Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How do I find balance?

OK so I just started a new job... and I'm lucky to have one at all these days.  That said, it has been kicking my arse.  I keep telling friends that the "garden of my life has been upset" and I'm "trying to figure out the new normal."

Let me tell you why the new job is good.

1. I didn't have to move.  In fact, my commute is exactly the same.  My office is on the riverfront, about 100 feet from where I was.  So everything I had going can remain intact - same home, same schools for kids, same church, same walk in the park.  This is HUGE.  For anyone out there looking for a job, you know how it is.  First you start looking within about a 20 mile radius, then that quickly turns into 50 miles, and so on until you find something.  I met a guy who told me how he commuted from Media, PA to NYC - for three years!  That is my worst nightmare.  I was preparing to commute a long way, then didn't have to.  This is important.

2. I got a raise.  This is really amazing because I was willing to leave without getting a raise.  My previous employer has been sold to a much larger institution that everybody hates.  Typically in a merger situation in the US, between 1/3 and 1/2 of the workforce is laid off within 18 months of the merger.  Given that fact, I wanted to quickly jump off the lily pad for what is called a "lateral move" (i.e. the same pay) without question.  Getting a raise is a blessing because the cost of food and gas has gone up, squeezing our budget.  Commodity inflation, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood FED, has crushed Americans' budgets.  We were living lean & mean anyway, and any extra $ that comes in will go into savings.  It's a jungle out there - only the fittest of the fittest will survive.  Have to continue to prepare for hard times. 

3. My boss is cool.  Anyone who gets up in the morning and works knows that you are happiest at work when you like your boss.  If you don't like your boss, you need to move or leave.  "Hating my boss" is the #1 reason why people leave their job.  My boss plays hockey, has a wife and two little kids who play soccer, lets me work from home if I want, is smart, and generally is really happy that I'm there because I'm helping him get home at a decent hour.

4. The company is growing.  This is important.  You want to work somewhere where things are looking up.  People are talking about how much work they have to do.  That is a good thing - it means job security!  So instead of talking about when can I leave work, or when will I take my next nap with my eyes open sitting at my desk, we are crushed with work.  Which for me at least is a good thing.  The best situation for me is to have interesting work to do.  Boredom is the playground of vice and depression.  Growth means excitement, energy, passion, and avoidance of boredom. 

Sounds great, right?  Well these are not necessarily the days of wine and roses.  Let's review why this job is rough.

1. I'm working longer hours.  There is so much work, and we are so behind on everything, that the only way to keep all the plates spinning is to work longer & harder.  I have no problem with that, but it is cutting into my time dedicated to playing with my kids, meditation, composition, prayer, reading, and writing. I'm composing this post in 5 minute spurts between work assignments where my boss comes around my desk behind me.  It's totally nuts.

2. The company I work for is disorganized.  There are all these opportunities, people are coming and going, there is a lack of leadership, and it's barely holding together.  Imagine a stick of chewed gum holding the O-rings on the Space Shuttle... there's chewed gum all over the place.  There are lots of critical functions outsourced to India, like IT & technology functions, and it would be real helpful to have those people right here in the trenches.  What a mess! 

3. The job is occupying more of my brain than usual.  This is important because the dream of creating an album seems farther away.  I have to learn a lot of new stuff - which is good.  I enjoy learning.  But the issue is that it is occupying larger amounts of my bandwidth as I get up to speed.  So songwriting, reading, meditation, and creative energy in general are all being pushed back farther until I can get a grip on this job. 

I have to figure out a way to get everything back into balance in my life.  BALANCE is the key to a happy & fulfilling life.  I've always been able to figure out a good balance.  This job may help me improve my ability to multi-task and to compartmentalize different roles & responsibilities. 

For me, the band has always brought balance to my life.  Work has always been on the intense side, because of my chosen day job.  Music has been, from the moment I left college, my counterweight to the stress of work.  I get this opportunity every week to blow off steam in an extraordinary way.  It has kept me young, creative, fresh... happy.  My wife, thankfully, knows that. 

Work affects everything else.  If you spend 50 hours per week somewhere, that is bound to happen.  Perhaps due to the impatient rush of my new work life, I'm growing impatient with the band because I have so much new material, and I can't seem to get them to engage.  Especially since the Queen show, I know the material is really solid.  I have strong ideas about how to arrange it & record it.  I'm chomping at the bit to take a weekend and demo the songs. 

In past cycles, I have driven to NYC to demo my songs with Kieran at his studio.  But it is really difficult now to go up there.  Plus Kieran is so good at it now, I can't afford him anymore.  I'm thinking I may demo the songs with someone more local - Brian Fitzgerald, known as Fitzy.  He accompanied me at the Queen show and he really liked the songs.  In fact, he offered to help me record the songs at his home studio, where he has recorded three of his own full albums. 

My thinking is that Fitzy and I could bang out 8 songs in one weekend - that's how he works, and that's how I have to work now, given all my other responsibilities.  And I'm at a stage in my music life where I believe I'm capable of bringing all my talent & experience to bear in one intense weekend of recording.  Once that is done, I can give the demo to the band and they can just interpret what we have done.  This will be so much quicker than trying to get them to write their parts.  Thinking back, this has always been the approach we took.  Tom Demos the Songs, then The Band Plays the Songs. 

OK, back to work... talk amongst yourselves...

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