Week 5 – Why Do You Work?

Watch a summary of this week’s post on Youtube! I had a lot to say this week, so there are three parts:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Okay, okay, I know everyone needs money to live.  Not all people get money from a job, and everyone needs only enough money to cover…their needs.  Housing, transportation, food, medical care; whatever these things look like to you in their bare minimal form, are your needs.  Over, and above that, we have wants.  What we want from our life in most cases costs more money. Where money is not a concern because you have enough, there are other things that factor in to why you choose to work.

I have always felt that I was in a situation where I had to work to provide a financially stable life for my family; feelings had nothing to do with it.  I did whatever was presented to me because I was afraid of the consequences of not having money.  My husband and I did not have a lot of money when we first started out, and there were so many things that we needed that we could not pay for, but at the same time there were so many things that we wanted and we just could not keep up.  Throughout my entire career, my main motivator was $MONEY$!   Always, I felt unfulfilled, tired, and often used.  But, when I got a raise or a promotion, I did have a feeling of pride to be earning more and more.  With most increases and promotions; however, there came more responsibilities.  Responsibilities for things that I already did not enjoy doing.

Working should make a person feel good about themselves.  Doing a job should allow you to use skills that you enjoy using and excel at.  Working should provide a sense of pride, self-esteem, self-worth, and make a contribution of some kind to mark your spot in the Universe.  I have had all of these feelings to some degree in all of my jobs.  There was just something lacking.  There was not enough ‘essence of Evelyn’.  I have a need to infuse my spirit into this world and leave a huge mark across the planet that reeks of Evelyn!  I don’t care if you think it stinks or smells like the most wonderful flower in the world, or something right in the middle.  I just want people to remember that I was here.

I would like to leave that legacy to my family and the world.  But also, I would like to earn a profit from my work while I am here so that I can provide a life for myself, my husband and my children that will allow us to experience all we can from this amazing planet.  My work is my service.  My work should provide the world with something it would otherwise be lacking.  Earning money may be a different path.

What I have learned is that where ever you are in your life, you can change what you are doing to make the most of your life.  Working for money is a problem.  Working for fulfillment is wonderful.  Work for money and save it as much as you can so that you can put your money to work for you!  Then, work for fulfillment.

I didn’t make the decision to leave work all of a sudden.  It had been building.  And building and building.  A series of events, actions and decisions led up to the ultimate leap.  And even though all this thought and decision led up to it, it was indeed a leap.  One does not just jump, one must also close one’s eyes, hold one’s breath and believe.  Believe that whatever happens is better than what is.  My leap began a long time before…years before.

I always thought I was going to be a writer, or a journalist, or at the very least, a teacher.  I was also an artist.  In high school I took the art option which totally pained my mother.  Art, music, drama…what’s the difference?  The difference was that I could draw – really well.  My Dad was also very artistic.

I didn’t become a writer.  Instead, I applied to Engineering at the University of Calgary and was accepted, but I did not have the money to attend, so I opted for Secretarial school.  In my early 20s I found myself in love and pregnant.  During my pregnancy, I worked as a secretary at a computer software developer.  I hated it with every fiber of my body.  Through a company-sponsored program, I was able to take my certification as an AFLCA fitness instructor.  I began the course when I was 8 months pregnant and took my final exam when my son was 2 weeks old.  After our son was born, our families rushed to get us make our communion legal, which was completed in an intimate marriage ceremony with 250 people, most of whom I had never met.  Yes, everything was coming together exactly how I planned (insert sarcasm here).

Believe it or not, I was tested as a genius in high school and even attended special classes; however, my actions were not representative of a genius.  I was given a job as a Purchasing Clerk at the hospital with a promise that “if you screw up you will hand in your resignation.”  Fortunately, I was pretty good at it.

