you might be due for a promotion (even if you hate your job)
I’m bad at doing laundry
how to chop onions
what happens when you pretend to be the boss
the fastest way to get a promotion
I had to wear swimming trunks to work
When I was a cashier at a grocery store for rich people, my schedule was insane. Sometimes I had to work until 11PM and be at work the next day at 6AM. We called those days “Clopens.”
Sleep is really, really important. Literally half of the people I work with one-on-one don’t get enough sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re probably pretty mediocre at doing basic things like laundry.
I used to be miserable at it. Once I lasted two months before washing anything. I didn’t have that many clothes. I would just lay out my shirts and jeans on the floor and Febreze them. Heavily. And that’s if I had the time. Often I was Febrezing myself (and others) on the train.
I’ve never admitted this to anyone, but once I got *reported* for smelling bad.
It was devastating. I had two degrees in creative writing from prestigious schools. I was supposed to BE SOMEBODY. And here I was. A lazy do-nothing. Too disorganized to stay clean. Too tired to get quarters and descend into the basement once a month.
There was a note in my mailbox at work. Official business letterhead:
“There have been multiple complaints about the amount of perfume you’re wearing.”
FEBREZE! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THERE FOR ME. YOU’RE GONNA GET ME FIRED!
I had to clopen that night. No way I could do laundry in time for tomorrow. I was out of options. All my jeans needed Febreezing, which I couldn’t do anymore, and I all I had left was a pair of tiny, bright blue swimming trunks.
I had to do it. No choice.
I clocked in at 6AM and strolled through the store wearing the trunks. About 90% of my legs visible. Not against dress code, but certainly against some kind of law, somewhere.
I used to beat myself up about this kind of thing. I came to all-or-nothing conclusions that made it impossible to get better: I’m just a bad person. Because I can’t get my shit together and do laundry, I must be a bad person.
I wouldn’t even try to get better.
Of course, a few alarms on your phone can transform you into a laundry wizard. But how do you deal with the real problem? How do you stop beating yourself up?
you can't make a mistake
My best friend Ryan is a fancy-pants chef. He's cooked for some of the best chefs on earth. He's got his own restaurant. He's completely dedicated to his craft, he's always learning, and he works like a madman.
Which is why it was scary to admit to him: I don't know how to chop an onion.
“I mean, I can use this knife and like, cut it into small pieces, but it takes me basically an hour and all of the pieces are uneven.”
“OK. Cool. Go grab an onion and I'll teach you,” Ryan said.
Oh boy. This made me *very* uncomfortable. I hardly had any experience, and now all of my flaws were going to be exposed. I rifled through the basket where we kept onions and garlic. I stalled, pretending to dig around for the onion. Yeah right.
My brains were on fire:
RYAN COULD CHOP 100 ONIONS IN THE TIME IT TAKES ME TO CHOP ONE!!!
HE IS A MASTER CHEF AND I AM A TINY PIECE OF POOOOOO!!!
I AM GOING TO MESS UP I AM GOING TO MESS UP I AM GOING TO MESS---
“Yo. Are you OK?” Ryan asked.
“Nah. I'm kinda worried I'll fuck up.”
“Don't worry,” he said. “You can't make a mistake.”
“Wait. What? What did you say?”
“You can't make a mistake.”
“But like, isn’t your whole job about yelling at people and being yelled at about mistakes? Of course I can make a mistake.”
“Yeah, sure, OK. But say this doesn't go how you planned. The pieces come out uneven. Now you can look at what you did and try and see what went wrong and how to fix it. You experiment, learn, and experiment again. Where is the mistake?"
I’ve since used this experimenter mindset to lower the stakes, and lower the anxiety, of some pretty high-pressure situations. It’s not always easy. Remembering to experiment and use failure as a tool is especially hard if you hate your job.
what happens when you pretend to be the boss
Once upon a time, I hated my job. I hated it so much I got a therapist within walking distance of my job.
I worked for a legendary project manager. Her name was Sophie. She was known throughout the company for fixing projects that were in danger of falling or blowing their massive budgets. Her “fixes” weren’t always pretty. People left meetings in tears. She ruled with an iron fist. She was 5 feet tall.
And she killed it every time. She saved this company MILLIONS.
