Forgive me, for this isn’t exactly chess related, but in a way it is. It’s certainly affecting my chess, or my lack thereof. It has to do with jobs, namely, the neverending pursuit to get a good one.
We are told almost from birth to get a good job. Not just that, but a job you love. “I want you to do what you love,” I heard over and over from my mom. “If you love your job, then you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s a nice sound bite, but it’s a load of crap.
This is inspired by my recent job change. In January, I left my role as senior instructor at a martial arts dojo and took up the role of law clerk at a local law firm. There have been a host of changes, as you can imagine. In the former, I had nearly 20 years experience; in the latter, I have near zero. One I worked predominately with children; the other I predominately work with millionaires. That’s about the biggest change you can make from one job. As you can imagine, it also pays better, which never hurts.
On the downside, and as chess has taught us every move has a downside, I work more hours. Substantially more. At karate, I averaged around 33hrs a week, which I suppose barely counts as a full-time job. At the firm, I clock a minimum 40hrs and hover closer to 50. This might surprise you, but it’s harder to study chess when you have 17 less hours each week.
It goes beyond just the numbers, though. I have longer days, and I’m more tired afterwards. More accurately, I’m mentally drained. I have lots of energy to do a workout or volunteer at karate afterwards, but much less for solving abstract geometric problems. So yes, I have less hours, but I also have less energy to to use in those hours. I also have interests beyond chess, contrary to what this blog may portray.
One reason, and perhaps the reason, I was able to improve from 1800 to 2000+ on chess.com was because I had time. Most adults don’t have that luxury. Between work, kids, family, friends and general day-to-day stuff, time disappears. I used my time, and so when I studied one hour a day for several months, it makes sense that I improved faster than other adults who can only afford an hour a week.
The question then becomes clear: what do you value? How important is a good job? I have a good job, even a great job. It pays the bills, keeps me intellectually stimulated, is never the same as the day before and it has ample room for advancement. More than a job, it is the beginning of a career. That’s pretty damn cool. On the downside, it takes most of my time and energy, and my other interests understandable lag behind.
My old job was … well, let’s not say bad, but it was definitely a job, not a career. No career potential, little chance of advancement, most days were the same and I sometimes had little to do on the slower days. On the plus side, I had time. I could do things, just about anything I want. During those five years I spent teaching karate, I also: wrote a book (not to mention 400+ days of consecutive blogging), learned to play the piano, learned to draw, learned to juggle, delved deep into object manipulation, read hundreds of books, got in the best shape of my life and the list goes on and on. My job itself may have been nothing special, but it let me do special things.
This, then, is the dynamic. What will it be, a good job, a career at the expense of some of your interests? Or an easy job, something nothing special but lets you pursue your interests every day? Neither is wrong, as long as you choose it for the right reason. It’s fully possible, even preferable, to have what others call a dead-end job but to be incredibly happy because you can do everything you want.
Am I happy where I am? Did I make the right choice? Good question. For me, post university, I have lived an ‘interest-focused’ life, and it’s been fun … but there was also the feeling of needing something more, of going beyond my current station. I am ready to pursue something bigger, if only for the experience. If this works long term, amazing. If it doesn’t, I can always go back to what I know works. It’s win-win … even if it costs my chess time.
You now know why I update less. I want to promise I’ll do more, but that would be foolish. I will do what I can, when I can, and if the gift of time ever descends upon me again, believe me, chess will be one of my first destinations.