I was talking with a recruiter last night about career development and he told me something interesting: Every time he has an amazing breakthrough, crushes a presentation, or excels in any other way which otherwise makes him love his job, he writes it down on a scrap of paper and places it in a jar in his office. At the same time, whenever he is grinding through a spreadsheet at 2am, making the 1,000th revision to the same slide deck, or otherwise doing something that makes him want to run into oncoming traffic, he also writes it down on a piece of paper and places it in a different jar. He tells me that whenever he goes back and looks in the jars, that the number of pieces of paper in the happy jar far outweighs the other one. And, he concluded, if that ever changes, then he’ll quit.
The point is this: in all phases of life, you need to have perspective. There are going to be huge highs where you think everything is set and life can’t get better. And there are moments where you are pretty sure no one has it worse in life than you. Well, if you thought either one of the above two sentences applies to you, you are wrong. Life is never going to be perfect but it should never totally suck either. You need to step back, take everything in, and figure out if you’re happy. And if you’re not, then don’t complain. Complainers are terrible. If you don’t like your life, then figure out why and change it. It’s as simple as that. But why should I care that you’re unhappy if you don’t intend to do something about it?
Right now, I’m happy. I can truly say that I’m happier now then at almost any point in my life. Yet, in business school, on any given day, I will have a trillion setbacks. And it will suck. But why should I complain or be in a crummy mood? At the end of the day I can look at my life, know how lucky I am and feel truly blessed.
For me it’s like two steps up, one step back. Make a good comment in class, get a nice thank you note from a recruiter, bomb a networking call. Do good on one test, do good on another, look like an idiot on the last one. Get invited to two company events, get left out of another. Sometimes I think I am literally the master of MBAs one day, a real “hitter” (for you wall streeters), and the next day I wonder if I can get a job tending bar or if I’m not the right “fit” for that either.
But at the end of the day, I can always look in my two jars and know that I am happy. What do your two jars look like?
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