Sophie had a rule for people like me. People who stopped caring about the work. People who showed up late. People who couldn’t fake it anymore. Here is the rule:
If you’re the last one to show up for the meeting, you have to RUN the meeting.
I missed the meeting where she explained this rule to the team. Oops.
I was making my 6th cup of coffee one morning (because YOLO), and it was taking longer than normal. Fuck it, no one will care if I’m late to this meeting, I thought.
I walked into the room. Everyone was staring at me. Everyone.
This was a Sophie meeting. Which means there were lots of high-ranking people, clients, and stakeholders. Normally, everyone focused on Sophie at the whiteboard. This time, every single face in the room was looking right at me. OH SHIT.
“Alright Darren,” Sophie said. “You’re up.”
She extended her hand toward me. In it, she held a big, red, dry-erase marker.
“You’re running this meeting. And hurry up. We haven’t got all day.”
I felt pure doom. People were smiling.
“Um uhhhhh. What. Ahhhhh. Um. Alright? So. Okay. Yeah. Meetings. Agenda? Ummmm.”
I was spiraling out.
“Does anyone want to help Darren? Does anyone want to tell Darren what the meeting was supposed to be about, since he clearly didn’t read the email?”
Some douchebag raised their hand and said, “I read the email and the email said, exactly, Discuss project strategy, roles, and responsibilities.”
I wanted to bow out. I wanted to fold up and die. I could tell Sophie was about to take the marker away, make me sit down, and probably fire me later that day.
And then something happened. I remembered what Ryan said. I remembered how to chop an onion: You can’t make a mistake. You can’t make a mistake!
I thought: let's just try something and see what happens. I hate this job anyway. This is just an experiment. I can't make a mistake.
“OK. So... If I’m running the meeting, that means I am in charge.”
“So, if I'm the boss now, things are gonna, ummm, change. We're gonna restructure this team. A little bit. Yeah. Because uh, right now we're all kinda doing the same tasks, and not all of us are good at everything, and to be honest it's making people moody and inefficient and I hate it.”
OHHH SNAP, I imagined people thinking.
“From now on we're gonna, um, play to people’s strengths. Suzy is amazing at Excel, so she’s going to manage everyone’s tasks and the project timeline. Sharon and Eric are the best at the client’s software, so they are our muscle. Mary is obviously the only person mentally well enough to talk to clients, so she’s on email. I think if we divide things up and give people a chance to do their favorite kind of work, we’ll all be happier. That’s how we should run this.”
“And what about you, Darren? What does ‘the new boss’ do?”
“Well, I like emotions so I’m gonna check in with people and make sure no one dies of boredom or frustration…and you know, fill in where there is need. I guess I’m gonna guide things.”
And then Sophie said, “All of that sounds good.”
And then Sophie said, “Anyone have any questions for the new boss? No? Great. Let’s move on.”
a lot of people who want to quit are due for a promotion
Because I named my business “You Should Quit Your Job,” I thought most of my clients would be people who are looking to quit. But after helping a ton of different people in different situations, I’ve noticed something weird:
A lot of people who want to quit are closer to a promotion than they think.
When people really hate their jobs, it’s often because they have a full and deep understanding of a bad process, bad workplace culture, or bad management practices. People who are dying to quit tend to know all of the ways their company is fucking up.
That information is insanely valuable.
That information could get you a lot more freedom and money.
The trick is telling someone about it. And not just your co-workers who already get it.
The fastest way to get a promotion, even if you hate your job, is to solve the biggest problem that you can. Not just the biggest problem assigned to you. The biggest one you can see.
If you start solving problems that are above your pay grade and position, powerful people will notice. They’ll definitely notice if you sit them down, politely show them what the problem is, and take ownership over the solution. (I forbid you to do this silently in the background. You’ve got to make it known.)
Yes, some haters will tell you to stay in your lane. Yes, some people will feel threatened if you do their job without offering to collaborate with them.
You can finesse it, even if it’s uncomfortable at times. If you hate your job, you might have information that people with decision-making power need to know. You might be able to drastically shift ‘the way things are’ and get more freedom as a result.
Your homework: chill on the resentment for a few days and pretend to be the boss. You now own the whole thing. What would you change?
Remember. This is an experiment.
You can’t make a mistake.
Helping people who want to quit get promoted instead is one of my favorite things to do in coaching. We can plan this kind of thing in detail, together. Hit me up!