There's got to be a better way.

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Blog entry by jpw1995 posted 04-15-2007 11:34 PM 1607 reads 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As I sit here at work for the 15th day in a row I can’t help but think to myself,”There has to be a better way.” It’s 5:00 in the evening, and I’ve been here since 9:00 this morning. The only bright spot in my day has been the bacon, egg and cheese biscuit I had from McDonald’s for breakfast. I’ll be leaving in just a few minutes, but I wanted to vent some of my frustration to my fellow LJ’s since you all are such great listeners and alway have worthwhile advice to share.

I’m 29 years old, and I’ve been sitting behind a desk for the past 8 years. I work in the mechanical engineering field where there’s always a deadline looming just around the corner. “Why aren’t you done yet?”, “We need this done yesterday.”, “Can you work some extra hours this week?”. These words are all too common in my line of work. The pain is eased every other Friday when the eagle lands in my mailbox, but is it really worth it? I’m beginning to think it’s not.

A little over a year ago I quit my job at one engineering firm to join another. I’d heard great things about my new employer, and I had several interviews before I accepted their offer. I had grow to hate my job with the previous firm, but I thought “Maybe it’s just the poor atmosphere and low pay. Maybe if I go someplace where the people are easier to work with and the money is better I’ll be happy.” Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Don’t get me wrong. The people here ARE great to work with, and the money IS A LOT better. I have made many friends here, and I have nothing bad to say about any of my fellow employees or my superiors. They really are a great group of people. That being said, “The Business” is still “The Business”. The deadlines still loom, the gray hairs are still popping, and my stress level is as high as ever.

Over the last couple of months, one of the things that has kept me going during the day is Every so often I’ll log on and check the PULSE and make the occasional comment. It gives me something to look forward to and breaks the monotony of it all. I’ve been inspired by everyone of my fellow jocks, and especially by those who have chosen woodworking as a career. I’m hoping one day I will get up enough courage to break the chains that have me bound to my desk and enjoy the type of freedom that must come with doing something you love. Until that day I’ll continue to do my job well, no matter how much I grow to dispise it, because I take pride in everything that I do. I will not sacrifice the quality of my work just because I’d rather be in the shop. I refuse to feel sorry for myself because I may not be completely happy with some of the career choices I have made. Someday I will join the ranks of those who call the woodshop their office. Let’s just hope it’s sonner that later. Until that day comes, I look forward to you guys keeping me company through each of the long days I’m stuck behind the monitor.

Thanks for lending me your ears. Now…. off to the shop…

-- JP, Louisville, KY

21 comments so far

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4300 days

#1 posted 04-15-2007 11:52 PM

I’m not a man with what they say has a lot of wisdom to offer you about your life.
Just take care of yourself the best you can.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4315 days

#2 posted 04-16-2007 12:09 AM

I wish you the best. I might caution that woodworking as a business can be just a crazy. I know guys that never crawl out from behind their desk. They work 60 hour weeks and are miserable cranky jerks you don’t want anything to do with. So I guess it is how you go about it.

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4328 days

#3 posted 04-16-2007 12:30 AM

I needed a change or some diversity in my life, and it took me a long time to do something about it… One final helping factor – my wife got me the book Renaissance Soul, which basically made me realize that it was ok to have more than one job.

Not the answer for everybody, but it works for me. I also had to know what I’d be doing in 10 years (when my dad retires). Of course 10 years ago I didn’t know what I’d be doing today…. still I needed an inkling of where to go from here. Woodworking may fill that void, teaching might, I still don’t know that I’d want woodworking to be my full-time gig. I’m not ready for that just yet, but then again, I don’t have to be.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4161 days

#4 posted 04-16-2007 12:53 AM

knowing WHY you are doing something really helps to find fulfillment in it. Believing in your choices also helps.

Remember that the journey is the destination and all choices are stepping stones to the future. They are never “bad” choices or you wouldn’t have made them in the first place! Each choice guides you away from something and/or towards something.

Clarify your vision, your passion, your goals… and head towards the future one day at a time.

