How many of us live our lives locked in the rat race? Despite the belief that money can’t buy happiness, we can’t deny that a surplus of income can give people the opportunity to live comfortable lives. It is this driving force for a stable future that has pushed many bright-eyed graduates into corporate positions, where they are gridlocked into a specific routine or career path.
Younger generations are working on introducing exciting new alternatives, such as increased work-life balance, remote jobs, and the rise of the gig economy. Conversely, corporations are also looking into new ways to accommodate this change in priority; interesting new policies such as a liquor room are briefly touched upon in the podcast.
In this episode, Alexander McCaig and Jason Rigby are joined by Tania Katan as they discuss issues adjacent to the meaning of work, the value of money, and the opportunity to enliven the monotony of day to day life.
In the podcast, Tania revealed that her book was entitled “Creative Trespassing” because she wanted to encourage creatives to encroach in spaces they are not necessarily welcomed in—or at least, where they are not invited through the front door.
One particular salient point in their discussion included the issue of toxic workplaces, and where there is still an opportunity for this to happen. A call for structure and order means that businesses may not handle creative people very well; as a result, plenty of innovative minds become “lost” in the woodwork.
To this, Tania explained that humans do have an innate ability to solve practical problems in new ways. Like any other skill, creativity requires active participation and engagement — it’s not just about companies finding ways to create comfort zones, but also about employees looking for ways to break out of that comfort zone. This means that there is definitely still a chance for creatives to flourish in high-pressure work spaces, and even be the reason for positive change within these areas.
Alexander made interesting parallels between theater and office culture, in that everyone has a role they should play. One thought-provoking question he asked was whether people should sit within the confines of that role, or “add the nuances of you that makes you special.”
At this point, Tania shared her roots in theater and how she eventually diverged from the path. She was excited to use her training as a writer in theater, but found a disconnect between the work she trained for and the work she actually ended up doing. This prompted her to work odd jobs on the side, such as telemarketing and bagging groceries.
These diversions led to a big discovery: inadvertently, she had started inserting things she learned from theater into the routine of day to day life, to keep her and her colleagues entertained.
According to Tania, the foundation of theater is the suspension of disbelief. Throughout the podcast, it’s a recurring motif as well: what if straight-laced professionals in rigid industries like business and finance learned to approach their work with the suspension of disbelief?
It’s easy to slip into a certain persona when you dedicate yourself to a certain station and work routine eight hours a day, five days a week. The process can be comforting; but it can also be mind-numbing, and eventually restricting. This metaphorical carry-over between broadway and work is the same individuality that helped Tania find the inspiration to write her book and share her experiences.
She discovered that there is always an opportunity to transform the environment and make an audience out of anybody, anywhere; whether it’s racing to make the largest number of customers smile, paying it forward amongst your workmates with a cup of coffee, or just taking a ten-minute break to stretch with your crew. It’s this attempt at bridging a connection and breaking the routine that can help everybody feel more alive.
Oftentimes, creativity can be paralyzing. It can be difficult to break out from the fear of failure. This traps people in a situation where they are afraid to move at all, and it can be a common problem amongst perfectionists in particular.
To break out of this mold, Tania suggests creatives try two methods: the first is two actively set out and make bad work; and the second is to break the task down into small, incremental actions that anybody can make on a regular basis.
It’s exciting to think of our capacity to come together in one community, to create large and beautiful new things, without having to sacrifice our individuality in the process. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: our unique collective of separate identities is precisely what allows us to innovate new solutions and inventions.
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Lindsey Pollak is an author, an in demand speaker, contributor to a variety of outlets from the Wall Street Journal to CNN, and one of the world’s leading career and workplace experts. Of her four books, two have been on the New York Times bestseller list. Her most recent, Recalculating: Navigating Your Career Through the Changing World of Work is a response to covid and the way it completely changed the way many people get their work done every day.
Like many of the talented people we profile Lindsey has taken a circuitous route to get to where she is at. After graduating from Yale, she went to Australia for a couple years on a Rotary scholarship before going to work for a dot com focused on helping women develop their careers. While she loved the work, the company folded just eighteen months later, a situation that led to Lindsey’s first book, Getting from College to Career: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World.
If you’ve noticed, there is a pattern emerging. Lindsey finds herself faced with a crisis situation and turns it into an opportunity. In fact, this is a behavior she recognizes, stating that each book she’s authored is a response to some kind of crisis, with each book being the book she wished she had to help get her through it. Recalculating began when she saw her calendar get very empty when covid hit. Instead of a calendar full of paid speaking engagements, she found herself with a lot of free time and the need to…recalculate how to pursue her goals in a drastically altered environment.
It is also the first book she’s written that deals extensively with the importance of mindset. How do you look at the world? How do you view yourself and the contribution you can make? She’s had interviews with women who have been out of the workforce for a while and are convinced that no one would be interested in hiring them and others in the same situation who are full of energy and willing to take on the world. As you can imagine, your mindset can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for good or ill.
One important mindset to cultivate is the willingness to step outside of the norm, to take a risk and think outside the box. Thanks to technology, the opportunities to do this, to act on some wild idea are greater than ever and of course Covid has made it a necessity for many. When your job disappears or your business goes under you can either sulk or get back in the saddle, even if the horse rides are a little different. Many have started with a simple blog or an Etsy shop and many more are capable of it. Just as an example, I used to work with a guy who decided to take a chance and move to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. He left a job that was guaranteed money, and good money, to take the biggest risk of his life. Currently, he’s one of the fastest rising stars in the industry. He thought outside the box and took a chance.
Not that it will always be easy. As Lindsey points out, one thing that people need to get used to is rejection. Whether you are applying for a job or submitting an article, or a fundraising pitch, you need to have thick enough skin to take ‘no’ for an answer. It’s okay, you aren’t the first person to get rejected and you won’t be the last. You might well apply for a hundred jobs and only get an offer for two. Which is fine, because you only need one.
The key is to be just a little hard, to be willing to do hard things, to be willing to go against the stream and do the unexpected, and yes, to be willing to take the lumps that come with rejection and not let it stop you. As Rocky Balboa once said, “It’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
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