Looking Back at My Career; What I Would Tell My 21 Year-Old Self? Some Office Humor

Time Travel

I am early retiring in two months or so.  Stress “early.” As I prepare for this, I started to contemplate my “career.”  In doing so I started to wonder what lessons I have learned.  If I had Doc’s Delorean, what might I go back and tell my 21 year-old self about what I have come to grips with.  The following is my suggested list:

Question all corporate communications you receive.  When they say they are improving something, it is usually to the company’s advantage, not yours. Often times they hide their true intent in the last two paragraph.  Be suspicious and read between the lines.

  • Don’t work a single hour of overtime.  It doesn’t help your career.  A case can be made that it works against you if you refuse to do it – but screw that.  Companies you will work for will not reward you one time for putting in those extra hours.  No one gets promoted for working long hours. They don’t increase your annual raise because you worked longer than your peers.
  • Rebranding or renaming something is not the same as fixing something. People will try and blur these things together.  Don’t fall for that crap.
  • No one cares that you are bestselling author or have won many national writing awards. They ALL believe they can write better than you.  Some will have the ball-sack to tell you that. Smile at their ignorance rather than point it out.
  • Never sweat over budgets.  No one you know will ever be fired or even reprimanded for breaking their budget.
  • You cannot fix a manager that is an asshat.  Don’t waste your effort.  Likewise you cannot easily replace one that is a brilliant genius.
  • Any time a leader tells you, “This is not about a destination, it’s about the journey,” they are lying.  A journey without a destination is just aimless wandering.  None of the “journeys” you are forced upon is worth undertaking.  Remember playing Oregon Trail as a kid?  Yeah, that was a journey too.
  • Your trust will be betrayed many times and sometimes with evil intent.  Believe in your gut instincts about people. Ninety-five percent of the time, your gut is right.
  • Company sponsored competition is always designed to make you work harder, longer, or faster.  The reward is never worth the effort.  Don’t get caught up in the moment.
  • You will spend part of your career being reactive. It is far better to be proactive.  Learn the difference and put your effort into proactive activities.
  • Performance management systems generally don’t measure performance. Feel free to not sign any performance review you don’t agree with.  They can’t make you do it…and that will frustrate them to no end.
  • Job titles and rank have nothing to do with brains or common sense.
  • Always pack an emergency backup pair of underwear and socks for every business trip. You will thank me for this.
  • The sooner you learn what shit to put up with and what shit to ignore, the better your life will be.
  • You will be promoted inconsistently, bizarrely, and rarely.  You will learn that promotion is based on whose coattails you choose to ride rather than competency.
  • You will see a multitude of morons promoted and advanced over you.  Don’t worry.  Most of them are exposed for the frauds that they really are.  Be patient.
  • When you speak out against unethical or possibly illegal activities, don’t be naïve…there will be forms of retribution.  At one point, it will cost you your job – at another it will nearly cost you your sanity. Speak out anyway…because it is the right thing to do.
  • Focus on the big things that earn you the most money or have the most impact on your life. Screw the little shit.
  • The majority of the teams you will work on will let you down, leaving you to do a lot of grunt work. Apparently there are people who work very hard in their careers at not working.
  • Surround yourself with funny people. Most of the humorous people tend to be the smarter ones – so it is a win-win.
  • You will be called upon to lay people off many times. You will hate it.  You will save some people’s careers along the way and at least if you are involved, most of the painful discussions are being handled professionally.  It is small solace.
  • The people assigned to “Special projects” aren’t there because they are geniuses, they are there because of their abysmal failures.
  • People will do things that directly impact your career (without even talking to you) then have the balls to tell you that “You own your own career.”  Don’t try and point out the irony, they won’t listen and don’t care.
  • Your creativity will be constantly suppressed by people who hide behind policies, processes, and their own petty insecurities.
  • The airlines are always lying to you about the delays and re-bookings. ALWAYS.
  • When you point out problems, they often get assigned to you.  It sucks, but be prepared for it.
  • No one hired in from J P Morgan will ever dazzle you.  In fact, quite the opposite.
  • CIO’s come and go…usually every 4-5 years.  Mix up a stiff drink and sit back and watch their inevitable, often spectacular downfalls.
  • Not one bit of mandatory learning you will be forced to endure will change any aspect of your professional career.  Also, no person has ever been fired for not taking mandatory learning…so the threats are meaningless.
  • Avoid travel to Newark NJ between 1997-Present Day.  You will spend more time waiting for planes that will never take off/land or being forced to rent cars to drive home than you will spend in the meetings you went there for.  Don’t’ even get me started on the smell of that airport.
  • Never volunteer to take part in any technology pilot.  They will mess up your ability to work – for weeks.  Just say no. In fact, just don’t volunteer. I am hard-pressed to remember raising my hand for additional work where it didn’t bite me in the ass.
  • Some people you meet love fighting fires so much they are willing to set them.
  • People are not promoted to the level of their own incompetence.  Hell, incompetence is in abundance.  They are promoted to the level where they can inflict the most damage on the organization and its people.  I call this “The Pardoe Principle.”
  • Do not let someone else’s stupidity drive your actions or decisions.
  • People are laid off inconsistently, randomly, and far too often. Maintain connections to your friends, regardless of where they end up.
  • Keep your solutions simple . Almost every crisis you will face in your career can be solved with something simple.  Simple doesn’t mean easy.
  • If everyone around you is panicking, don’t join them.
  • You will encounter people that will take credit for your work.  Treat it as the utter and inevitable betrayal that it is. Feel free to confront the bastard/bitch that does it.  It won’t change anything but watching them squirm for a moment is the best you can hope for. None will ever own up to their crime.
  • Not a single performance management system you will work with will actually improve your career options. Knowing that, give them all of the attention they deserve.  It is, at best, a compliance exercise.
  • No matter how much they cut the budget, senior leaders will always have money to travel around the globe and criticize us for our spending habits. Oddly enough, some in your career will do both at the same time.
  • Don’t let some butt-munch tell you that humor has no place at work.  Humor eases pain, and work generates more mental anguish and agony than anything else in life.
  • People are listening to what you say, even when you wish they wouldn’t.
  • When you know someone is breaking the rules, tell them, then document the hell out of what she does.
  • Every promise you get for future promotion is a blatant lie…period. Getting it in writing will mean nothing.
  • No survey you are required to take at work will ever change anything.  When leaders get the results, they will find ways to question the validity of the data rather than rolling up their sleeves and actually making changes.
  • You will be the only person in your entire career that will show up for a meeting on-time.  Just cope with it.
  • Trust no one in a technology organization who cannot use technology.
  • Fear of litigation drives more decisions and costs more money than actual litigation.
  • The pay gap between the sexes is not as important as the gap between what morons are paid and what geniuses are.  That’s a REAL problem area. Morons make a lot more money.
  • You don’t have to make excuses for doing the right thing.
  • You will not realize the good years until you are in the bad years so make the most of whatever you are doing now.
  • Our competition is as screwed up as us, if not more.
  • Only attend company-sponsored events after work that you want to attend.  If you are going because you feel you have to be there; don’t go.
  • Meaningful change has to happen at the top level of the organization first and foremost.  Far too often you will be told you have to change, but in reality, the problem is way above you.
  • No matter what, you will survive and somehow end up better off.  It never seems like it at the time, but you do.

One thought on “Looking Back at My Career; What I Would Tell My 21 Year-Old Self? Some Office Humor

  1. Paul

    I like some statements but others I totally disagree.

    Every game is won by the best players.

    Just because you are not a good player or don’t like the rules of the game, you cannot say that the game is not fair or is not won by best players than you.

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