Working at my job is confusing.
Maybe that is unfair. Please allow me to rephrase that…
Working in Japan is confusing.
In America we are taught to “be direct” and ”say what you think” but in Japan it doesn’t work this way.
Japanese culture has very subtle ways of expressing their opinions and concerns.
Allow me to provide some examples
In America when I say “I like that”, this can be accurately translated to mean “I like that”.
In Japan when a person says “I like that”, just like that, they do in fact “like that”. But when the same person says “I like that”, in that manner, they actually are saying “That needs to be changed immediately. My ancestors are turning over in their grave. You are bringing incredible shame to my culture”. Do you see the difference?
In America when I say “I’m full” it’s because I am full.
In Japan when a person says “I’m full” depending on the tone of voice, the angle of the eyes, the time of day, the way their eyebrows twitch, and their lineage dating back thousands of years it could mean any of the following: “I’m not full” , “I hate you” or “I don’t know”. Notice here, it never actually means “I’m full”.
…You think I am joking? You think I am exaggerating? Well F— YOU! I wish I was!
I’ll explain the context in which each of the translations above applies
They say “I’m full” but mean “I hate you” – This happens when they hate you. They say “I’m full” and mean “I don’t know” – This happens when they don’t know.
They say “I’m full” but mean “I’m not full” – I have no clue.
Consequentially I have come to believe that all Japanese people are in fact master mind readers! Which leads me to the next logical conclusion (I am very logical) – There must be something in the food that allows all Japanese people to become mind readers. Therefore, I am now eating rice at minimum once per day, often twice per day. I will confess that it does not seem to be working… and I am getting a little tired of rice.
On to another exciting topic: my employers expectations of me at work! I have been given responsibilities that I have never before had. This is exciting and new! I am all about skill development so this is a very big deal to me! Somewhere on my resume something has convinced my employer that I am simply fantastic at “sitting and doing nothing.
I can just imagine the conversations they must have had
(employer looking at my resume prior to meeting me)
“Look at this!” “What?”
(2 second break while they do magic telepathic mind-reading)
“Yes! I see it! This boy, is simply exceptionally gifted at sitting and doing nothing”“Well, this is superb! With this tough economy it is phenomenally difficult to find someone these days who is actually skilled at sitting and doing nothing” “Well, since we are so short on people who sit and do nothing we will fill his time with sitting and doing nothing all day and all year long!” “It’s settled!”
Did you know that sitting and doing nothing is a job that can actually never end? All you folks out there, with your massive piles of paperwork and long client lists don’t understand what it means to truly have an endless cycle of work! I, on the other hand, have a job filled with responsibilities that can potentially never end! I sit, then I do nothing… Yet no matter how much sitting and nothing I do, there is always more to be done!
Of course, I have my limits and can only handle so much of a workload. They recognize this so maybe once a day I’ll teach a class… But as soon, as I finish teaching that class it’s back to work! I head back to my desk and immediately begin sitting and doing nothing.
I’m going to tell you a little secret. Please do not inform my employer… I don’t actually sit and do nothing (GASP!). Well, I sit… a lot! But I don’t actually do nothing.
Let me rephrase that. I actually do fulfill my responsibilities of “doing nothing” I just multi-task that with “doing something”…
Since January (4 months ago) I have tried to use my time for good use. Below is a list of what I have accomplished thus far:
1. Completed 25 books 2. Enrolled in 2 courses online. 3. Participate in 1 online class everyday. 4. Developed a 5 year long term business plan 5. Started an online business (using this blog as the beginning platform) 6. Write/Published over 25 blog posts (I’m currently writing this post at work) 7. Managed an online investment portfolio as well as researching current and future stock market trends 8. Researched, organised, and made all reservations for 2 separate trips across Japan. 9. Developed a 10 page document which identifies all of my goals for 2012 as well as an action plan for each one. 10. Researched and determined best methods to improve my 10 k race time. 11. Teach a class (every once in a while).
I hadn’t thought too much of this until about a week ago. A friend asked me “What do you do with all the free time?” I then told her and she started to laugh and and said “So they are paying you… To read books, organise your life, take online courses, and develop a business that has nothing to do with them…”
I thought about it and could give only one answer “Yeah… I guess they are…”
This is either insanely awesome or really not okay. I’m gonna go with Option A…
The Bigger Picture
What does this have to do with following a dream?
I, unfortunately, for many months blamed my employer for my lack of satisfaction at the job. Internally I complained of their low expectations. I wanted more responsibilities and was not being given it. When January came I finally realized if I am going to improve my skills then I needed to stop “wishing my employer expected more of me” and to simply start expecting more of myself.
I think the question of “integrity” has to come up. Is it okay that I am spending paid time at work doing all of these things? Well, I spent the first 5 months (August to December) trying to find ways that they could make me a “better employee”. I asked for responsibilities, I tried to develop new things, I tried to think outside of the box, and this generally led to being told “It is okay, you can study Japanese now.”
Over some slightly intoxicated conversations with my supervisor she confessed she often doesn’t know what to do with me. It was actually a very touching conversation. I also confessed to her “Don’t worry about it. I fill up my time pretty well with other things”.
In this case I have tried my best to give more. And that being said, I fulfill all of my professional responsibilities with them first. Whenever I am asked to do anything I immediately do it, and always strive for excellence. My responsibilities to them always come first!
If I want to make things happen in my life I HAVE TO DO IT!
I cannot expect an employer, a friend, or anyone else to take me where I want to go in life. Yes, they can help me, and it is wonderful when they do. But at the core, If I want to develop I must take intentional action to do it. It would be very easy for me to say “Well, they just give me a bunch of free time, so I go on facebook all day!” But that would be a tragedy! If I want to learn and grow it is on me to use my time effectively to make this happen! I must take intentional action EVERY DAY to get where I want to, in life.
What about you? Are you expecting other people to make your life better? Are you committing everyday to use your time effectively to move forward in your life? Are you making excuses? Maybe you are great at using your time, how do you keep yourself accountable?
This post first appeared on The 30-Year Old Ninja.