The Graduate | A Cog in the Right Heavy Machinery

For the past six months, I have been heading to the office for half a day of work. It has been years since I had ‘ an office job’. On some visceral level, I’ve always disliked the idea of being cooped up in an office, idling away my hours and days behind a desk.

My first internship–which took place over a decade ago–was in an office not too different to the one I’ve been going to of late. It was my foray into the working world–into the realities of office politics, of business and even of the very real fact that my stellar academic achievements were not going go guarantee me a job–let alone a well-paying one.

My boss had a boss who had a boss who had a boss. There was a strong chain of command in place–one in which I was just a cog. It’s been the same story in every job I’ve been in. What distinguishes the ones who survive from the ones who fall into the wayside?

There are so many factors and circumstances that must come together to make it all happen. Making sure your boss is happy with your performance is an ingredient, for sure. But one day, you will have a new boss–a new boss with a new series of moving targets. Life is forever in flux.

In the business world, opportunities for growth can vanish in the blink of an eye. If we are not discerning about our entry–or even our exit–we can end up leaving prematurely or overstaying our welcome.

Coming back to the wonderful view from my office–I have been staring out the abundant ocean, and wondering, as I do, with my suspended travels in mind–what lays on the other side of the shore. In my mind, it is a fantastical world–filled with innumerable opportunities that I am not privy to on dry land.

I usually sit and watch–as the ocean and the sky changes each day according to the weather conditions of the moment. Somedays the sea is blue and sparkly; and other days she is green and murky. Somedays the rain is thumping down hard; and other days it is a bright blue sky. Sometimes these changes can take place within the course of hours.

In the past few weeks, I have felt a real sense that a graduation is close by–a graduation from one phase of my life to another phase. It is also my pleasure to note that of all the interns I, myself, have had–one of them has made the cut and graduated into a leadership role.

Leadership, by its very nature, is about the group–and not about the Self. It is not about going up to your boss and saying, “Look at all the work I did and why aren’t you giving me credit?” It’s about all the people who openly praise your efforts at making the business–and the team, and perhaps even the world–a better place.

A team should be more than the sum of its moving parts. If you leave, and you are not missed–and if you leave, and you do not miss–then perhaps the answer is much simpler than blaming your boss, office politics or even your colleagues.

When you are a good cog placed in a machine that is not the right fit for you–no pay rise, no promotion and no fancy title–is ever going to change your unhappiness. If the work that you do and the money that you earn brings you little or no joy–and if you are not adding value to the team that you are a part of–then perhaps it’s time to tender that resignation and bid farewell. There is really no need to spread the unhappiness around like a virus.

A few days ago, I told a colleague of mine about the idea and dream that I had: of what lay on the other side of the shore. He very stoically answered, “Batam in Indonesia. Are you sure you want to venture there?”

It hit me like a ton of bricks that I had already been to Batam. And while it makes for a wonderful day trip, I had no desire to venture there.

One thing the border closures and pandemic has taught me is–yes, the grass may indeed be greener on the other side–but sometimes, the true treasures of the world, reside in no other place than your backyard.

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