One great thing about working in an office environment was that I got to take in-house training and external courses.  I loved it!  Learning is like cocaine to a Brainiac.  I was in heaven.  I took courses at the University of Calgary in Purchasing and Supply Chain Management.  In-house, I took anything from Myers Briggs personality testing to medical terminology (I was working in a hospital after all).  I also taught fitness classes at lunch at the in-house gym.A couple years later, we had another baby, but it was ok because it was a granddaughter as I agreed to (?).  Returning to work, my career excelled and I got a promotion to a systems analyst.  I really enjoyed this job where I got to help implement a computerized materials management and accounts payable system and train all the staff.  I was definitely in my element.  I was, however, finding the pressures from my extended family to act a certain way and have a certain amount of money, very difficult to manage.  Soon my husband was offered an opportunity to move to Manitoba.  A fresh start?  Not sure, but we jumped in and I quit my job. 

We lived in Manitoba for two years and I loved it!  We lived in a small town and I worked as an Administrative Assistance for less than minimum wage at the Salvation Army Crisis Centre in a nearby town.  It was extremely fulfilling work that actually cost me to go to work.  We had so many close friends and fun activities. I joined Toastmasters, which I loved, and of course, taught fitness classes at several different facilities.  Charles hated his job, so much that I think he was depressed.  He finally left to work at the Future Shop, which was just a use-and-abuse job where they ran you ragged.  He lost 40 lbs. working there.  He had it and ended up being despondent and non-communicative. His parents called one night and begged us to come home; it didn’t take much to convince him, but I really did not want to go. This was the first place I felt like I really fit in.  I think this was the only time we came really close to breaking up.  We did end up selling everything we had, including my car, and moving back to Calgary to live with my in-laws.

A week after we returned, my grandmother passed away.  It was very difficult for me.  My old boss from the hospital got me a job with her husband’s company, an offset and digital printing company whose main client was Nortel Networks.  I started as a Quality Coordinator and took my certification in Quality Management and Lead Auditor training; however, I did not really like it.  I also taught courses in Purchasing because of my previous background; I really enjoyed teaching and excelled at it.  And yes, I was also teaching fitness classes.  At this job, I was asked to start up a lunchtime learning program and had a pretty decent budget.  Every second week, I brought in a motivational video and a free luncheon for all the staff.  This is where I started to learn about the great motivators – Earl Nightingale, Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and I’m just getting warmed up!  I was very inspired.





Soon I took the opportunity to request a move to a customer service role, as I was really not enjoying Quality Management – too many rules for me.  I was given the account to be the direct contact with Nortel, and I really liked it; however, my work hours started to extend and I could not keep up, especially with two small children, teaching my Purchasing courses, and instructing my fitness classes.  I asked for help several times and was finally told that I could use an assistant who was already over-committed to other people.  That summer I took 4 weeks off work to make up for the overtime I had put in and I got myself another job.  For a Nortel Supplier!  What?

This was a startup company that had purchased a portion of Nortel’s manufacturing of wireless receiver units.  It was a lot of fun driving around working out of my minivan to set up the new office for the warehouse, and then opening a brand-new company.  I really liked the GM who was a good-natured, funny and very caring person who just loved his job and people.  He used to walk around in his socks because his shoes hurt his feet and he drank a lot of coffee.  The office staff noticed that he never took time to eat lunch so I stocked the fridge with lots of things that I knew he liked to eat and periodically took a little tray into his office, which he greatly appreciated.  This great boss asked me to make a photo album of all the employees with their names and the group listed.  He used this to check names before he did his daily walkarounds.  He wanted to be able to call people by name and be able to talk to them on a personal level.  We received many great gifts from our vendors, but he did not keep any of these, he would give them out to staff as awards when he caught them ‘doing things right’.  Tickets to events, food trays, chocolates, even bottles of alcohol.  The staff absolutely loved him and would do anything for him.  Unfortunately, about 2 years later, he received a promotion which took him to Ontario.  He was replaced with the VP who was a little stricter and to the point. He was actually trained as a ‘rocket scientist’ and was not as good at personal relations.  When Nortel went out of business our company went through the process of being ‘shut down’.  We got a new GM who did not care about people at all. I had a coworker named Brenda who he consistently called Nancy.  She never said anything to him because she was scared to death of losing her job.  Finally, one day I had had enough.  The three of us were in a meeting and he kept calling her Nancy.  I stopped him and said “Why do you keep calling her Nancy, her name is Brenda!”  She got all embarrassed and said “That’s ok, I don’t mind.”  Our GM’s response was, “Whatever.  Nancy, Brenda, same thing.”  I was so angered.  He called her Nancy for the rest of the meeting.  I was really happy when this company folded and we were all handed our pink slips. My boss approached me and told me that I could stay as they really valued me, and if I wanted to stay they would find me something to do. I thanked him, but said I would like to try to find something on my own.  What had started out as a great place to work ended with a crash.

I decided to do something that was not so stressful, so I applied for Admin Assistant jobs and got one at a school for Olympic Athletes.  It was fun getting to know all these athletes, but the work was not very fulfilling, and it was a contract, which soon ended.  From there, I went to another school district in the purchasing department.  Two weeks after I started there I knew I hated it.  I would get up every morning and ask myself, “Should I go to work or kill myself?”.  Then I would go to work and about an hour later realize I made the wrong decision.  They actually had a sign posted with their values, one of which was ‘We tolerate others.’  Really?  So now I am being tolerated?  After lamenting to my friend, she suggested that I consider a course she had heard about called ‘Production Accounting’.  This was accounting for oil and gas well production.  I investigated and decided to sign up to take this certification.  I LOVED it.  I don’t know if I told you before, but Math and me, we’re like best buds.  I really dig it.  There was so much satisfaction when I handed in my resignation!

This was about the same time I ‘discovered’ Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad, and stumbled onto ‘The Secret’.  I started as an entry-level clerk in an enforcement group with the energy regulator.  We dealt with the extremely bad operators who had left a debt with the province and basically refused to follow the regulatory rules, and we also dealt with Mineral Lease expiries.  I was also able to teach fitness classes at the on-site gym during lunch hour, and I continued to teach classes in the evenings.  I really enjoyed this job and took two more certifications while there – Upstream Petroleum Completions, and Unconventional Oil and Gas, as well as about a million in-house leadership and other types of courses.  As well, I took my Business Analyst certification.  Eventually, I moved to the production accounting group to use my training.  I found that I had a gift for finding problems and patterns and was asked to lead a new team.  I was later promoted to a Manager position.  It was this point were my demise escalated.

I like to think I am a pretty smart girl.  Each time I took a job, I figured it out quickly, and then training was presented to me to increase my knowledge in the job.  I always took the training – whether I had to pay for it or not, I took the training.  Whether it was something I was interested in or not, I took the training.  Then I learned to set goals to get positions that I wanted that earned more money.  There was no other reason that I wanted those positions than to make more money, so I would set my intention to learn everything that I could of skills required for those positions and more often than not, I would be promoted.  Along the way, over the last 35 years or so, I have also tried to pursue my dreams of becoming a business owner and a writer; however, the commitments that I had made to my J-O-B requirements usually trumped these efforts.

Working just for money was not fulfilling.  To combat this, I spent massive amounts of money to fill the hole in my life. Writing and business courses galore that would just inspire me enough to feel deflated.  Hundreds of fitness workshops to learn more and more and more about health, fitness, and exercise.  Dance, kayaking, cycling, running workshops, rock climbing.  And at the very minimum two continuing education course per year to get a certificate or diploma related to my current job.  I have always felt deprived of getting a University Education because I did not think that I could afford it.  If I add up the thousands of dollars I spent on all these other courses, I could have probably got myself a Bachelors, Masters and possibly a Doctorate over that last 35 years and come out way ahead.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda.  Hindsight and all, blah, blah, blah.  But I didn’t.

