Original Spanish Post.
This is a story about how to face unexpected adversity in favor of your personal interests. This is my actual situation (right now!) and what I’ve accomplished is something I’m proud of. You only need to know your context and go for it.
With that intro you are probably expecting an epic story about some thrilling and inspiring story of self-improvement. Maybe you are thinking that I faced some tough situations and always kept a smile on my face. I did, but it is not what this post is about. This is about the classic proverb: “Whenever a door closes, a windows opens” becoming a reality.
First day at work and my expectations were high. The interview was very professional and the selection process was very well planned out. The adventure I was about to have at the bank seemed pretty good in the beginning.
I knew my job was in first place to learn the way this business area worked, but in my imagination this also involved some prepared tasks, objectives and specific goals.
I came in for the first time and I immediately noticed some good points. One of them was that the environment and the office were beautiful (then I was told it was recently refurbished), you may think it is a superficial fact but I’ve seen some pretty horrible banks and I was happy this was not the case. But as I was getting guided to know the entire building (three floors) I was getting worried about my workplace, there was absolutely no free space. Every desk was already taken by executives, every table had it purpose and the only empty spaces were very far to my coworkers so it would be tough to work anyway. This was the beginning of my disgrace.
What the hell was I supposed to do for about seven weeks? (They are some pretty eight fucking long weeks of a pretty dumb job). I was starting to feel this bank had no place for me. The only think in my favor was that the secretary gave me a notebook to write down whatever I wanted and a branded pen. These were my tools to work.
Like those “stress advice” quotes my first thought was negation. “This can’t be that bad, I guess this is happening because it is just the first week and they are getting me introduced here to the basics”. That was a happy thought, false though. It is Thursday of my fourth week working here and I haven’t had one single responsibility or relevant task. My duties are waiting for someone to need something and see if I know the basics to help them (with them helping me). I was thirsty for challenges and responsibilities (I am a workaholic person and goal-pursuing is what drives me). This situation was killing me inside out.
You may think “what it is he complaining about? I’m working and I would love my job to be doing absolutely nothing AND get paid for it”, I get it but this is not what I signed up on a pretty big company for. Also you are underestimating the difficulty of doing nothing at all for two weeks from 9 AM till 6 PM. At the same time, you’re misunderstanding what I mean by nothing. Remember that everything I have to work with is a notebook and a pen and given my context I just could not be all day drawing some shitty stickmen in their adventures (actually now it seems like a pretty great idea).
For you to imagine what nothing means you might need some stats. In the first three days I wrote down 12 pages of my notebook on both sides. That means about 4 pages/day or 8 sides/day, which means I used 0.44 sides/hour… ¡with absolutely nothing to write about! I tried to make some kind of diary of what I was doing and what I was learning. Here is a picture of one of those pages. Until I got a computer on the second week, that was pretty much my life for 9 hours a day.
After I got a computer (one of the two secretaries went on vacation) I thought this was really the change I needed. After all this is the main tool of every executives, not only because of the internet and communication advantages but because the bank system use specific software that I could not get on my laptop (never brought it to work anyway). But this was not the antidote to non-productive nine hours of my day for two months (sounds pretty long that way, fuck me).
It was January the 8th and my expectations grew once again, because one of the executives was preparing to leave on vacation on Friday. The original description of this job (a report of the experience and the responsibilities taken) explicitly told that the guy who wrote it replaced every executive that went on vacation, so I got pretty excited about it. With access to the software and the internet I started studying the required process of every product sale for two days. Finally on Thursday I walked to my boss’s office (not a monster lair after all) and asked right away if I was meant to replace this guy. The answer was “I just can’t give you that power; you don’t have the preparation they do. So, you will not replace him”.
A new day, new nine hours of non-stopping nothing for the 9th time and this time I lost every bit of hope about having responsibilities, tasks assigned or new challenges. I felt like I was chose for pity and not because of my capabilities.
NOW HERE IS THE CHANGE I WAS BRAGGING ABOUT ON THE INTRODUCTION. Last week – the third – I did a complete mind switch about what I needed and took that challenge absence to my own advantages. When my expectations went to shit (When a door closes…) I found an opportunity to learn about some worlds I just never had the time for and write about them (… a window opens, literally it was WordPress® appearing as the messiah of my summer).
I realized this mindset switch was possible because it depended only of me. If I needed a change I could do it instantly, but it required a hundred percent commitment and determination. It would not work other way. It is an all-in move.
I mean, there was not a better solution for what I had (more than a notebook and a pen this time). My inventory consisted on: nine (if no one gave me some crappy effortless work) hours of free time and the internet. I was wasting these resources on complaining and regretting my decisions… heck, I even thought about quitting ¡On the first week!
This was me – for the first time (and finally) – embracing my right to procrastinate. As it was new for me I needed to try out a few things, so I tried starting slow and never go too far given my context (In this two months I’m being evaluated by my university to see if I graduate or not). Not going too far means: don’t bring my notebook to play videogames, don’t watch YouTube videos on my iPhone (blocked on the PC), don’t play videogames on the computer (you can always find a way, Doodles I’m looking at you), don’t listen to music and don’t bring a book to read (A Feast for Crowds and A Dance with Dragons are waiting on my sofa). The last two given that I am on the secretary position I just can’t ruin company’s image, you need to have a bit of respect for those who give you this opportunity.
So I played safe the first day. Tried to read a lot of news, to pretend some commitment to the business and also I tried to do some econometric relations that nobody asked me for. It was impossible for me to complete the nine hours with only this two distractions and pretend I’m producing something (not necessarily for the company). This actually how I started developing my writing skills, so I started a new WordPress blog and thought about some topics I’ve always wanted to share like: rock music, minimalistic ecology or just shit we don’t talk about (fun fact: my domain is composed by the consonants of that sentence).
Of course I take some precautions to pretend, like always having open: Bank System Software, Company’s Official Web Page, That Econometric report I finished, Central Bank Web Page and the Official Company’s email system.
This is my job now. I come to the bank, turn on my computer, read the newspaper and professionally procrastinate by writing about whatever I want. Maybe you need a reminder that I get paid for this. I’m sorry, I just took the chance (for sure this is not one in a million).
If you want to learn more about procrastination you can always check some quality shit-post contents by Tim Urban on his blog Wait but why or simply watch his Ted Talk: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator.