitting in a cubicle, attending meetings and taking orders from superiors! Sure, I do it 40 hours per week, but the real me is who comes out outside of work! I am my hobbies, I am my passions, I am what I love to do. But I am not my job.” This raises a question though: why are job and passion not the same?
You are not your job
The real problem that Tyler Durden has with jobs is not the jobs itself. We all need to do something to feel purposeful, and we all need an income to survive. The reason why Tyler says that you are not your job is that for many people their job does not make them feel purposeful and they do not need income to survive, but to boost their egos and numb themselves with consumerism.
It has become common to dread Mondays and look forward to Fridays. It is normal to complain about getting up early or working late. Most people can’t wait to go home from their jobs so that they can finally do what they love. This is what Tyler addresses and that sadly so many people nowadays can relate to. They feel trapped in a hamster wheel-job but, even worse, feel like they can’t break out of it, because then they would turn against society’s standard of a good life: consumerism and status. It is omnipresent and it makes people miserable.
It was right on everyone’s face. Tyler and I just made it visible. It was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Tyler and I just gave it a name. – Fight Club
How people end up in the ‘you are not your job’ -trap!
The problem is not the jobs itself, but that people do jobs they don’t identify with. And who could blame them? It is so easy to end up doing something you don’t like. You get out of college, you are 25, and you still have no idea what you want to do with your life. So you take the first job you can get – you know, just to pay the bills until you figure out what you really want to do. You have no real passion for the product you sell or the service you provide, but hey, at least you got a decent salary, your parents are happy and you can afford a nice little apartment with a shiny IKEA kitchen. Plus, you get 25 vacation days and free weekends. Your work-life balance is pretty good, so who are you to complain? Still plenty of time to enjoy life outside of work.
So you drag your ass to work every morning and after a while even get promoted. Your partner convinces you to use the salary bump wisely and get a mortgage for a house, plus a car as well. Both house and car are bigger than what you actually need, but ey, at least it impresses the neighbours.
A little later a baby is on its way, then a second.
And one day you wake up, you are in your mid-thirties, and while you endure the morning commute, you ask yourself why you even bother going to work today. Sure, you do it to pay the mortgage on your house; you do it to pay off the leased car; you do it to pay for the vacation you have planned; you do it for your kids; you do it for your wife. But besides that, you really can’t come up with any deeper purpose of your job. “But that’s ok”, you you tell yourself as you pull into the parking lot outside of work, already dreading the day ahead of you. “What was it Tyler Durden used to say? You are not your job.”
You are not your job. But you should be!
To avoid becoming the person I just described there are three things you need to do.
Only passionate people manage to avoid getting pushed into a profession. You need to have something in your life that you love, something you are truly passionate about. You need to have the feeling of purpose and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. If you haven’t found what you love yet, don’t give up.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle. – Steve Jobs
Monetise your passion
So many people end up in jobs they hate because they don’t know how to make money. They have a hobby, something they genuinely enjoy doing and are good at, but they don’t know how they can turn that into their profession. Instead, they turn to employers, because they take care of making money for them. A steady income is guaranteed and in exchange you don’t work on something you are passionate about, but something your employer is passionate about.
To have a job you love it is essential to know how to live off of what you love. Educate yourself. Learn from books, read tutorials, find mentors. There are endless resources that can teach you how to make money doing what you love. Note how suddenly your income then isn’t a tool to define and numb yourself anymore, but merely a by-product of following your passion. If you are your passion and you get paid for doing what you love, then ‘you are not your job’ isn’t true anymore. Your job is exactly what you are, you are finally congruent with what you do. And it feels great.
The average person has a pretty good work-life balance. Working 9 till 5, with free weekends and holidays. But the average person also isn’t fulfilled by their job. If you want a job you love, you won’t be like the average person, one way or the other. You will work long hours. You will work weekends. You will cut out holidays. In short, you will become your job. If that sounds miserable to you, then you are simply not the right person for it. That’s ok. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a more balanced life and working a job you (hopefully) like to a certain degree, but don’t love. You are not your job, and that’s that. But if you want to love your job, if you want to be your job, then you need to be relentless. You have to be all about the job, 24/7.
It will be a lot easier than it sounds. After all, if you love your job, what could possibly be better than doing what you love, all day, every day?