Walking Out On Walking Out

A commentary on work and fun.

You’ve probably read this article, in which Jordan talks about his experience working and leaving Apple. Jordan is a very talented designer, and though I can empathize with his sentiment, I fear that his perspective is a representation of our generation writ large.

As a whole, we have a very jaded perspective on work. We hear conference talks, and read articles about finding the work you love. I think we should enjoy our work; we should pursue our passions; and we should have a job that we’re excited to wake up for, but work is work, and a job is a job. Too many of these talks, articles, and presentations crown “fun” as the ultimate goal.

We’ve replaced diligence, perseverance, and conflict-resolution, with discontent, arrogance, and entitlement. Work is hard, and hard work is even harder. Jobs can and should be fun, but if we chase fun at all costs, it reveals our misguided interpretation of what work really is.

I think it’s very telling to compare our parents’ or grandparents’ work lives with our own. Their generation plugged into jobs for decades, we’re lucky if we stay at a job for more than a few years. Suddenly, if we have a difficult boss, or if work ceases to be fun, we feel entitled to something better, because after all life is too short to not have fun. Right?

So we should stay in dead-end jobs with people we hate and never progress to anything else? Is that what you’re saying Jason? Of course not. But we must be careful not to confuse wisdom with entitlement. We must guard against our societal knee-jerk reaction to run away when things become tough, instead of looking the challenge in the eye and determining how we can press through.

I don’t know Jordan, and don’t pretend to know his perspective on all of this. In fact, I’d probably bet that Jordan agrees with, and lives out a lot of what I’m saying. But as someone who leads and hires people regularly, the sentiment comes off as unprofessional, immature, and ungrateful. If we care anything about our generation and the generations to follow, we need to set an example of diligence, loyalty, and humility.

It’s hard to do, but that’s the point. Fun should be infused into work, but in the end work is still hard. We deal with humans, who are difficult to get along with, even on our best days. Work can be fun, but it can’t always be—that would just be play. It comes down to unrealistic expectations—the more we ground our expectations in reality, the less surprised we’ll be when things are tough, and the more grateful we’ll be when things are fun.

We learn the most, grow the most, and reveal the most during the difficult times. Let’s not be quick then to avoid tough times at all costs.