What Life Lessons Have You Learned from Your Job?

Have you learned any life lessons from your work? How about that you can't change other people.
Photo by Josephan Diaz.

The first ten(ish) years of my working life were spent doing marketing for a theatre company. This job taught me that marketing isn't just about making people feel insecure so they will buy a $30 pre-shampoo hair treatment--you can market good things, too! It also taught me a lot about how people act.

Specifically, it taught me that I had to react to what people were ACTUALLY doing, not what I thought they SHOULD be doing.

For example, when I started my job, I thought that people should be able to read a three-sentence description of an event, look at a poster for five seconds to find the important information, or see that a Facebook event had both a start and end date that were different from each other, and thus not say, "Sorry, I'm busy that night" for a play that ran three weeks.

These seemed like reasonable expectations for humanity, right?

Perhaps, but that didn't matter because people didn't actually DO them.

I could have spent ten years getting annoyed that people weren't doing these (and many other) incredibly simple tasks. Instead, I realized that I needed to adapt to what they were doing. (I was, after all, the one whose livelihood depended on them following through with the impulse to buy theatre tickets.)

It was a lot more work. I had to go through every single bit of marketing presence and rearrange or rewrite it so that the messages I wanted people to receive were as obvious and easy as possible.

Anytime I caught myself saying, "People should be able to figure this out," I would have to stop myself and consider whether they would. Because it never really mattered what people should do or could do, only what they would do.

I only recently figured out that this can apply to the rest of life.

Friends, family, significant others--they all could, and maybe even should, do certain things. You could, or should, do things in return.

Maybe you could really like this person because they have all the traits you thought you would be into.

Maybe they could have foreseen that their action would hurt your feelings.

Maybe you could easily have made a note to remember their birthday.

Maybe they could start pitching in around the house.

Maybe you could be interested in their basketball team.

Maybe they could just text or call or email you back already.

But they aren't. And you aren't.

If it's your own life, you have some control over the situation. You can be honest with yourself about what is getting in your way and see if you can remove some barriers to make it easier for yourself to do whatever the things is, assuming you actually want to do it. (Maybe the barrier is that you don't really want to do it. Then what?)

If it's someone else, however, there isn't much you can do about it. If you have the kind of relationship to help them work through their own barriers, that's an option. Otherwise, you just have to start reacting to what they are doing. Not what they could be doing or should be doing--what they are actually doing.

It's a lot harder than it sounds, but far less frustrating.

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