Do it now
Maybe it’s my age (I’m 52) but a lot of the news I’ve been getting hasn’t been too bright lately. Last week I found out that former work colleague has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and has only a few months to live. This came just a couple of weeks after I heard exactly the same story about another ex-colleague in journalism. And, earlier this year, the man who was probably the best boss I ever had when I worked in the world of newspapers died after spending his last days in care home suffering from dementia.
The idea of life being too short to waste – of living every moment as if it was your last – may have almost become a cliché these days, but that doesn’t make it any less true or worthwhile as a philosophy. When I hear sad stories that spell out the fragility of our existence, I’m so thankful for the sometimes difficult decisions I’ve made in my life and work. Moving abroad, switching careers to translation, working for myself are things I could easily have thought better of, but they’ve worked out well and I have no regrets.
You’ll have to forgive me if this week I break my usual rule against preaching but this is something I feel strongly about, and I hope anyone reading this – maybe on the verge of a difficult decision, perhaps beset by doubts and fears – will think for a minute about what I’m saying. Life IS too short to waste on doing a job that brings you no satisfaction; on working for a boss who doesn’t appreciate you; on doing 50% of the work and earning 2% of the pay. It IS too short for slaving round the clock for starvation rates; for working for clients who don’t respect payment dates the way you do delivery deadlines; for not specialising in the kind of work you really like. But if you need to change something there’s always a way of doing it, and life’s simply too short for not taking action.
Because you don’t get where you want to be by complaining, dreaming or talking. You get there by planning, preparation and, most importantly, by doing something about it: getting that training, handing in your notice, increasing your rates or taking some other step into the unknown. And you do it because not doing anything is the worst failure of all – far worse than trying something that ultimately doesn’t work out. After all, no-one ever learned anything from doing nothing, no-one ever achieved anything by doing nothing and no-one is likely to feel very good about themselves for doing nothing in a miserable situation.
I’ve been talking about work, because that’s the main focus of this blog, but I might easily be referring to any other area of life, the principle is the same. I’m not, though, suggesting rushing into anything. Of course, careful thought and consideration are required when making big decisions. But once a course of action is decided on, there’s no time like the present. Because, as is being brought home to me every time I receive one of those sad pieces of news about a former colleague, you really don’t know when it might end up being too late.