Thursday, September 2, 2010

Time is money, but sometimes it's worth a lot more then that...

Do or do not. There is no try.



I realize it's been awhile (a long while) since my last post, and that's kind of what I've wanted to talk about it. I got a new job, at a much, much nicer restaurant - I used to work at an "upscale casual" chain restaurant (think Bennigans, but with marble), I've moved on to a high-end steak house - but it's been kind of a mixed blessing. The money is better (like, really better), the clientele is (vastly) better and, once they kick in, the benefits (401(k)!) are better.

But I'm working a lot. Like, 8 shifts a week - usually about 3 doubles, a lunch and a night. It's over 50 hours a week waiting tables, which is a lot. I'm used to a workweek of about 32-40 - at my old job they wouldn't let you go into overtime. I realize for a lot of non-waiters, 50+ hour workweeks (or 60 or 70) are not uncommon, but for waiting tables it's a lot. First of all, waiting tables is physically demanding - I'm basically on my feet for ten to twelve hours a day (and, unlike some jobs, I don't get to break for Farmville or I've been so drained that in my off time it's really hard to get motivated to do anything except sleep in and waste time on the internet. Secondly, I'm not moving up any company ladder any time soon. To be a waiter is to have a job where the only real advancement is better sections and priority in scheduling (unless you want to work your way up to management, and I have zero interest in doing that). There are no raises and no promotions. So to sacrifice 50 hours a week is to do so with no carrot at the end of the stick - it's simply for the money made. And granted, the money is good. But is it a trade off I'm happy to make?

One of the reasons I've always liked waiting as a profession is because it allows you the time to do other things (like write blogs and promote e-books, for instance). So when you take that away, you're left with just this job, and it's looking less and less appealing. It's a real catch-22: I've taken this job to make more money so I can have more freedom (and God forbid put together a savings, retirement fund, and pay off my credit cards), but because of all the time spent at the job I have less freedom than ever (I'm sure this scenario is not unfamiliar to many of you).

The whole thing has got me thinking about the trade-offs we make in life, the sacrifices we're forced to make in choosing one thing or another. There's only so much time in a day (or in a life), and you can only divide it up so much. At my old job I had free time and flexibility, but I was also not saving anything and continually paying the minimum on my credit cards. So it was limiting my future free time and flexibility.

One of the main things I've learned from Buddhism is to try to see the situation as it truly is, without fear or desire or regret or prejudice getting in the way. We have to look at our lives and ask ourselves, time and time again: is this working? And if it's not, what's to be done about it: is it something I can change, or is it something I need to accept? If my current path is preventing me from living the life I want, I have the responsibility for figuring out what I need to do to get to the other place - and then do everything in my power to get there. I've said it before: Buddhism is not about passively accepting everything that comes your way; it's about seeing reality as it is and acting accordingly. If you're absolutely powerless over a situation and acceptance is the only thing you can do, then that's all you can do - that's reality. However, if there is something you can do about it, you have to commit yourself to that action fully and without hesitation. If you do make a mistake, or take a wrong turn, at least then you can learn from that experience and redirect yourself. If you never take any chances, you'll never learn anything and never move from where you are.


  1. Nice post, Jonas! Very timely for me and my situation. I am leaving my job as an attorney to spend more time with my daughter, Vivian (effective tomorrow, September 3rd). After toughing it out in a very demanding and stressful job for over a year since Viv was born, I decided that the trade off wasn't worth it for me. At least not right now. The time with my family and daughter is important to me and time that I would never have if I didn't make this decision. It was a VERY difficult decision to make considering all the time and expense that went into becoming a lawyer in the first place. But, as you said: "my current path was preventing me from living the life I want," so I had to act to change that.

  2. Hi Jonas, long time since we have talked! Nice post. It really speaks to me and what I am going through right now. I am desperate to leave my job and I know it's the right thing to do, but I haven't been able to get myself to take action. Anyway, it helped me to read this. Thanks. Hope you are well!

    Lindsey S.

  3. Hi Jonas, Very timely post for me,too. I've just retired from teaching (Talk about another job where you put in beaucoup time & not much time to devote to other passions like writing etc.) & just made a tough decision to turn down 2 parttime jobs. The money was attractive, but I want to finally have time to write more. Hopefully the monetary sacrifice will pay off in incresed literary output. As an atheist, I believe in making the most of all the time I have here & in being realistic - making things happen myself. I believe we can learn from all philosophies & religions as long as we are open minded & take responsibility for ourselves & making the world a better place for posterity.Donna

  4. Well I like Donna's comments, she's a wise one.

    If anything Jonas, your post puzzles me. What is it about the workplace that demands you work at least 50 hours a week? Do they have not enough staff? Are you supposed to only be doing x amount of shifts but find the whole staff are constantly kept unexpectedly back due to unexpectedly high numbers? Or do they just expect people to work a certain amount of time each week and it's not 40 hours?

    I was a waittress and let me tell you we couldn't possibly work more than 40 hours a week (mainly because it's illegal to do so in most work places in the UK and other EU member states).

  5. Ruth -

    The problem is that the restaurant has a very large and busy patio, which demands an additional six servers for every lunch and fourteen servers for every dinner. They have to be careful about over-staffing though, since when patio season ends those shifts will all just be gone and, especially come winter, shifts for everyone will be hard to come by. Personally I think they should have hired staff specifically for the season, but by now it's a moot point.

    Thanks everyone for your comments! Keep em coming - (Hi Lindsey! Great to hear from you)

  6. I understand you now. So it might get better wants the weather gets cold? But yeah, that's a situation where they should have hired seasonal staff, holiday workers would love a job like that.

    All the best Jonas :)