Life Lessons in the Real World

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Choose Your Environment — Synergy Step 4

cubicals.jpgWelcome to the final installment in our six part series on living with synergy. In this installment, we will discuss the importance of choosing a suitable environment for your life’s work.

If synergy is a new self-improvement concept to you, I recommend reading my introductory article on synergy, the follow up article on the synergy process, and my article on message discovery before proceeding. A complete list of the articles in this series can be found at the bottom of the page.

Choose Your Environment

The environment you choose to work in can have a tremendous impact on your ability to do your life’s work. Even if you’ve taken time to identify your message, inventory your strengths, and pick the perfect job, a bad boss or a stifling work atmosphere could spell disaster.

Unfortunately, the only way to really know what a work environment is like is to work there. I can’t tell you how many well-intentioned friends have tried to warn me away from places that turned out to be great and how many others have encouraged me to join places that turned out to be grave disappointments. You can’t really trust anyone’s opinion except your own, since your preferred environment might be stifling to others, and vice versa.

The process of selecting an environment is trial-and-error by nature. However, I will offer one word of caution. If your employer is the only thing standing between you and true career satisfaction, consider finding another one. Life is too short to work for a boss you hate.

When I was younger, I created project schedules for a crazy person. I’m not kidding. This guy was certifiable. He enjoyed barging into meetings 15 minutes late, barking out orders for 10 solid minutes without taking a breath, and then bolting off into the darkness from whence he came. He was always screaming about how he was going to “take people down to HR” if they didn’t shape up. And his most annoying character trait was his refusal to listen to anything that his employees said. Working for him was exhausting. So I quit.

Working for Yourself

There is one form of employment where you already know your boss. That’s right, you could work for yourself. That’s not to say you wouldn’t be beholden to customers (of course you would), but at least you would have final authority over the jobs you accept and the terms you agree to. They say the risk is greater for entrepreneurs (and I suppose that’s true, depending upon how you look at it), but the benefits are tremendous if you can make it work.

My body clock, my time, my priorities, my objectives, and my mission belong to me, not my employer. That’s the ultimate reason why self-employment is so appealing to me. I have never liked the idea of giving total control of my day over to someone else.

I also dislike the politics that comes part and parcel with every corporate job I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I can be a smooth politician when I want to be, but it’s not my cup of tea. The politics of the workplace creates a skewed reality. To me, stepping through the front door of a company has always felt a little bit like stepping into a comic book.

Within this crazy world of corporate culture, employee evaluations can seem arbitrary. And the business decisions that effect your bottom line and job stability can seem as though they were made with very little thought or planning. The illusion of progress is often more important than progress itself. And within these little corporate bubbles, the real world is sealed off. Leave your sanity at the door, friend. The key to success in the corporate world is learning to climb up the rungs of the ladder, whether those rungs make sense to you or not.

In stark contrast to the corporate employee, an entrepreneur gets to decide his own terms for personal success. Customer satisfaction remains critical, but when it comes to personal priorities, goals, and achievements, no one can tell an entrepreneur what to aspire to or how to obtain it. For these reasons and more, I am now happily self-employed doing my life’s work. One facet of doing my life’s work involves running this Web Site. I truly hope you are enjoying it!

I love my work. I really do. And if you take time to consider the 4 steps outlined in this series of articles, I believe you can love your work too, whether you decide to work for yourself or someone else.

You Are Reading an Article Series — Synergy, The Key to Greater Energy and Happiness:

  1. Intro: Synergy, the Key to Greater Energy and Happiness
  2. 4 Steps to a Fulfilling Life Mission
  3. Discover Your Message — Synergy Step One
  4. Discover Your Strengths — Synergy Step Two
  5. Choose Your Medium — Synergy Step Three
  6. Choose Your Environment — Synergy Step Four

18 Responses to “Choose Your Environment — Synergy Step 4”

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  • chabuhi says:

    Awesome series of articles! Very insightful and inspirational. I am looking forward to putting this advice to practice.


  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks for your kind words, chabuhi.

  • Mactryx says:


    I’ve been living at a software company for over 10 years and have found the last five of those years unfulfilling and forced. I wake each morning taking inventory of the number of sick days I have and if I want to use one for a job break; a mental recess, if you will. I am stuck in an emotional rut where I’m awfulizing how miserable I’d be without my well paying job. Hmm… how miserable I’d be without my job… Probably not miserable at all and happier.

    I read your words of synergy and each one was an affirmation to the way I feel and want to feel. I have a job I can’t stand. I don’t feel like I’m contributing in a positive way and my contributions continue be rated underperformed by my Lead and Manger. This is their perception of my lack of cookie-cutter skills. It’s easier to stack rank a group of folks against each other instead of individual contributions. I know that there is something better for me.

    Thank you for writing the words that put into perspective what I should do. What I must do.


  • JohnPlace says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Mactryx. I wish you the best as you move into the uncharted waters that surround the quest for meaningful work.

    Research has shown that beyond a certain point, additional money and material things do not provide additional happiness. The figure I’ve seen bandied about as a suggested minimum (to provide a satisfactory existence for most people) is 40K, although I’m sure that varies depending upon where you live. But the bottom line is that you don’t need a high paying job to be happy, especially if that high paying job sucks our your soul.

    Good luck to you, Mactryx. And thanks again for sharing your story.

  • Jean says:

    You are incredibly inspiring, and I’m happy that you’ve found your passion. I hope that someday soon I can find that as well. I read your articles and they’re extremely therapeutic and helpful to me, and I want to thank you for getting your message out there.

    I just graduated college, and I majored in international relations. I absolutely love my major, but I’m having a terribly difficult time finding a job that i love. I don’t want to relocate, and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so i there’s a variety of industries I can choose from. The problem is that I don’t know what my message is. I keep trying to use my intuition, ask myself questions, everything, but am still at a loss. Wherever I end up, I just want you to know that you’ve helped me and please keep following your passion.

    You help me find my own.

  • Rose says:

    Hi John,
    Every few months I am compelled to search out inspiring information about how to feel positive about my life’s direction. My intuition leads me to insightful articles like yours and I should really begin to take some action towards leading a fulfilling life. Thanks, Rose

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