race track, marathon, runners, sprinters, race

The race to finish with more toys

February last year, I published a post on LinkedIn called “Managing Career Frustrations” (if you haven’t yet read it, go check it out here!) and it was inspired by my recent tuning in to these two podcast series: Manager Tools and Career Tools. 

(You should go listen to those, too. They’re great!)

It was also inspired by an opportunity I had to take stock of where my career was going and considering the changes that a number of my friends are also experiencing now in their careers.

Now more than a year later, I’ve been thinking on this again and you know something? Having a career is hard!

It’s easy, or at least easier, to just have a job. A job is simple:

  1. You go and do it for as many hours as you want (or someone else wants you to).
  2. You get paid.
  3. Wash, rinse, repeat.

When it comes to a job, you A) may or may not be that passionate about it and B) it may simply be a means to an end.

And there is nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, a job and you don’t necessarily get mixed up.

However, if you want to invest in this job, this is where it gets sticky. Investment means putting in a different type of effort: emotional. It becomes part of your identity, for better or for worse. By becoming invested, it takes on greater meaning; this job, now career, in and of itself, can directly contribute to your overall happiness.

Conjoined with that direct contribution, this job, now career, also has the power to pull you down.

Managing Career Frustration” was driven by self-consideration about where I fall on that scale of job versus career because it does matter. I most certainly lean towards the career side of that scale, but the difference between when I was starting out and now is that I am aware of the choice.

We are social creatures; my selecting to climb a ladder, or “run the course”  as others are doing the same, now puts me in a race. Too often, it’s the race to finish with more toys, but it need not be that. Reflecting for myself personally:

  1. It is a choice.
  2. It is a choice that I have made.
  3. It is a choice that I am continuing to make.

Even though I am in the same race, we are not on the same tracks. Therefore, my focus – as it should be for everyone in this same situation – should be to ensure that I am running the right race. That means building a career that fits my purpose. What is that?

To use my career as the vehicle by which I get to enjoy, explore, and change the world.



My choice, my challenge. I want to grow, professional and personally:

  • wide: expand across my industry and into new frontiers
  • deep: master old skills and learn new ones
  • up: broaden the scope of my responsibilities and impact

Sure, that’s hard, but that’s going to be the fun part that will make it all worthwhile.

What about you? Do you have a job or a career? More importantly, what’s your choice? What’s your challenge?

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