The World Needs Clock Punchers

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time clock

I bet I’ll panic when I’m dying.

I get nervous about things. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be nervous about dying.

Scared probably, unless I’m in so much pain I welcome the relief.

What will I think about?

I can only guess. But I’ve always been a good guesser. I will think about my son, hopefully an older man himself at that point. Maybe I’ll have grandchildren. Maybe there will be a woman I love. I don’t know.

But I do know one thing.

Much of what I feel will be predicated on my satisfaction with my life choices.

On whether I lived in fear, grinding out my prime years behind cubicle walls in a corporate office.

On whether I lived courageously. And took my shots.

A guy I work with thinks I’m too ambitious. He thinks maybe I’m not grateful for my job and the money I make even though I am.

Today, I was editing a contributing writer’s column for our company blog. The writer is a long-time, well-respected, talented auto mechanic and hot rod builder.

While describing how to fix something, he wrote about a tool needed to complete the job. According to this long-time industry expert, no tool of this kind exists for automotive applications. Only in woodworking, and they are all insufficient for precision metal cutting.

I turned to my co-worker and said: “People need this tool. Why is it no one’s making it?”

It sparked a conversation about filling needs in the marketplace. About how you capitalize on opportunity.

But it quickly turned.

“Do you really want to work 60-hour weeks?” he said. “Because that’s what it takes to start a business.”

“Well. I think there’s an argument for putting in long hours early, so that you can work less and earn more as you age,” I said.

“I don’t want to do that,” he said. “I just want to work my 40 hours and go home. The world needs clock punchers.”

Everyone Has a Role

He’s right, of course.

The world does need worker bees. The productive people needed to execute the various tasks that make businesses function effectively, providing their goods or services to customers.

Not everyone will be a boss.

Not everyone will earn top salaries.

Not everyone will accumulate financial wealth.

I have a friend preparing for law school. She’s taking the LSAT soon and has been highly stressed about it and other life happenings. Go-to-the-hospital stressed.

“This is important,” she said of the test, trying to justify the stress.

“No it’s not,” I said. “In 500 years we will all be dead and it won’t have mattered at all.”

She understood me.

“When you think about that… that so few things actually matter… what does it make you want to do?” she said.

We’re all going to die and none of this petty stuff matters at all.

We FREAK about all this stuff. Money. Spats with our spouses or parents or children or siblings or friends. About things going on at work. About some task that “needs” taken care of because we’re always busy, busy, busy! So much to do!

It doesn’t matter.

It’s amazing we’ve all convinced ourselves it does.

I thought about her question. What does it make me want to do?

You’ll probably think it’s cliché. But I said: “Love.”

Not romantic love. The kind where you shine light in the darkness.

I said: “Forgive.”

There is no peace without forgiveness. There can be no happiness without peace.

I said: “Laugh.”

Even though I can’t find any scientific proof to back it up, I hear over and over again the claim that children laugh about 300 times a day and that adults laugh less than 20.

Even if it’s not true, it IS true that life gets harder and grayer and crueler and heavier as you age. You grow up and make mistakes and the stains from guilt and past mistakes and sinif you believe in such a thingdarken our insides.

We feel just a little less innocent.

Just a little less hope.

Just a little less joy.

But if we could laugh 300 times a day, I think it would help.

I said: “Seek adventure” as my fourth answer to the question: What does the realization that most of the things we do not mattering make me want to do with this time I get to be alive?

For me?

Adventure is being spontaneous.

Adventure is travel.

Adventure is meeting strangers.

All four answers have one thing in common: The desire for FREEDOM.

The optimum human experience, near as I can tell, would be one where we woke up each day feeling safe, with the resources (financial or otherwise) needed to care for ourselves and our loved ones, and the freedom to spend our waking hours pursuing our passions however we wanted.

Hopefully, those passions would often serve something greater than ourselves, lest we find ourselves always drunk or high or having sex.

I keep trying to find a workaround. But I haven’t solved the riddle.

Near as I can tell, we have two choices to achieve a state of abundance.

Acquire wealth—to whatever degree you define it. (Some people crave $75,000 per year. Others crave $1 million per.)

Or, live a minimalist lifestyle. Reducing “need” eliminates the pressures and necessity of acquiring more money to pay for more things.

I prefer a combination. Spiritually, I do not want to need “things” because things have never made me feel happy or content for very long. Not even once.

But I also crave money because there are things I want to do (including charity) that I am unable to do at my current income level.

So, my plan is to acquire more money sans the desire for more “stuff.”

