Saturday, October 25, 2014

What You're Looking For

I received a card in the mail this past week from a friend who used to run her own small coffee business.  She got out years ago to pursue other interests.  But this week, she writes:

I am in the middle of a career struggle

[I am] wondering why I ever left the business.  I attempted to apply for other coffee jobs with [insert two large coffee company names here].  They all wanted bachelors degrees and more years of direct distribution.  My passion and life skills were not enough for them

We all work for a variety of reasons.  As Sigmund Freud so aptly put it, "love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness".  I think our approach to work, like so many other human endeavors, is an onion: there are layers upon layers of need.
In America, the most obvious and socially sanctioned reason to work is for financial gain.  We work for money.  But beyond financial need, I have found that entrepreneurs are often searching for validation.  In the entrepreneurial mindset, success in business acts as a salve for unrelated afflictions of self-doubt.  The failures of small business are personal, but the triumphs are equally personal. 

For instance, I am the only member of my family without a graduate degree.  I am entirely unqualified for ANY job that ANY of my brothers or parents might have held.  And thus Kaladi Coffee: I engineered (and lucked) my way into a job that is meaningful to me.  Like everyone else, I have waded through perilous trenches, but I have managed to get what I need without having to jump certain hoops that I thought were demeaning, extraneous, and arbitrary.  I feel validated becauseI have managed to get by without having to comply with forces I don't respect.

Where I got very lucky was with regard to profitability.  Small business is often not terribly profitable.  Some small businesses go broke soon after opening.  But many, many more straggle on for years with the principals earning what amounts to six dollars an hour for for all their worry and effort.

Thus some people migrate from entrepreneurship to work with a larger employer.  We forego the fulfillment of many personal satisfactions in order to satisfy overwhelming financial need.

The problem is that, for many of us,  the validation serum administered by employment at a big company is less potent than the the stuff we get when we work for ourselves. It's like being fed peanuts instead of pork chops: peanuts will nourish you, but they won't make you feel like a satiated carnivore.

So I guess my first question for this friend is "what needs are you trying to fill"?  And, since we live in an imperfect world, we should ask that question's corollary: "must all of your needs be filled in one place"?

Are you searching for a job, or are you searching for something more?

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