post written by: Marc Chernoff

Perfect Rests in a Shade of Gray


Everyone is on the endless quest for utopia.  We all want the perfect relationship, the perfect home, or the perfect job.  It’s pretty common to hear someone spit out a canned phrase like: “You should be grateful for what you’ve been given!”  I believe this statement holds truth… and I’m grateful.  I know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and things could always be a lot worst.  Yet somehow I still got caught off guard. 

I recently made a career change, and I’m not saying I made a mistake, because I didn’t.  My new career is pushing me in a positive direction.  However, there has been a faint void in certain areas that used to be whole.  These voids came unexpectedly because I never stepped back to absorb the big picture.  I worked in a fast paced environment where the phones were always ringing, week long business trips for a Wednesday morning departure were planned on Tuesday night, and the deadline was always 10 minutes ago.  Work weeks typically hit 55 hours… this wasn’t just a job, it was a lifestyle.  I felt overworked and underpaid… the sentiment of being a day late and a buck short 99% of the time. 

My colleagues and I yearned for a break and dreamed of a job that wasn’t so demanding.  We unanimously agreed on a framework for the perfect job.  Daily tasks would be based on extremely long term goals, only 15% travel time, the phones would rarely ring, no more working weekends, a 20% raise, and the job should consume a whopping 38 hours each week.  This all seemed far fetched… Of course, that was until I landed a new job that fit the sketch of our dream.

I’m not dreaming.  I’ve been working at my new job for 3 months now and it fits the sketch to a T.  It meets all the bullet points of our “perfect job” framework.  At first I was ecstatic… life seemed blissful.  But then a subtle irk arose, a slight feeling of stress and discomfort.  Certainly I couldn’t be feeling overworked and underpaid.  So what was it?  The phones don’t ever ring.  I’ve been sitting in the same chair for 3 months and receiving praise from my superiors.  I’ve never been told to work over the weekend.  There haven’t been any major business trips.  And every Monday morning I know exactly what needs to be accomplished for the remainder of the week.  Then it hit me… the bullet points to the “perfect job” were starting work against me and I actually missed the unpredictability of my old job.

This irking feeling is directly related to my new work environment, but it’s not because the new job is bad, it’s because I expected it to be perfect.  The source of the problem really lies in the fact that my old colleagues and I dreamed of a job environment that represented the exact opposite of what we currently had.  We were drenched in Black and eager to dive head first into White.  We knew Black wasn’t perfect, but we failed to recognize that White wasn’t either.  As with anything in life, “perfect” usually rests somewhere between the extremes.  This may seem like common sense, and in retrospect I agree.  Yet somehow while I was cruising down the fast lane of life I didn’t see it coming.  I guess it’s true, hindsight is always 20/20… and perfect is the enemy of good.

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2 Comments

  • Having been your colleague for several years and feeling the same pains, this has to be the best explanation of what our job used to be and what we thought was paradise. It also brings in to perspective the intangibles that made XOS such a great place to work.

    I think the best color for the middle ground we are looking for is the color yellow. Yellow is the odd ball.  It’s out of the ordinary, something wild, something between white and black.  I still think the only way to get everything you desire out of a job is to break out and start something yourself.  Be out of the ordinary.  Don’t just work a job like everyone else.  Create a job that everyone else wants to be a part of.

    Being career focused you will always be yearning for more and anytime you put out that extra at a job you will feel unfulfilled. Not because you are overworked and underpaid, but because it is not going towards building something great for yourself.

    I think that middle ground will find you when you are working those late nights, planning those week long business trips in a business of your own that you own and control. Something that you can look back on and say “I did that” and be proud of what was accomplished.

  • Having recently shifted jobs, and gone into one which offers the perfect-work-life balance that I was struggling to have in my previous company, I kept experiencing the same feeling of loss for changing into my current job even though it was perfect from every angle when compared to my old one. You have explained exactly what I have been feeling the last four months in my new job, and your explanation is what I have wanted to know as the answer for my problems in the current job.

    So thank you so much, you made my day!

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