I always thought working was a means to and ends, but…there have never been any satisfactory ends.  Sure, I made it all the way up to a Manger-level, making a six-figure salary, but I was miserable and unfulfilled.  It took quitting that job to make me realize why I really wanted to work in the first place.

During my tenure at the energy regulator, I was privileged to try out some experiences that truly changed me.  Charles and I partnered with someone he worked with to start up a small fruit stand called ‘The Cherry Pit’.  We operated out of a downtown market and at various festivals around the city.  Our niche was that we offered cleaned and prepared fruit in personal and larger sizes that people could snack on at the venue they were attending.  Our specialty was cherries, but we also had strawberries, grapes and trail mix.  As our clients were attending festivals, they wanted to eat the product right then, they did not want to have to take it home and wash it.  There were long hours and hard work involved, but it was worth it.  We met so many interesting people and made a lot of money.  After two seasons, the market was shut down.  We tried to continue by just going to festivals, but it was too much work and used all our weekends. The business ended.

We also took a course in investment real estate and bought our first investment condominium property.  I really enjoyed this as well; however, the market took a turn and we sold the condo and took our cash.

This little encounter with business really inspired something in me.  I was always dissatisfied with working for a company, but now, I had seen the alternative.

Now that I am not working, I have mixed feelings of needing money and wanting fulfillment.  I am trying to be cautious to not fall into the same old trap of taking a job out of fear.  This week, I started a job for exactly that reason.  In the month leading up to my first day, my mind had been going back and forth between why I should take this job and why I did not want to do this job.  The overlying factor was that we need money.  I had decided to do whatever I have to do to take care of that.  I thought this was my only option.

I went to the training for two days.  The trainer was very impressed with me and I must say she was quite amazing at her job.  In the back of my mind a nagging thought pressed on my anxiety, telling me I was giving up all my writing time for very little money and a lot of hard work (this was an outside physical job).  I was becoming resentful and crabby at home; my stress was resulting in headaches and chest pain.

Day three I woke up at 6 am.  I lay there thinking that when training was complete, I would have to get up at 4 am each day, and I did not know how I was going to do it.  I stomped around the kitchen getting ready and mumbling under my breath.  Finally, I told my husband that I was very angry at myself for not being better prepared in my life and that I really did not want to do this job.  I drove to the training, angry, anxiety building in my chest, head pounding.  When I got there, I went to the Human Resources office and spoke with the hiring agent.  I asked her to bring in my trainer and I told them both that this job was not for me and I could not continue.  After a brief but very open discussion, they thanked me for being so honest.  The hiring agent told me that more people should have this type of integrity for themselves.  This made me feel wonderful and that I had made the right decision.

I am now still looking for work that will use my existing skills and allow me to continue to pursue my goals.  I have picked up more fitness classes to teach.  I have set an intention that I will take on all casual fitness classes that I can fit into my schedule without impacting my writing, and if I have not secured a job that pays enough to cover our needs in the next three weeks, I will then pick up permanent fitness classes to get this cash flow.

I know that we are in a downturn.  I know there are not a lot of jobs and there are thousands of people applying for these jobs.  I also know that I can teach enough fitness classes to cover my bills and we can reduce our costs a little more if required.  I want to work to feel fulfilled, not just for money.  I want to be true to who I am and my goals.  I am seeking out ways to earn money from my writing as well, so that I can continue to do what I love.

Luckily for me, (and I think this goes for just about everyone), the jobs and training I have done over the years, all led to providing me the skills, life lessons and perspective that will help me achieve my life-long goals.  This was the path that I was meant to follow, otherwise, it would be a different Evelyn writing this right now.


Questions and Exercises:

  • Why are you working? What need is it fulfilling for you right now?
  • What are the pros and cons of your job – write them out?
  • What would you like to do if money and skills were no object and you could do whatever you wanted to do? How can you get there – what would it take?
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