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Mechanics of Filling the B.S. Bucket
Old 12-01-2019, 02:38 PM   #1
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Mechanics of Filling the B.S. Bucket

A few days ago I informed my company that I intend to take a one year sabbatical and will, during that time, decide if I want to come back, cut back or simply end my career. The interesting thing is that my situation was great....I'd been working a high end sales job, from home, where annual pay averaged $200k - $300k, BUT the workload only amounted to around 5 hours a week of real work. Additionally, I am generally well-respected at my firm and no one bothered me to take on more assignments; they all sort of understood that I do what I want and I've been in wind-down mode for a while. Obviously that's a pretty good gig if you can get it, so I started wondering what inspired me to make the move. I started thinking about the mechanics of what fills up the b.s. bucket.

In my case....

1. Because of my choice to have a rather lax work week, others at the firm (who are very skilled, but hungrier) were getting better results. Even though I'm totally fine with my results objectively, when they're put into the lens of "how are you doing vs. others" it made me feel bad.

2. We became more professional. When I joined this firm 10 years ago, it was a small, relatively unknown firm in our industry. But over 10 years, we've become the go-to name for what we do. This has led us to have more corporate meetings (about once a month via video conference.) And during these, I always felt bad, again for my "relatively" poor results vs. others. The irony is that NO ONE did anything to try to make me feel bad; they all know my situation. But it's challenging to sit there, know I could do better, but choose not to. It became a struggle with myself asking, "How come I'm not more motivated?"

3. I think this is the important one: Even though the actual workload was only a few hours a week, the mental workload was much higher. I found it hard to let my deals out of my mind at night. I felt a need to almost always take a call from a client, or return a missed call within 30 minutes. And those few, important calls that I had to be on to save a deal seemed to always occur when I was on vacation.

4. When I started 10 years ago, we were just coming out of the Great Financial Crisis. I was hungry because my stocks and home values had dropped in half, and my business had recently gone under. Nowadays, it's pretty smooth sailing financially, so the criteria to go out and hustle for each additional dollar got higher, and my tolerance for anything other than "perfect" clients got lower.

So the interesting insight I had was that the "b.s. bucket" was entirely of my own-making....everything is clearly in my own head. No one put pressure on me, tried to make me feel bad, or anything like that. But at least in my head, the pressure probably felt as real as for someone who has legitimate reasons to gripe, for instance someone who works a hard physical job, someone with an unappreciative boss, etc. (And yes, I get how lucky my situation has been and I'm very grateful for that.)

Anyway, I'm curious how others view the "b.s. bucket." For me, it was interesting to realize that I had constructed it myself.
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Old 12-01-2019, 03:09 PM   #2
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Oh, there may have been some self construction. But let me give a different perspective.

Awareness from experience.

Your situation is very sales oriented. For those of us process oriented, it probably goes differently. And here's one way BS is generated. The Company, or The Founder, or The Boss, or The Man -- whoever -- declares that some new process, or problem, or situation, or meeting is the new way that will lead us to the promised land. As youngsters, we dutifully eat it up and drink the kool aid.

Years go by.

Not much happens. Or maybe things go in reverse. Maybe you change companies or departments. Then, The Man, The Boss, The Company declares that some new process, or problem, or situation is going to get us to the promised land.

Hmm. That sounded familiar. OK, maybe we'll give it a try again. The first one was a glitch.

Years go by.

Not much happens. Then, The Man... declares a new way to the promised land.

Eyes open up. What? This is BS. My bucket is starting to fill.

Years go by.

Not much happens. Then... well, you know. The BS bucket is now full.
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Old 12-01-2019, 03:09 PM   #3
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Since I worked in a highly gov't overseen and paid for industry (big mushroom cloud makers), it was the administrative BS that filled my bucket. Way too many cogs in the system that seemed to justify their own existence rather adding value to the process. Gets very frustrating when you know what needs to be done, but like the old joke "you can't get there from here". It's also tough when there are too many decision makers that have different viewpoints.