Enjoy your time in the shop and know that you have one BIG support group here at

- my 2 cents :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View halfabubbleoff's profile


7 posts in 4067 days

#5 posted 04-16-2007 01:10 AM

Hey JP,
Free advice is worth about what you pay for it, so here goes…

I worked for 35 years in a variety of high stress jobs that I hated. Moved to a new but similar job every four or five years so I wouldn’t go postal. Finally took a big financial penalty and took early retirement. I’m really happy for the first time in my life. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Stress hurts you both mentally and physically.

So, why not go about this like an engineer? Work up the specs for what is really important to you (money, prestige, time with family, security, health, leisure, etc) and rank them. Find a job or situation that can support what you want and make a plan to get there. Consider related fields that might use your skills. Consider other skills that you have.

I think most of the people I know weren’t doing at 40 what they were doing at thirty, and they did something different at 50.

Your head wasn’t meant for beating against that brick wall. Put it to work!

By the way, I know a lot of woodworkers who don’t think its fun anymore either. A lot of the things that bring us pleasure as hobbyists – stretching our skills, taking time to do it right, picking our projects, building skills, just go away when you are trying to build kitchen cabinets as cheaply as you can and hoping to pay the bills.

-- They say the best things in New Mexico are at the end of a dirt road, I know I am.

View Karson's profile


35121 posts in 4401 days

#6 posted 04-16-2007 01:27 AM

I have never been a risk taker. I’ve always done the best that I could on the jobs that I had and I was held in high esteem. I even had one other employee who I knew but was not a friend, tell the company that if they let me go he was gone.

And he is the guy that IBM calls when they are having a problem because he know more about IMS than even IBM knows and it’s their product.

So I did my unwind, doing woodworking. One of the best things that happened was that I was finally downsized. and then I became a contractor, running the software that I wrote for another company.

I asked my boss if he cared where I lived (because I worked at home) He was in Boston, I was in New Jersey and he had people all over. He said no, So I started to look for a new home outside of NJ where my real estate taxes were $9000.00 a year. You can’t retire and pay those kind of taxes. I moved to Delaware taxes $700.00 a year.

There is something to be said about a state that is the incorporation capital of the US. A lot of corporate taxes and not a lot of people to drain the government dry.

When the contract expired I quit working. And people ask me if I want to contract out. No way. I didn’t select this option but I took it when the choice came down.

Good Luck in your decision making.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4238 days

#7 posted 04-16-2007 03:39 AM

I couldn’t get a “Normal Job” so I had no choice but to start building things…

I hate normal jobs. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it to pay for me to sniff sawdust all day and lacquer fumes, and sleep in my shop.

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4312 days

#8 posted 04-16-2007 03:42 AM

I feel your pain! I’ve been working shift work for going on twenty-six years, now. The last sixteen behind a desk and the last six behind a desk working alone for twelve hours at a time. The job can be both very boring and then a second later very stressfull. I to would love to find a job that I could enjoy, yet pay the bills. I had a business once and found it to be very stressfull and I wasn’t depending on it to pay the bills at the time. I wish you the best at finding what you are looking for, but until then I’m glad to hear that LumberJocks gives you an outlet. Feel free to relieve your stress anytime.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View tyblack's profile


1 post in 4059 days

#9 posted 04-16-2007 04:21 PM

After I read your entry I decided to register and make a post b/c your life and mine seem very similar. I am 28, software Engineer, hate my job but I have the luxury of working from home. The way I help ease my problem with me not enjoying my job is first, a garage heater b/c MN is really cold and second, work from home. My lunch break is spent in the garage. So every 4 hours of work I run to the garage and work on my projects. For you though, being a Mec E. I would assume that you have access to programs like Pro Engineer or Solid works. Why not, when everyone is out at lunch, start up a drafting program and design your new kitchen cabinets, book case, or work on some new dovetail designs. One of my favorite things to do is use Sketch Up to draw my shop. Move things around put cars in and out of the garage make sure there is room. If you spend a fair amount of your time drafting for others why not draft for yourself and in doing so this will bring the joy back to Solid Works where otherwise you would hate it. Another even better idea is to reverse engineer something you would like to have i.e. legacy mill or Multi-Router . Draw it up and make your job fun, during lunch that is. Here is what I am trying to make, CNC Machine. Hope this helps. Remember, you have skills, knowledge and a deeper understanding of how materials work then most of us.

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4093 days

#10 posted 04-16-2007 05:22 PM

Follow your dreams JP.

