18: Separating Work and Life Is a Lie

Happy Monday!

I’m traveling for work this week at a conference and wasn’t sure what time I was going to be able to sneak away and publish this newsletter. I apologize for getting it out later than usual (but still happy I could get it out)!

Nothing big last week in writing land to update on. Got a few things I’m looking to publish this week and am pretty excited about that.

Also, always looking for book recommendations. Feel free to reply to this email with any you got.

Onto the newsletter!

It’s 6:30 AM and I’m driving down Interstate 85 in my quaint, white Volkswagen Jetta on my morning commute to work.

I had left 15-minutes early because it’s Tuesday and on Tuesdays I have an early morning meeting with a China-based customer that hates tardiness. It kind of sucks but I’m also grateful because a 7 AM meeting on the US east coast is a 7 PM meeting in China. (They lost the coin flip on that one, and no, I’m not kidding. We actually flipped a coin for it.)

As I’m cruising in the fast lane, I reach the crest of a hill where I catch my first glimpse at the metric buttload of traffic ahead of me. Some don’t know this, but the US does in fact measure traffic in Metric buttloads.

Thankfully, I had just passed the only exit that I could’ve taken to circumvent the traffic and still make it to work on time. Go figure, the one morning I decided NOT to use Google Maps there’s a totally avoidable 30-minute slowdown on the interstate. But whatever. Life happens.

I eventually reach the office, I’m 15 minutes late for the meeting, and I’m 30 minutes past due for a hefty cup of coffee. I figure I’m already late, what’s another 30 seconds to grab some coffee and be a little less miserable.

I’m fortunate enough to reach the coffee pot just in time to exchange pleasantries with my coworker George who, in a similar fashion to my missed traffic exit, has just drained the last of the pot without starting another.

It’s days like today when my stoicism gets put to the test. But I’m no slouch and Marcus Aurelius would be proud. Stoically, I shrug off yet another blunder and slip into the meeting room where inside, I find my team leader and project members goofing around with the phone on mute.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“We didn’t want to start without you, so we’ve been waiting.”

At that moment, supported by the events that had taken place over the last hour, I realized that my job, my co-workers, and my commute sucked, and there was nothing that could happen the rest of the day to change my mind.

Tell me. Do you think my productivity that day wasn’t negatively impacted? And do you think I went home and didn’t question if I wanted to go back the next day, or at the very least, question whether or not I should start looking for another job?

Of course I did. I’m human. I’ve been human for almost 33 years. In the 10 or so years that I’ve been in the workforce, I’ve found it virtually impossible to completely separate work and life. When I have a bad day at work, I generally have a pretty bad day and vice versa.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My “bad” days are better than most. My stoic nature keeps me smiling and generally a happy human being. But I’d be lying if I said work didn’t affect my overall happiness. It has to. It’s a MAJOR part of my life.

That begs the bigger question of whether the true separation of work and life is possible. My thoughts? A big hell no.

Last week, I published a newsletter about the people in Ogimi, a small Japanese village in Okinawa where community is one of the four pillars of longevity. They live by the Okinawan principle of ichariba chode, an expression that means “treat everyone like a brother, even if you’ve never met them before.”

I’m sorry, but I had already met all of those people in that conference room, and it’s extremely hard to treat people who don’t care about their jobs or performance as brothers. It’s hard to feel like you’re part of a “community” when 80% of its members don’t pull their own weight.

Sadly, that’s the state of corporate America. We go to work with some people we like but also some that we dislike. Many days we’re disappointed because of the nature of our jobs and who we work with. That disappointment cascades into our home lives. People who are miserable at work are generally miserable at home. People who are happy at work are generally happier at home.

I’m thankful that I’m no longer with the company from that story. I’ve since found a better community of people at a different workplace who mostly respect one another. Not coincidentally, I’m happier at home. I sleep better. I have more energy. I feel more ALIVE.

Total separation of work and life is a lie. If you want to be happy in life, you should seek out fulfilling work with people that don’t suck. At least that’s been my experience.

Have a great week.