When to Give Up on Your Career: My Story
I had been hired as a radio newscaster about to do my very first newscast.
I cautiously entered the news booth, my newscast in hand - a collection of 12 stories, each on a separate piece of paper. The booth, a tiny quiet room with a microphone, desk and clock - looked intimidating. But I sat down and took a deep breath. Then - just seconds before I was to go on air, a hand reached into the booth holding a lighter.
My newscast was lit on fire.
I thought - not good.
The clock showed 10 seconds to air - enough time I had hoped, to put out the fire. I shook the papers frantically and managed to extinguish the blaze.
My co-workers would later explain that the fire was an initiation - a way to welcome the new guy. Nice of them.
In the news booth, having put out a 5-alarm fire, I had another more serious problem.
My newscast was no more. It was a collection of ashes on the floor.
With no newscast to read, I would be forced to remember the stories.
That didn’t go so well.
I tried to recall a story about war in the Middle East, which came out like this:
"100 people were killed to death...some seriously."
If you read that statement over a few times, you'll realize it doesn't make any sense. "Killed to death?" "Some seriously?"
Interestingly, not a single person who was listening to my newscast called the radio station to complain. I can only conclude that they thought I was making perfect sense.
I then tried to remember a story about the President of the United States, who at the time was Ronald Reagan.
My story began: "U.S. President Ronald McDonald said today..."
Again, no response from the audience, as they all believed the president, was in fact, the fictional character of the McDonald's restaurant chain.
Following the news, I had to do a few sports stories.
The sportscast began with hockey:
"Guy Lafleur took a piss....I mean, a pass."
I was so rattled by this experience that on my next newscast, an hour later, I forgot my own name.
I began: Now the news. I'm....I'm.... (and blurted out my middle name for some reason).
And so it went.
An 8-year career of many bloopers.
I was sure I would be fired at any moment.
Instead, I was promoted.
I was given my own talk show.
But it was a small radio station with very few listeners. The most devoted listener was my mother.
She would call my show, disguising her voice. I rolled my eyes. Finally, I had to tell her to stop phoning me – which meant, of course, that nobody called.
I would fill the dead air with long, rambling opinions about the state of the world.
My first audience call, who was not my mother, was from a lady who said I was the most depressing person she had ever heard in her life.
It was not the fact that I was considered the most depressing person on radio. And it wasn't all the bloopers. It was something else which told me that my radio career needed to come to an end.
What was it?
I wasn’t having fun anymore.
Consider these facts from Deloitte's shift index survey.
- 80 percent of people are dissatisfied with their jobs.
- The average person spends 30 years at work over their lifetime.
- 40 per cent of people surveyed say their job is very or extremely stressful.
- The average American spends over 100 hours in traffic every year going to and from work.
- An incredible 10,000 people drop dead every year in Japan from being over-worked.
- 65% of people cancelled their vacation plans last year, many for work-related reasons.
Since we spend so much time at work - and a lot of time getting there - we absolutely need to be enjoying it.
I stopped enjoying the radio business when I made my way into management (yes, they continued to promote me despite the incompetence). The ownership asked me to fire most of my employees to save some money.
That most certainly was not fun.
Eventually, I struck out on my own and have been having fun ever since.
The day you wake up and dread going to work is the day that job or career needs to come to an end.
Priority number one: have fun.
About the photo: The year was 1979 and I was about to deliver a newscast at Toronto Radio Station CFTR. Note the fake smile and 8-track tape cartridges, relics from the past.