Don’t know if you’re married or have children, mortgage, etc., but I do know that if you’re going to make that leap of faith… when you are young is the time to do it.

Just realize that long hours, disappointments, deadlines, anxiety, compromise (unless, of course, you are Howard Rourke), and heartbreak as well as a long list on other things also come with those dreams.

As with almost anything in this world, drive and determination are the key factors to any success.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4161 days

#11 posted 04-16-2007 06:41 PM

I like Ty’s way of thinking—how do you make the job enjoyable?
Bringing your individual passions into your work really changes what you do and how you feel about it – and can be a positive influence for the company, if they are smart!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View jpw1995's profile


376 posts in 4299 days

#12 posted 04-16-2007 06:45 PM

Thank you, everyone, for all of the advice and encouragement. You don’t know how much it helps just getting it off of my chest.

-- JP, Louisville, KY

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4175 days

#13 posted 04-18-2007 03:23 PM


I’m not sure how she REALLY took it… she smiled and gave a slight laugh, but I couldn’t tell if it was a nervous laugh or if it was a jovial laugh.

Anyway, after a particularly hard day at work earlier this week, my wife and I were sitting on the sofa talking about our lives and wondering what we can do to add more value and meaning to them.

Finally, I ended it with, “I just can’t wait until we have a baby and then I can be a stay-at-home dad.”

In our house, that actually isn’t such a shocking statement. We both agree I’m the more nurturing of the two of us and if we decide to have one of us go to part time work or even quit totally that I would probably be the one.

It also doesn’t hurt that she makes more money than me… (her semi-annual bonuses totally blow me out of the water)

Not that the baby will be any time in the near future. The whole point of finding a bigger house was so that we can move in that direction. Now that we’ve found the bigger house, we’d like to spend a year or so making sure we can get all of the things fixed up that we want to get fixed up because we know once the baby comes everthing will be about her.

(You like how I already know our first is going to be a girl? A friend of mine had a premonition, and he’s been right 11 times out of 11 so far (eight of which were his own). I have faith that he’ll be right this time, too.)

Anyway… what’s my point? Oh, yeah… you aren’t alone. There are a lot of people out there who hate what they do and dread going to work every day. But recently I’ve come to realize there are also a lot of people out there who are completely happy and satisfied with what they do each and every day.

Going through life hating eight hours of each day is no way to live… So if others can find something to do that pays the bills AND makes them happy, then I can, too, and so can you.

In my mind, I’ve already starting trying to figure out the different things I can do to help make ends meet. I have several technical writing connections (in fact, I still do editing for the American City Business Journals) and I think if I put my mind to it, I could definitely make some money with woodworking.

Ah, well… who knows what the future will bring us, JP. I’ve had several specific and unexpected events happen in my life that changed it significantly and took me in directions I never thought I’d go.

I guess the key is to be able to recognize those moments when they happen. Two of them immediately come to mind where I had to make a conscious decision to change my course in the new direction or keep plugging away with the status quo. I decided I wasn’t happy where I was, so I took the road less travelled.

To give you a starting point… why not make up a list of anything and everything in your life that makes you happy. That’s the first step on a long journey to a fulfilling life…

Good luck, JP.

-- Ethan,

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4157 days

#14 posted 04-18-2007 05:56 PM


I won’t pretend to have or give you any advice that might work. My advice is free so it tells you how worthless it is. That said: I can tell you what worked for me and my experience.

I have been in your position before.

Almost ten years ago after my accident I decided that something had to change or give.

Working as a superintendent in construction as an operator of heavy equipment.
I had come to hate my job. The long days, living on the road, layoffs, dangerous conditions and general dissatisfaction with the career I had chosen thus far.

In short, I detested what I did and came to hate my job also. The problem was what I later came to name and identify as “the golden handcuffs”. What that means is, the job paid so well along with all the benefits I couldn’t afford or justify quitting.

I felt stuck and it just became a viscous circle. The only thing I really felt after a while was frustration. I had gone numb. In short I was miserable.

I finally decided something had to give.

That something was me.

The job was what it was a job. That wasn’t going to change nor could it. The only thing I could change or had control over was me. I had to do a gut check and ask honestly what I wanted to do and what I was willing to do and what sacrifices I was willing to make to achieve my goals.

