Monday, June 8, 2015

Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

Get a haircut and get a real job
Clean your act up and don't be a slob
Get it together like your big brother bob
Why don't you get a haircut and get a real job
George Thorogood

The first time I heard this song back in the early nineties, I almost couldn’t stop laughing. Boy, did it hit the nail on my head. The song and the expression, “real job” both became a part of my life. You see, I made the great compromise. A liberal arts degree landed me in a series of factory jobs that I didn’t like and didn’t offer very good pay. While it is sometimes necessary to work at whatever is available in order to take care of yourself and your household, no sane person wants to work at a job they don’t enjoy for lousy money. Working for low pay in your God given calling, I understand. Working at a job you can’t stand that pays an obscene amount of money for a few years that I understand. Not even all medical doctors love their jobs.

But, if you hate your job and it doesn’t pay spit, plan your escape!

I decided that working in a research laboratory as a mechanical engineer rather than as a floor supervisor in a factory might result in a more acceptable job that paid a salary that would support a lifestyle that my wife and I would find acceptable. I went back to school and earned my BSME.

I made the great compromise with life. I got a haircut and I got a real job.

Writing was my passion, but nobody seemed interested in paying me to write. I was raised to function as a cog in a great corporate or governmental bureaucratic machine. I knew how to go to school, get my ticket punched, do the job search thing; then find and keep a job in an existing organization. I did what I knew how to do to obtain a reasonably satisfying, meaningful career that paid enough to cover our needs and some wants.

Now, sometimes I use the expression “real job” in conversations. I try to use it intentionally in order to get people to stop and think about one of two life questions depending on context.

The first application usually appears in conversations with artists or others who are pursuing their dreams, but are having problems with the business of art. To these people I sometimes point out that it is a lot easier to live your dream if someone in the family has a “real job.” Understand this has nothing to do with how hard you work or the nature of your passion.

I know a man who has a wife who owned and operated a bed and breakfast. He willingly admitted that she worked more hours than he did in his steady nine to five job. He also believed that she worked much harder than he worked, but her business would not have survived if she didn’t have access to a family checkbook filled with money that came from his biweekly paycheck. For whatever reason, cash flow problems would have landed her in bankruptcy court if someone did not have a real job. Because someone had a real job, she was able to sell her business for a large sum of money that helped provide them with a very comfortable retirement.

I know a man who was once an engineer. He quit his job to become an artist. He has truly mastered his craft. I find the quality of his work absolutely amazing, but I don’t believe he could have reached such a high level if he didn’t have a wife with a BSRN who had a real job in a hospital that paid the bills and provided the family with health insurance.

I also use this expression when I believe I am talking to someone, like me, who is standing in a pair of uncomfortable shoes. Life seldom seems to work out as expected. If you find the difference between your expectations and the reality of your job situation unacceptable, take account of your options and do something to try and improve your situation. Complaining and waiting for something to change is unlikely to bring you any closer to happiness.

If you find your work meaningful and fulfilling; if you and your spouse are earning enough to meet your family’s needs and at least a reasonable number of their wants; then you have a real job.

I really admire people who have the courage and determination to live their dreams. It takes talent and a lot of hard work to walk the path less traveled. George Thorogood made it happen:

I hit the big time with my rock 'n' roll band
The future's brighter now than I'd ever planned
I'm ten times richer than my big brother bob
And he, he's got a haircut he's got a real job

If you haven’t heard the song, check it out. If I keep writing, maybe some day someone will pay me to sing my songs, but until then you get to listen for free.

Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

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