For most people, work is an important part of life. Our jobs are where we spend our time, our energy, and sometimes they even define us.
Since work consumes so much of our lives, there are moments every one of us remembers from our jobs—not just the wins and the good days, but often the bad ones too. Those difficult times can be fleeting moments that stick with us for a few hours, or until the next shift... or they can stick with us for a lifetime and end up shaping our future decisions.
How we respond to the tough times says a lot about who we are. Faced with adversity, do you throw in the towel and walk away? Do you search for better options, and use the problems you’ve faced to understand what the alternative should look like? Or do you try to work through it?
The answers about whether to stay or go aren’t always obvious. Maybe the money’s too good to turn down, or your family is relying on you, or you’ve got debts to pay off, or there are no other employment options are on the table. We don’t always have the independence we might like, and our lives are complicated things where a delicately balanced equation of considerations means that just a small shift can drastically change the best solution. Sometimes we don’t leave, or we can’t. We stick around when things are tough, and find a way to get over the obstacles put in front of us. We persevere.
Think of those times when you were frustrated by your job. What happened? If you left, did you find a way to solve your problems elsewhere? If you stuck around, did you talk through the problem with a co-worker who helped you see things more clearly?
Whatever direction you chose, you probably relied on those around you—a friend who gave you the right advice at the right time, or a manager who made it clear that you had a place at the exact moment when you felt like there wasn’t one. People are so often the difference at these crucial, career defining moments. That incident where a medical emergency threatens to send you over the edge, or the moment you suddenly realize you’ve got to fire somebody and don’t know how to do it. These are all critical times, and often it’s our managers and our mentors who help lift us over the hurdles.
In this series, you’ll meet some people who have had exceptional experiences—like games industry icon Tim Schafer, who made his name working for George Lucas; or Julia Grace, who leads a team of engineers at Slack, the fastest-growing business software company in history. But you’ll also meet people who have tackled everyday challenges: bartenders with troublesome customers, team players who felt stuck on their career path.
What you’ll discover is that even when the context is radically different, we’re all trying to solve the same kinds of problems. Everybody faces challenges, turning points, and moments where they have to rely on the support and insight of those around them. Everybody needs friends, mentors, and managers. If you need help, maybe reading these stories will help you think of ways to find assistance. And if you’re in the position to assist those around you? Perhaps it will give you some thoughts on how to step up, how to be a better mentor or manager.
And, whoever you are, maybe it will help you realize that improvement is never finished—we’re all still working it out.