I Should Have Been A Garbage Man

When the garbage truck comes by our house, it’s kind of a big deal. The kids run to the window and watch the real thing do the real job. When I was a kid, I did the same thing; I played with a toy garbage truck and watched eagerly out of the window when I heard the large diesel engine coming around our cul-de-sac. I wanted to be a garbage man when I grew up.

One time, I was standing by my kids watching the garbage truck also. After the man had picked up the trash, he saw the kids watching him from the window. He honked and waved as he pulled off. I wondered – does this man pick up trash in front of an audience of adoring children all day? It certainly seemed that way; he flourished his farewell with the ease of royalty. I thought about this for a long time.

Then, last week, I caught up with an old colleague who holds a high-level position in a global company. At one point he remarked, “Yeah, I’m making good money, but I feel like I am working to the bone.” This resonated with me. Imagine what you think is good money – then multiply it by 2-3x, and that is probably around what my friend is receiving in total compensation. Yet, he is still always tired, feeling like he is not getting ahead.
So last night I had a moment and decided to make this highly biased comparison of my job and the job of a garbage collector.

I do really enjoy my work and the way it stimulates me intellectually. It is also nice to have a certain level of financial security with a growing family. However, what if every day I could have a little mini-vacation – would I need that extra $5-10k/ year to take an amazing one-time vacation to escape the stress of my job?

Henry David Thoreau observed that men who bought a wagon to save time when they hauled items into town had to work more than necessary to afford the wagon. They would have spent more time going into town without but would have had to work half the week they were working. This kind of thinking seems to be just a perception error, such as James Altucher’s assertion that buying a house is a terrible investment.

More and more, I am examining what things I should be doing, and what things I am doing because I have been conditioned to do them. I think we should be questioning our decisions much more than we do now.

When I was a kid, I never said, “I want to be a sales manager when I grow up.” At least, not that I can remember.

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