I had to be completely honest with myself, my choices and goals.

I found this to be the hardest part, the mental aspect.

I made a list of priorities. I made another list of what I was willing to do and what I had to do in order to achieve my goals and priorities. I then made an outline to follow day by day. A road map if you will.

I also set up some guide lines for myself.

Here are a few of them. Each person has there own goals and values these just happened to be some of mine. I won’t pretend or suggest for a moment these will work for you or that you should do these. They just helped me at the time.

1. I had to change my thinking in order for my feelings to change. For example, if I told myself every day I hated what I was doing I found that is what I felt. I had to learn to say things like (I don’t care for this job that I am doing, and this is my plan and how I am going to change where I find myself. This situation I find myself in ,is only temporary and soon will change.

2. I will have to adjust my level of spending to my income. Period. If that means I have to sell my house and downsize, find a roommate, sell a car or sell some assets to make this happen then I have to do this. It is part of the overall plan. If I can’t do this or am unwilling I will need to find ways to make myself happy with doing what I am doing.

I realized that happiness came from with inside of me and wasn’t the result of an outside force. I had to come to the conclusion that I was about as happy or miserable as I had made myself out to be. I was responsible for my emotional health.

3. I would not nor could I blame anyone else for the position I had found myself in. Only I could change that.

4. A job will be a job. Things aren’t much different at another job. Pretty much every thing that I didn’t like at my other job would eventually find me at the new job or I would find something new to replace the old problems.

5. I had to agree to not look back. No regrets. If something wasn’t working out the way I expected, or had hoped, I had to change course and make it work for me. I had to learn to be flexible.

6. I had to make decisions and accept responsibility for them.

7. I had to let my self make mistakes. I had to allow myself to be human and to forgive myself, over and over, and not dwell or allow my self to become paralyzed over something and move on.

8. I had to accept that some things were going to be out of my control, but how I reacted or handled them was in my control.

9. Self pity wouldn’t be tolerated any longer.

10. I had to learn to set realistic goals and be willing to adjust when necessary. I had to find a reward system for myself that was realistic and didn’t involve spending money I didn’t have.

I had to let myself have fun.

It’s been almost ten years now that I have worked only part time. I have adjusted my life style to accommodate this. I love it and have never looked back. I also made a commitment to myself that if I get to the point that I hate my job I have to quit and move on.

No excuses I just have to do it.

I have been approached to do woodworking full time. So far I haven’t did this and won’t do it, because I am afraid for me, it would just become another job. With that comes stress and deadlines and all the other responsibilities that I never liked before.

I never want to loose my passion for the crafts I practice.

I know how hard it is to work for ones self. I have ran a side line construction business and shop on the side long enough to know that working for your self, while having rewards and its advantages, often I have found I work harder and longer for less money.

The difference now for me is I choose to do this.

-- Dusty

View fred's profile


256 posts in 4099 days

#15 posted 04-18-2007 07:14 PM

JP -

About 15 years ago, I was a Senior Manager in a large corporation. It was very stressful to say the least with deadlines, deadlines, more deadlines and the threat of corporate downsizing. Our unofficial corporate slogan was that we worked half-days. Yep, there are 24 hours in a day and we worked half or 12 hours a day. It was expected, that at a minimum, we worked 7:00am to 7:00 pm six days a week. There was also the task of managing multiple projects, corporate politics and some very mean-spirited people. My secretary noticed the stress and gave me a book titled “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff – It’s All Small Stuff”. It helped me deal with things I could not control.

I finally realized that the most important thing in my life was family and I was able to change my outlook on life and reduce stressful situations so that I was focused on one thing – my family.

Since then I moved to becoming a consultant with an international consulting company where I only deal with a client project. No corporate politics, focusing on one project only and being viewed as the expert with the knowledge to manage the project and provide value. I set my own time on when I want to work and the type of projects I will accept. I am now in control of my life more than I have ever been in the past. I don’t want to even think of retiring.

I then started on my hobby of woodworking and couldn’t happier with my life.

None of this happened overnight, it took me several years to arrive at where I am today. Hang in there, buddy, you will make it.



-- Fred Childs, Pasadena, CA - - - Law of the Workshop: Any tool, when dropped, will roll to the least accessible corner.

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