See You in 10 Years

I was irritated with my co-worker because I think he lacks vision and passion.

My co-worker was irritated with me because he thinks I’m an ingrate.

“Some people aren’t cut out for more than office work,” he said. “In 10 years, I’ll probably be gone, and you’ll probably be sitting right here. See you in 10 years!” he said.

There’s nothing wrong with punching a clock. Our jobs do not define us. Our jobs that won’t matter one bit in 500 years when we’re all dead.

But freedom?

Freedom matters. Because we don’t have a lot of time. And because we’re all going to die.

And we’re all going to have to ask ourselves: Did I give it everything I had?

Keep telling me what I can’t do, friend.

The world needs clock punchers.

But I’m not going to be one of them.

9 thoughts on “The World Needs Clock Punchers”

  1. I have always said our jobs do not define us, so I loved that you wrote it! When asked why I never climbed the corporate ladder or wanted to make more money that has been my response. I have always been content with doing what matters to me, to make me grow, to do what I enjoyed. Maybe I have to do with less as a result, but that’s okay. I also don’t spend my time comparing what I have or don’t have to what others have. I give my all to my work- and at the end of the day, week whatever I feel a sense of accomplishment. To me that’s what it’s all about. And it is true that when I look back at things I got caught up in at work 30 years ago- now they are just blips in the past that have nothing to do with today. I agree with what you told your LSAT friend

  2. Such good food for thought. Wonderfully written, as always. Although I’d argue that the love trumps the freedom. I believe I could survive, maybe even find joy, with love but no freedom, but not vice versa. Hard to say, hope I never have to try it. Maybe some of that comes from my current 140 hr/wk job where I literally watch four small people undo everything I do all day, every day. It’s hard to have chosen a path with so little recognition, negative money, an apparent loss of freedom and such crap hours… but motherhood has excellent love benefits so I’m sticking it out.

  3. Years ago I sat in a cubicle and thought about my situation, the fact that I worked in a thankless position, never got to see my family because I worked afternoon shift, was not financially secure and what it might take to make a change. The driving force behind my actions was my family. I just wanted to spend more time with them. For most of us things don’t just fall into our lap but we can absolutely make a change if we just decide to and work with determination.
    I’ve been self employed for years now and love what I do. Most importantly I get to spend as much time with my kids as I want to. I took them up north five times this year for mini vacations, spent countless days grilling out at the park, walking nature trails and just hanging out. There’s no way in hell I could have done all that when I was in the cubicle and nothing can take the place of the memories I’ve made.

  4. Do you want to know what I thought about after I was shot three times and thought I would die (the doctors thought so to when they finally got me to a hospital btw).

    1. I would like to live just long enough to tell my sons I will watch over them, they won’t be alone.

    2. I would like to live just long enough to tell my father his lessons stuck and I am the woman he made me, I hope he has been proud of me as I am and have always been proud of him.

    3. Dammit, I really want a cigarette. They stole my car, my purse and my fresh pack. I wish I could have a last cigarette, it is cold out here.

    That is what I thought. I have lived much differently since then. Obviously I didn’t die, nearly did and it was hard fought for many years, learning to walk again, learning a great many things again.

    Yes, the world needs clock punchers. The world also needs people who dream big. Sometimes the world needs agitators. We need them all.

    1. I just wanted to say that I’m glad you were able to come back from that.
      I’ve told people many times that too often we need a wake up call to truly wake up…sounds like you got yours.
      The goal, I think, is to help people wake up without having to endure something horrific…every day, every moment is an opportunity to grab hold of life and do what you know deepest in your heart is right.
      I want to thank you for sharing your story with this comment. You have inspired me.

  5. You are totally speaking my language. It’s funny how many people are scared of stepping out of the norm. Whenever I tell people that my goal is to move to San Diego, the first thing out of their mouth is “It’s expensive.”
    Oh my. Really? Hmm…maybe I should rethink MY dream.
    There will always be clock punchers. There will never be a lack of people who are content living their lives safe…That’s ok. What there is not enough of are people who feel the burning desire to step outside of the normal and don’t let the fears of other people keep them from pursuing their own dreams.

    Break Free Matt!!!! I think you have a few of us behind you who want the same thing.

  6. I reckon my job is a bit odd. I work in a time-sensitive industry– expedited freight– but I don’t punch a clock or work regular hours. It’s much better this way. Working in a cubicle, with “The Man” staring over your shoulder, watching the clock so you get your breaks and punch in and out on time— thanks but no thanks. I have less money maybe, but I’m richer in every meaningful way OTHER than money.

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Matt Fray

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