There’s a pal of mine named Colin. I first met Colin when I was around 19 years old. I was a landscape gardener then just drifting aimlessly through my life. Colin, on the other hand, had been introduced to the world of the corporate executive. From that point forward Colin changed. He was focused on money. He would talk about money. He would tell me how much money he was making, was going to make and how secure his future was. In fact, Colin would happily talk about his career day in, day out, 24/7.
He has so much cash by the time he as 23 years old he went out and paid for almost everything cash. His car was a flashy Mercedes… a company car at that. His cell phone was the very best… all paid for. He would get bonuses, commissions, back-handers, holidays paid for. Colin was living the life of a true executive with a gold watch and wealth dripping from him to prove it. Colin loved his life, he loved his career.
I have to say from a distance as two young men he was getting pretty well looked after by his boss, they seemed to love him. I remember having one of my first real conversations about retiring around then.
Yep at 25 years old Colin would talk about retiring! He would ask me about my pension (which I didn’t have) and then tell me about his incredible pension that would allow him to live like a king anywhere in the world while his money gained interest in his bank!
Looking back its funny how a career becomes a little like religious faith to lots of people. Faith means this: it’s the assured expectation of something not yet happened” So Colin like a religious zealot has this assured expectation from his corporate career that nothing would or could go wrong.
Colin got fired! At this same time I had become a hairdresser. I used to cut Colin’s hair. He came into the salon looking very down. In fact he walked; his car had gone back to the company. He told me right out… “Hi Alan, I got fired” Well you can imagine after years of listening to Colin and his incredible his messianic bosses were I was totally in a sympathetic shock with Colin. I asked him what went wrong. He said … “they simply didn’t need me anymore” so the got rid of him.
Yes, Colin was discarded like an old out-of-date office Xerox machine. They took back his car, his phone and his home office. After nearly 15 years dedicated to his company they did what most companies do… USE, ABUSE and DROP when finished! Does that sound familiar? Can you relate to that? Do you know someone that has been through that? It’s interesting when you look at the word CAREER. Webster’s dictionary uses this word to describe it …carrière … it also uses other words from other languages. It relates to the words; car, roads and full speed. Now tell me if I am wrong but when you put a car on a road at full speed at some point what happens? CRASH!
You see the truth is big business didn’t care about Colin. It doesn’t care about anyone. As far as big corporations go most of us are simply a tiny part of a huge machine that will probably have to be replaced at some point due to wear, tear and burnout. That could be you? Here’s a word that came to mind. VENEER.
It has no relation the word career however it does at the same time. You see careers are like a veneer. I remember buying a large piece of furniture and cracking it carrying it into my new house. When it cracked the surface revealed chipboard underneath. Hang on I thought … wasn’t this an OAK table? Technically they were allowed to name it Oak because it had an very thin Oak veneer on it. But when you peel back the veneer you an see the real cheap worthless stuff underneath. Career is a bit like that… peel back the surface and you will find cheap stuff underneath. It’ll soon lose its value. It’ll drop you the second it crashes at high speed. Just like the masses of now unemployed EX-executives.
Isn’t it interesting how the word executive originates from the word EXECUTE! That’s exactly what has happened to these guys, will happen again and will keep on happening to young men and women as they line up to dedicate themselves to a career. There is one question I would like to ask you? Let’s go back to Colin. He dedicated his life to his career. He gave them everything from 7 days a week to travelling to foreign lands at a moments notice. He talked about them like an evangelist full to the brim with faith and belief. Eventually, they destroyed his life. Colin killed himself.
There must be a lesson in that for you, me, and everyone. Something things in life are not what they appear to be. Sometimes they are simply veneers with something more underneath. Wouldn’t it be wiser to dedicate your life to the building of YOU the man or woman rather than some robotic entity that doesn’t care? Here is what I know. Your life is what you create. It’s what you make it. You have the same 24 hours as any other man. Colin had choices. We have choices. You have choices.
Alan Forrest Smith