They say familiarity breeds contempt.

I’m not sure I’d go that far but it does in my experience lead to undervaluing what you have.

In career and culture its easy over time to let familiarity dull our senses. Any excessive knowledge of something lets our mind put it in a box attaching certain meaning to it and then moving on quickly without really paying attention to the detail. Case in point: do you really pay attention to each step when you make the coffee in the am?

Since I’ve been under the weather my whole being has been a little off. I sleep longer but more fitfully. The only thing I want to eat is chicken soup (so I made a big batch over the weekend) and I find myself moving more slowly and deliberately consciously thinking through the steps of making the coffee, doing the laundry and washing the dishes.

As I was lying on the floor this morning (I like a hard surface for my back) I was reflecting on how unconsciously I – and maybe you – move through workdays and worklife. In America of course we’re famous for moving on to what’s next lest we stay too long and fall out of date. Next, new, now could be our mantra.

In career this sometimes means we pay so much attention to amorphous marketing, hyperbole and bullshit we actually think there’s a corporate nirvana out there somewhere. There’s not Dorothy: you’re not in Kansas anymore. There are fabulous cultures and companies like the Virgin group, Disney and W. L. Gore and there are awful firms as well.

But the truth is worklife is really an equation, stated like: Culture + Effort = Satisfaction.

While I’m no mathematician I know that no job is ever purely good or bad simply because of the environment: its what we bring to the table that produces the final outcome, or answer set for my math friends.

You see, too often we look past what we have in front of us. The support, the focus, the plans and people to concentrate only on the downside of our current position, eg., our relationship with bosses, promotion opportunities, etc. And we then paint the entire schema darker than it really is or need be.

And yes, there is a point when, for career sake, we have to move on: I’ve written about that before. But my guess is we sometimes accelerate that point or at least our dissatisfaction with our current position not because of an empiric truth but because we have become mentally lazy and socially familiar. We become less enthused than we should be forgetting that workplace satisfaction (what hipsters call engagement) is a function of the job and our efforts toward it.

Confused? Re-check the equation above.

We owe it to ourselves, peers and employers to not become jaded. We owe it to each other to be the best we can be every day knowing that that “best” varies by day.

Do not become so familiar you become contemptuous. You are better than that, and frankly, we deserve more from you.


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