Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Michael Jordan of Creating Lesson Plans

It is 2015. I will be 35 this year. I will no longer be in the coveted 18-34 year old white male demographic. I will also probably never be in the NBA. I have come to terms with that. Mostly.

I've learned long ago (like all adults should) that the fantasy dream jobs of my youth will never happen. I won't play a sport professionally. I won't be an exotic animal veterinarian. And like a healthy adult should be, I'm okay with that. There's much more to life than fame and riches. You are more than what you do for a living.

You are not your job.

It is important to enjoy what you do, and I do, but even more so, it's important to do your job well, and every now and then, I do that, too. And it feels good.

We are all told at a young age to take pride in our work and that we will feel good about ourselves when we work hard, but most of us write that off as a statement parents and teachers use to get us to finish our homework or complete our chores. We know we will feel a sense of achievement if we work hard, but we focus on all the work to be done rather than the feeling we will get from doing it. Exercise is the clearest example. Obviously it's good for us and we'll feel good afterwards, but damn it's hard to get off that couch and stop watching Michael Keaton movies.

Working hard and doing a task or a job well feels good no matter what the job is. Whether it's glamorous, like Sexy Pretend Chief of Surgery, or literally shitty, like Ordinary Real Life Hospital Custodian mopping up influenza vomit and fever diarrhea, successful completion of a task rewards the human brain the same way. The unfortunate reality is that many people don't allow themselves to feel that pleasure, in particular when the job isn't glamorous. It's not expected for a lowly cafeteria line cook to feel good about himself after cooking the best grilled cheese on the entire campus at UConn, but I did, because a job well done is a job well done, and a perfect grilled cheese is the finest delicacy known to the modern world. Ask 2004 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Emeka Okafor, he knew the deal.

I'm fortunate enough to have two jobs I really like, and lately I've felt like I (and my coworkers) have been killin it. It's important to recognize when you do a good job and appreciate yourself for doing it; again, no matter what the job. There's nothing wrong with pounding your own chest after finishing your TPS reports like Russell Westbrook after finishing a good dunk.

And those TPS report have to be done by someone. Not everyone has what it takes to be a pro athlete or veterinarian. Too many adults keep dreaming about their fantasy job; that would be fine in and of itself, the problem is they forget to enjoy and master whatever they are currently doing. The job itself may not be enjoyable, but you can enjoy doing it well.

You can and should actively look for a job you love, but you should aim to be the Michael Jordan of gas station attendants or custodians or office clerks until you have the opportunity to become a Hall of Famer at the job you want. As I know all too well, you have to start out killing cockroaches and stocking shelves at a local market before you can design your own lesson plans for your college students, so you might as well kill the most cockroaches possible. That's good advice in general, actually, cockroaches suck.

The point is, if you have a shitty job, you're going to be miserable while you're doing it regardless, so do it well and you'll at least feel good about yourself afterwards. Even if you never get that dream job, you can (and should) still be happy as the Reigning Champion of Exterminators or Whatever, and that's not a bad title at all.

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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