I enjoyed the work, and for the most part my coworkers were good. Just too much regulation and oversight so any progress was painfully slow.
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Old 12-01-2019, 03:25 PM   #4
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My situation was similar but different. I was a fairly senior guy, both in terms of age/gray hairs and compensation. I had carved out a niche in a complex practice area and had a good rep within the firm as "the guy" to go to for certain transactions. My colleagues, who had the primary responsibility for client relationships told me that they liked having me on their teams because my self confidence in the subject and my gray hairs made clients instantly comfortable that they were bringing the best of the firm to the client's situations. I was only working 50% time... just enough to get firm-sponsored health insurance... but I was responsive enough that no client and most partners I dealt with had no idea that I was only 50% time.

I'm not sure if I was coasting, but to me 50% was coasting compared to earlier in my career when I was a full-time managing director and more hungry.

What finally did it for me were two things. First, we "had enough" and continued work only served to make the state and federal governments (we paid a lot in taxes) and our kids/my heirs richer. Second, the nature of the work was fast-paced and 24/7/365.... when a client is paying more than $500/hour they expect immediate response when they call with an issue (and rightfully so)... and that on-call nature of the work and meetings that moved from morning to afternoon with no notice made it hard for me to schedule contiguous time off. So I quit.
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:20 PM   #5
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Sounds like you had the nearly perfect gig. Hard wrapping my head around how you think what you described filled the BS bucket.

I was working 100+ hours a week in a similar role, 52 weeks a year (yes, even during Christmas week usually). Maybe will share some more later when I have time as to what the BS bucket consisted of - but (and not to be critical) when I read your description, it sounds like a day at Disneyland compared to the BS we were expected to put up with.

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. You have it VERY easy, my friend. I'd take that gig in a nanosecond compared to what I ER'd from. Pay me $2-300K to do ~5 hours of real work a week, even in a high performing WFH Sales role? Um, OK. If you INSIST..
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Old 12-01-2019, 04:34 PM   #6
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Sounds like you had the nearly perfect gig. Hard wrapping my head around how you think what you described filled the BS bucket.

I was working 100+ hours a week in a similar role, 52 weeks a year (yes, even during Christmas week usually). Maybe will share some more later when I have time as to what the BS bucket consisted of - but (and not to be critical) when I read your description, it sounds like a day at Disneyland compared to the BS we were expected to put up with.

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. You have it VERY easy, my friend. I'd take that gig in a nanosecond compared to what I ER'd from. Pay me $2-300K to do ~5 hours of real work a week, even in a high performing WFH Sales role? Um, OK. If you INSIST..
Wow, hard to believe that one could survive in a top sales mode with those earnings and only working a few hours a WEEK? In our company, he would have been told to put out much more or be gone. And the BS bucket is full...of what?
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Old 12-02-2019, 07:20 AM   #7
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I just want to know what kind of sales pays that for so few hours!! Jeez!
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Old 12-02-2019, 08:18 AM   #8
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JoeWras nailed my journey. I was well respected at work and generally liked my job but I had gone around the wheel too many times and was cynically looking at repeating an effort that failed 25 years before. As I looked at my eager, younger employees I concluded that I did not want to become one of "those guys" - cynical been there done that downers. I was FI so I gave notice immediately.
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Old 12-02-2019, 08:22 AM   #9
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JoeWras nailed my journey. I was well respected at work and generally liked my job but I had gone around the wheel too many times and was cynically looking at repeating an effort that failed 25 years before. As I looked at my eager, younger employees I concluded that I did not want to become one of "those guys" - cynical been there done that downers. I was FI so I gave notice immediately.
"those guys" Oh boy, so right. Once I realized I was starting to impact the idealism of my young colleagues, it was time to go. Everyone deserves a halcyon period of idealism, no need to crush it immediately. We all need to learn for ourselves.
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Old 12-02-2019, 09:18 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by RenoJay View Post
A few days ago I informed my company that I intend to take a one year sabbatical and will, during that time, decide if I want to come back, cut back or simply end my career. The interesting thing is that my situation was great....I'd been working a high end sales job, from home, where annual pay averaged $200k - $300k, BUT the workload only amounted to around 5 hours a week of real work. Additionally, I am generally well-respected at my firm and no one bothered me to take on more assignments; they all sort of understood that I do what I want and I've been in wind-down mode for a while. Obviously that's a pretty good gig if you can get it, so I started wondering what inspired me to make the move. I started thinking about the mechanics of what fills up the b.s. bucket.

