Tuesday, May 19

What do you do when life hands you lemons?

It happened on December 4th, 2008. I had gotten into work early that morning, and had a pretty productive call session. I had some pretty significant prospects I was going to be meeting with over the next few weeks, and I was collaborating with various colleagues who would be joining me to go in on these meetings. Anyways, to say the least I went through my day, and felt as though I’d accomplished quite a bit. At about 4:00pm, I noticed one of my colleagues was in our manager’s office. Shortly after, I saw him return to his desk, pick up his cell phone, and then leave the office. I got an email from my manager saying he'd like to meet with me later that afternoon. A few minutes later I closed his office door office behind me, as I felt a huge knot growing in my stomach. I HAD BEEN LAID OFF. After about a year of working for one of the world’s most prestigious financial firms (and three years in the business), I walked out the door of that office; and left the financial service industry.

One question I initially struggled with was what people would think of me? Who am I if I’m not a broker? How do I introduce myself? I’ve come to realize that there is so much more to who I am than the title I carry in my line of work. So, tell me…how did our professions become the definition of who we are as people?


  1. I guess my immediate response to the title of this passage is -- "Run with them". I think too often than not, when people feel like life has thrown them lemons, they just give up, and complain. Giving up and complaining isn't going to solve anything for you. Personally, I think that when life does give you lemons, you have an opportunity to shine- to achieve what may seem impossible against overwhelming odds. It's a time when you can do some serious self reflection about what is important to you, and to devise strategies that can get you out of whatever whole you may feel that you're in. I think this is the time when you can truly find out who you are, who your real friends are, how strong of a person you really are, and if you're religious - how powerful your relationship with your God can be.

    When life throws you lemons - quit thinking about what you don't have and start focusing on what you do have. You may surprise yourself, and you probably will be able to turn those lemons into something a little less sour.


    My response to the final question - 'How did our professions become the definition of who we are as people' is a little more complex. When I first thought about this question, my initial response to this was that it was simply because of how much time we spend at work.

    But then I thought about that assertion a little more. How much of our lives are actually spent working?

    Total Hours in a Week - 168
    Time Spent Sleeping - 52.5 hours (7.5 hours/night *7)

    Total Waking Hours - 115.5/week

    The standard work week is 40 hours/week. At this amount of hours, you're spending roughly 35% of your waking hours at work. Now let's assume that you work more than normal, say 50 hours/ week. At 50 hours/week you're still only spending about 43% of your total waking hours at work. So even a person that works above average hours is only spending somewhere between 40-45% of a given week at work.

    That still leaves 55-60% of your time AWAY from work.

    So wouldn't it be natural to think that when you spend MORE THAN HALF (i.e. 60-65%+) of your time NOT WORKING- that you wouldn't feel the need to define yourself as a person through the time you DO spend at work?

    I think the reason why people do define themselves through work though is that although it does constitute a minority of the amount of time in a given week, this 35-45%+ chunk of time in our lives sets the foundation for how we live our lives.

    It dictates how much money we have to spend, it dictates our social circles, and to some extent, our passions and hobbies.

    Even if you enjoy traveling, you can't just plan a trip without money. Even if you want to send your children to the best private schools, you can't just send them to those schools without the right amount of money. Even if you enjoy going out to the bar every weekend, and drinking fine wine in an exquisite environment, you can't just up and do that unless you have enough discretionary income in your budget to treat yourself in social settings like this on regular basis. Sports and activities like golf - are just social exercises. Regardless of whether you enjoy golf or not, you can never become a golf expert unless you can afford to play - from the gold clubs, to the green fees, to the golf lessons, to the country club fees - it adds up.

    Our jobs are not only the foundation for how we live 60% of our time, but many people also establish a certain level of ego in society when it comes to how they spend their free time with comments like:

    "That's a waste of money, threes no need for that" - in reference to an expenditure that some people make on a daily basis

    "That's too ghetto" or "That neighborhood is sketchy"

    "I don't have time to waste. I demand better service"


    So I think it's clear that in as materialistic of a society that we live in, the Almighty Dollar has a big impact on how we live the 60% of our lives away from work. Given this fact, it becomes natural for many of us to define ourselves through our professions, our career fields, our future career potential, and our earning potential.

    However, I don't believe that it HAS to be that way. Some people are perfectly capable of separating their bank accounts as well as their potential to earn in their given career track from how they define themselves in society. It may help to focus on defining yourselves through other less intangible ideals:

    1.) Your value systems
    2.) Your family
    3.)Your friends
    4.) Your faith
    Just to name a few that came to mind.
    Can you think of other ways of defining yourself outside of your job?

  3. I think you pose some vary valid points to consider. We do spend a significant amount of time at work, but I almost have to wonder if the definition of ourselves through occupation is of our own accord; or, if society slots us into a certain category because of our profession? What determines that because I am in a certain line of work I should participate in certain activities, or obtain certain possessions?