First, welcome to all of you who are here for the first time! My most-loved post by far is the first one (How To Prioritize), and we’ve gone in weird see-saw-ing directions since then. I’d love to hear from you about what you want to hear about from me.
Second, I want to apologize for the barrage of “subscribe to me” buttons in the last email, particularly the one at the top which was in a super weird spot. Substack sometimes has a mind of its own and I’m still getting the hang of it.
Today’s random collection of thoughts has been slowly swirling around in the back of my brain for a while. It feels weird to post them, but it also feels weird not to. What follows here won’t be anywhere close to the most insightful way to speak to layoffs, but this piece might be ()
Since we last chatted, my company has also had layoffs. If you want to hire some of the talented folks that were impacted, the list is at the end of this email. It’s been a complicated and challenging couple of weeks on several fronts, and I keep coming back to a lesson I learned the hard way a few years ago: you are not your job.
It took me a long time to travel between the two points of “a lot of my self worth is closely tied to my job, this job” and “I am not my job”. If you’re somewhere in the middle, you’ve got lots and lots of very good company.
You are not your job. Moreover, your “goodness” or “badness” at your job does not contribute to your “goodness” or “badness” as a human being. Some jobs are good fits for you. Some jobs are bad fits for you. Sometimes, an otherwise good job brings out the absolute worst in you. Sometimes, an otherwise bad job brings out the best.
It’s important, for me, to know that I am not my job because (as a lot of us are experiencing firsthand or secondhand) your job can decide they no longer want you, without any warning. You can get a new manager or get put on a new team, and the fundamental day-to-day nature of what you do can shift. Your company can get acquired and have the soul sucked out of it. At some point, most of the people you love to work with will leave the company.
If you’re going through some flavor of grief about layoffs at your company, or about being laid off, you’re not alone. Your company (or the pace of your work) might be trying to shove that grief out of the way, because it’s not convenient for them. If they are, you might not even realize that you’re processing a loss. You might be carrying it around, not knowing that it’s there, while it slowly sits on your brain, makes you forget to call your parents, and eventually manifests in you shouting about Google docs to/at your manager two weeks later.
You are not your job, even though you likely spend more waking hours at your job than you do anywhere else. You aren’t your job, even though it pays the bills and allows you the time, space, and money to do all your not-job things. You aren’t your job even though it (probably) pays you well (if you’re in tech). You aren’t your job, even though you worked really hard to get here. You are not your job, even though you might love doing your job. You are not your job, even if, given the choice, you would be doing exactly your job.
You are not your job because the work is not enough. You are not your job, and I hope you’ve gotten some time to do some not-job things recently.
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If anybody wants to hire any of my recently-laid-off coworkers, here’s the directory of them. They’re all great, and you’re lucky if they land with you!
Some assorted things:
Currently reading: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Currently watching: Poker Face and Party Down, which is back!
I made it to Hacker News! The only comment at the time I’m writing this is “This is exactly the kind of thing ChatGPT is awesome at.” which was not exactly the point, but hey.
I’m going to see 1776 on tour soon, and I’m really excited
I’m about a year behind on emails so you’re going to be getting some old links. Fittingly, the most profound thing I’ve read recently on my way to catch up is nothing stops ()
The first draft of this post had a description, here, that was about how and why I originally learned this lesson. It was too long, and didn’t ultimately add to proving the point that you are not your job. I will tell you, maybe someday, about that experience.
This was something I told myself when I was anxious over leaving my first job and feeling like I would never find somewhere with people as good as there. I told myself that they, eventually, would mostly all leave too and that a company is a snapshot of its people that gradually changes over time. Well, joke was on me; a lot of the folks I loved working with there are still there, or are back after leaving. Sometimes you’re right and sometimes, you’re very wrong.
Not my finest moment last week; it’s a journey.
This is an amazing post with a great message! Thank you, and I wish you success and stability this year