In my case....

1. Because of my choice to have a rather lax work week, others at the firm (who are very skilled, but hungrier) were getting better results. Even though I'm totally fine with my results objectively, when they're put into the lens of "how are you doing vs. others" it made me feel bad.

2. We became more professional. When I joined this firm 10 years ago, it was a small, relatively unknown firm in our industry. But over 10 years, we've become the go-to name for what we do. This has led us to have more corporate meetings (about once a month via video conference.) And during these, I always felt bad, again for my "relatively" poor results vs. others. The irony is that NO ONE did anything to try to make me feel bad; they all know my situation. But it's challenging to sit there, know I could do better, but choose not to. It became a struggle with myself asking, "How come I'm not more motivated?"

3. I think this is the important one: Even though the actual workload was only a few hours a week, the mental workload was much higher. I found it hard to let my deals out of my mind at night. I felt a need to almost always take a call from a client, or return a missed call within 30 minutes. And those few, important calls that I had to be on to save a deal seemed to always occur when I was on vacation.

4. When I started 10 years ago, we were just coming out of the Great Financial Crisis. I was hungry because my stocks and home values had dropped in half, and my business had recently gone under. Nowadays, it's pretty smooth sailing financially, so the criteria to go out and hustle for each additional dollar got higher, and my tolerance for anything other than "perfect" clients got lower.

So the interesting insight I had was that the "b.s. bucket" was entirely of my own-making....everything is clearly in my own head. No one put pressure on me, tried to make me feel bad, or anything like that. But at least in my head, the pressure probably felt as real as for someone who has legitimate reasons to gripe, for instance someone who works a hard physical job, someone with an unappreciative boss, etc. (And yes, I get how lucky my situation has been and I'm very grateful for that.)

Anyway, I'm curious how others view the "b.s. bucket." For me, it was interesting to realize that I had constructed it myself.
Based on your sig of having an 8 figure nest egg and what sounds like burnout, regardless of your actual hours worked, what's keeping you from just outright retiring? Even at the lowest end of 8 figures, you'd have enough to retire and withdraw more than you're making now.
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Old 12-02-2019, 09:36 AM   #11
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I think this is the important one: Even though the actual workload was only a few hours a week, the mental workload was much higher. I found it hard to let my deals out of my mind at night.
That was me. I had a WFH role, but I'm always inside my head by nature - and work took up a lot of mental real estate. That "one quick call" on a vacation day or weekend meant I may as well have been working the whole day, as the call would play out in my head for hours before and after.

By taking a sabbatical, and not fully detaching, will you be able to really stop thinking about work as much? How do you do with that on the 2nd week of a vacation? If you can almost forget work in week 2, you'll be good.
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Old 12-02-2019, 09:40 AM   #12
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My path to a full BS bucket: MegaTechCorp started to struggle, and continued to struggle for years. Morale plummeted, most of my friends were let go, and people started to turn on each other and became very territorial to protect themselves. The worse things got, the more upper management tightened the controls from above. As a result, creativity was frowned upon. So I said "see ya!"
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Old 12-02-2019, 10:40 AM   #13
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My path to a full BS bucket: MegaTechCorp started to struggle, and continued to struggle for years. Morale plummeted, most of my friends were let go, and people started to turn on each other and became very territorial to protect themselves. The worse things got, the more upper management tightened the controls from above. As a result, creativity was frowned upon. So I said "see ya!"
This and a mix of JoeWras' scenario is my hellish life right now. > 12 years and the BS bucket will be kicked over.
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Old 12-02-2019, 10:42 AM   #14
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This and a mix of JoeWras' scenario is my hellish life right now. > 12 years and the BS bucket will be kicked over.
Which Roger nailed it too. My awareness scenario was usually the solution to morale issues. Ha ha ha. Right.

