Why despicable jobs can be better than tolerable ones

What traps people in jobs they are discontented with?

It comes down to an important question – whether they find their jobs merely undesirable or downright despicable. The people who successfully switch careers despise their earlier jobs enough to find a promising alternative.

Sometimes, this shift might be abrupt. Robert Kurson graduated from Harvard law school to secure a job that paid him over $200,000. At 25, he was living most people’s dreams, but he was miserable. He dreaded every minute at work. At night, he woke up several times in a cold sweat. One day, he quit and took up a data-entry job for $23,000. This job led to a career in journalism and eventually to full-time writing. Today, he is a best-selling author.

Of course, anyone who takes this path endures a period of struggle in the interim. But that struggle induces a sense of desperation that can bring out the best in them. The caveat here is that not all these stories end very well. Kurson is one of the lucky ones.

And then there are those who dislike their jobs, but are able to tolerate it day after day. These days turn into months and years. Along the way, their job starts transforming them. They get used to a certain lifestyle and professional standing, where the cost of switching to an alternative becomes too high. They then resign themselves to careers filled with discontentment.

Is there a way out of this trap?

Paradoxically, a despicable job can be less harmful than a tolerable job in the long run. The biggest reason is the urgency it brings to the status-quo. People stuck in tolerable jobs would do well to borrow that sense of urgency.

A great means for doing this is by observing people in your job who are years ahead of you in your profession. Observe the kind of people they are and see if you can find mentors and role-models among them. Ask yourself if that is where you see yourself , 4 years from now.

If you don’t, it’s time to change course. Right now.

Inspiration: Robert Kurson’s long-form interview with James Altucher

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