I always wanted to be a lawyer. The reason was simple: Matlock. He was rich, well-respected, and he did cool stuff.
I figured the quickest way to get paid, recognized, and do cool stuff, was to become a lawyer. My intention had nothing to do with the law or having any prospects of impacting legislation, or anything noble. I had simply determined that the quickest way from point A—the not rich me— to point B— the rich me— was becoming a lawyer.
I didn’t realize Matlock wasn’t an accurate depiction of a lawyer until I was well into college, studying philosophy, and holding every intention of going to law school to become a grandstanding, investigative, sleuthing, well-dressed, overcharging super-lawyer with nice shoes, and a dreamy front porch.
Never, in my pursuit of this career did I consider what the day-to-day work would be like. Never in my pursuit of this career did I consider how much time was involved in building and maintaining this career.
All I thought about was the end goal—how much money I would make and how much freedom I’d have.
Freedom has always, always been my ultimate goal. I’ve always had terrible attendance, starting from the fourth grade and continuing well into highschool. I absolutely detest following someone else’s scheduling requirements—waking up at a certain time, standing in line, sitting at a desk, completing the same assignments, same homework, basically moving through the day like cattle. Even through the night, cattle, because all anyone does after they get home is prepare for the next days’ herding.
I wanted more. I wanted to control my time.
So, while I was waiting to become the lawyer with all the freedom and all the money, I was biding my time with in-between jobs. I figured I’d get started on the becoming rich part as soon as I could. I was fifteen years old working at the Dunkin Donuts right up the street from my house.
The money was great, especially for a young teen. I was finally getting started on my path to rich and free and after I bought my first car and got my first cell phone, I realized I needed to make more money so I looked for the next opportunity.
This pattern continued throughout my entire work history. I either ended up wanting more money or more freedom… as I continued on my path to becoming a lawyer.
Restaurants, retail establishments, commission-driven sales jobs, social justice work, and service-based businesses all have the same thing in common, the one thing that makes working there uncomfortable for me— strict rules, requirements, and expectations.
You have to be there at a certain time, stay until a certain time. You’re only allotted so much time for breaks and lunch. Some places don’t even allow you to have snacks or drinks unless you’re on a break.
And worst of all, you have to consistently produce mediocre results. You have to consistently do the bare minimum. Which is honestly all you can do for 40+ hours per week. If you do more, you’re too tired, or too bitter from low pay, to give the bare minimum the next day.
If you do work like me— in bursts of energy and then not at all— you start to become the lazy employee. The problem employee. You’re seen as never producing consistent results and eventually viewed as unreliable, even if your work is good.
I’m the kind of person who gets bursts of energy and does amazing work and then loses focus, or motivation, or energy, and slacks off hardcore. I’m simply not cut out to continually meet a standard of average. And frankly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Why are we encouraged to constantly meet a standard of mediocrity?
If I am consistently producing mediocre or average results, it will become a habit for me to do so. I will get good at being average and mediocre.
Quantity over quality. Working as an insurance adjuster I was expected to complete a specific number of tasks. The quality of the tasks was not the driving factor, it was simply a requirement to complete a specific number of file reviews each day and outline a plan of action. There wasn’t any time allotted to implement or follow through on the action items though. I needed to go into a few files and note what could be done to move them toward closure, not close them, just write about the action steps that could close the file.
In this environment, I learned to become average. I learned to do the bare minimum so I could complete the maximum number of file reviews daily, which is what could be easily measured. The impact of a well-managed, and quickly-closed file was a lot harder to measure and sell than the consistency of monthly file reviews.
Companies need to have measured results to sell to prospective clients.
Mediocrity is the foundation for acquiring new business. Measurable consistency is much more appealing— to people and businesses— than sporadic, and seemingly unrepeatable, results, regardless of how good they are.
I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t commit my life to work—day in and day out—for someone else. I absolutely could not commit to being average, being herded through the day, waiting for my turn to pivot onto another rail, just to continue being herded and average.
So after working at Dunkin’ Donuts, Applebee’s, Bugaboo Creek, an auto service center, Chevy, Ford, Nissan, Mazda, Infiniti, Kia, and Volkswagen dealers, a couple of used car dealers, Abercrombie & Fitch, a local coffee house, Gatehouse Media, Victoria’s Secret, a credit card processing company, Green Peace, an insurance TPA, and a self-insured administrator, I realized average was the name of the game, everywhere. If I planned on being employed I would have to get used to average consistency.
Anytime someone mentioned their work anniversary— seven years, thirteen years, twenty-two years— I died a little inside.
Did they sit at this desk for twenty-two years?
Ask for raises for thirteen years?
Get up to an alarm clock five days a week for seven years?
Is this what it will feel like to be a lawyer?
I couldn’t do it. I could not live that life.
I never wanted to be a writer. I don’t think I was ever good at writing, I never had teachers specifically comment on, or call out, my writing. I didn’t particularly enjoy writing in school. As a potential career, it was never on my radar.
I started writing on a debate forum, through a parenting app. I was on maternity leave with my first daughter and would participate in these lengthy debates on religion, politics, parenting, and anything really.
They were addicting. These mothers, mothers-to-be, and mothers-in-waiting are smart. I had some of the best conversations and the most eye-opening realizations participating in that debate forum. I wanted to write out educated and thoughtful responses, so I would get educated, thoughtful responses on return.
This opened the door to writing as a career. I googled “how to make money writing” and found the perfect career path.
I discovered that writing was perfect for me, not because I like writing, or because I’m good at it, or because I believed I’d be super successful. It’s perfect for me because I can sleep in, work when I want, stay home with my kids, be in my pajamas all day, get a burst of energy and kick butt, and then be lazy and recharge.
I have more control over my time and my money. My raises aren’t dependent on my boss. If I don’t like what I’m being paid I go find new clients.
Despite what many people believe, your career does not define your life. You do not have to spend your childhood thinking of what you want to be when you grow up. You don’t have to answer when people ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” because what you want to be in your career will never matter as much as what you want to do with your life.
Choose your ideal life first. Choose your perfect day first. Choose happiness first, and then see what work might fit into that life.
How you spend your days is what will fill your memories. Choose wisely. If you want to spend your days at the beach, don’t dismiss that dream. If you want to spend your days in a research lab, don’t dismiss that dream either.
Just let yourself be honest about how you like to spend your time, like really, really honest.
I’m lazy. I’m an introvert. And I’m proud to have found a job that serves my comforts well. I hope you’ll do the same.