So, I'm with you kgtest.
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Old 12-02-2019, 11:14 AM   #15
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Because of experience, one can spot BS quicker because you've seen it before. You know what it looks/smells/sounds like and you have experienced the pain of it.

For a while, this experience/ability to avoid BS makes you very valuable.
But at some point, as the management chain turns over to accommodate the new "fast trackers", the new generation views your quick experience accelerated responses to BS as being "close minded", "inflexible to try 'new' (but not really new) things", etc.

I went from being praised and highly rewarded for "telling it like it is" by one management chain (there was a formal metric for technical resources measuring "direct speaking") to being sidelined in the span of about 6 months as the original mgmt chain was "refreshed".


Another area were project effort estimates or sizings. As a senior engineer I was assigned to estimate the duration and resources (liveware, space, hardware etc) required for a new project. Some of this could be done with math: defects/KLOC of code, etc. But some involved experience such as certain labs/dev groups had reputations for out of control processes, etc. Senior management started to sputter and choke when a project they were sold as being cheap and small came in with ginormous sizings. Normal process was to have a discussion about the risks to be assumed by trade-offs to get the cost down. But it got to the point mgmt stopped asking for the estimates because "that area always comes in high"... so the risk discussions stopped... and quality dropped.

Then social metrics and data analytics arrived. Your value is determined by where you show up on a social interaction heat/bubble chart based on who you email/instant message/interact on social media with (direct verbal conversations can not be fed into the algorithm). Are you a big center bubble on the graph? Are you interacting with the other big bubbles? Or are you on the periphery?

I could go on but it just becomes a rant.
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Old 12-02-2019, 11:43 AM   #16
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Spock is giving me nightmare flashbacks. Oh boy does that sound familiar.
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Old 12-02-2019, 12:24 PM   #17
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Spock is giving me nightmare flashbacks. Oh boy does that sound familiar.

Two things I learned from old-timers early in my career, but didn't believe until I became an old-timer:

"Cost, quality, and time to market. Pick any 2."

"A pessimist is an optimist with experience."
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Old 12-02-2019, 12:32 PM   #18
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I worked for the state and when I started we had 3 full time staff and 2 support people. As people left they didn’t fill the positions and I was expected to meet all the clients needs. Eventually I was too stressed out and overworked. I should have just did what I could and let the rest go but mentally I couldn’t do it when people had needs.
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Old 12-02-2019, 01:29 PM   #19
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Wow... brings back memories! I actually used the words " I don't want to stand in the way of progress...just do not want to be that person" in an e mail to the head of HR while we were going through our 5th major restructuring in 11 years and I was getting ready to for my 3rd CEO. I was FI and thinking about leaving as BS bucket was full, but became part of the restructuring team..re-org'd myself out, and got a year severance package as a send off!! An unexpected gift for the RE piece at 55. Retired 5 years and loving it.
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Old 12-02-2019, 02:16 PM   #20
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... when a client is paying more than $500/hour they expect immediate response when they call with an issue (and rightfully so)... and that on-call nature of the work and meetings that moved from morning to afternoon with no notice made it hard for me to schedule contiguous time off. So I quit.
yep, I always w*rk on vacation, and always have to schedule time off and deadlines around others' time off, including clients

consulting is a stressful business
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