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Help me get through a couple more years..
Old 06-14-2013, 12:37 PM   #1
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Help me get through a couple more years..

I am 46 and hoping to retire at 55. The next two years are really critical for me - within two years I should be able to get my house paid off and have college 100% funded for my children.

The issue is that I am in a very high pressure job that pays really well, with stock and bonus checks likely to be very good for the next couple of years. At the same time, the job is really wearing on me. The politics and pressure have finally got to me after 17 years. If I can hang on for two more years, i can probably afford to step into a lower paying, lower pressure job and still be on track for retirement.

Any advice on how to get through the next couple of years?
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Old 06-14-2013, 12:45 PM   #2
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I'm in (or was) a similar situation. I started not sleeping. I started taking anti-anxiety drugs. None of this is good. What's the money or job for if you putting a foot in the grave?

So, what I did was I started taking all my vacation. I started ignoring a few stupid emails. I did my job, but I didn't poll on email 24/7 anymore.

They didn't fire me (yet). Maybe I'm not an A+++ performer anymore. So what. They still pay me. So what if my bonus has gone down. So what. I'm alive.

So, for your next two years, start throttling back. Take that damn vacation you are owed. Someone may get pissed. So what. They won't fire you today. Maybe next review you get down a notch and your bonus goes down a notch. So what. Tell the crew you "have to leave for your kid's graduation" or whatever else you blew off before. What I'm saying is start living life even if you are w*rking. Do your job, but ignore or throttle back on the politics and BS. Maybe you won't be the "go to guy/girl" anymore. Will that bother you? If not, then just throttle back.
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Old 06-14-2013, 01:18 PM   #3
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You must set boundaries for the sake of your health. Take every vacation day you are entitled to and get out of town, preferably to a deserted island without access to electronic communication, where you can smell the roses, exercise, meditate and play. Make sure you take at least 2-3 such breaks per year. Leave the office at the end of the day. Do not be tempted to work late into the evening. Then turn off your smartphone unless you, specifically, are "on call". Do NOT be tempted to check your email overnight, or especially on vacation. Avoid getting sucked into corporate events that have nothing to do with your current projects.
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Old 06-14-2013, 01:34 PM   #4
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These are good words of advice. I'm in a similar situation, except on commission. While I know how hard it is to take vacation, it is part of your compensation package. If someone said "hey, here's five grand," you aren't going to say "no thanks!" This will make things more tolerable, and allow you to count down to the next event.

It's funny, I tell the people that work for me that I don't want to hear from them on vacation, but I don't always follow the same advice. One exception was a trip to Greece a few years ago. DW said "we're just going to leave the phone and ipad at home." Most relaxing vacation I've had in a long, long time.

Two years can fly by. Hang in there.
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Old 06-14-2013, 01:35 PM   #5
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Thanks for the responses. All good advice. Unfortunatley, it is one of those jobs where you are "on call" virtually 24/7 unless you are on vacation. Sometimes weekends and nights are very quiet, and then there's a crisis to deal with that blows up a whole afternoon. The politics are the worst part. I just have no appetite for it anymore. It sucks the life from you.

I always use my vacation (4 weeks a year) but don't always get out of town. Good idea there. Should probably try to take some weekends away as well.
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Old 06-14-2013, 01:41 PM   #6
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Regular vigorous exercise
Meditation
Yoga
Getting a massage
Make sure you get regular medical checkups
Finding a supportive friend or family member to talk to
Taking medicine for depression and/or anxiety
Going to a psychiatrist or psychologist - may be a little expensive but may be worth it
Any other thing that takes your mind off your job

But remember, it's your life. Your health (including your mental health) is more important than money. Maybe you can commit to leave in two years if things don't improve.
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Old 06-14-2013, 01:44 PM   #7
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If your job requires you to be on call for 24/7, I may have no answer for you.

Myself and many of us thought it required it, but it was mostly a self imposed idea. When you play "hero" on that 3AM call, word gets around and you get the attaboys and maybe the bonus. Feels good... until the politics overwhelms and you are killing yourself.

Only you can answer if your job truly requires 24/7. I'm guessing no. That's why I said you need to check out and go to your kid's graduation -- with the phone off. Or you just need to turn the damn thing off.

What if you miss a call? Will you be fired? Or might you just get knocked down a bit? And if you do, does it matter much? You are talking 2 years. Usually, you can start throttling and introducing your new work habits to the higher ups over this period of time before they start dinging you. That's what I'm trying to say.

Now, if you are in a place where 24/7 is required or you are fired... I have no answer.

Oh, and I'm not talking about assigned on-call days. If you have those, probably need to honor those. I'm talking about this unwritten expectation of 24/7. For most, it is bogus and self imposed.
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Old 06-14-2013, 01:55 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by JoeWras View Post
If your job requires you to be on call for 24/7, I may have no answer for you.

Myself and many of us thought it required it, but it was mostly a self imposed idea. When you play "hero" on that 3AM call, word gets around and you get the attaboys and maybe the bonus. Feels good... until the politics overwhelms and you are killing yourself.

Only you can answer if your job truly requires 24/7. I'm guessing no. That's why I said you need to check out and go to your kid's graduation -- with the phone off. Or you just need to turn the damn thing off.

What if you miss a call? Will you be fired? Or might you just get knocked down a bit? And if you do, does it matter much? You are talking 2 years. Usually, you can start throttling and introducing your new work habits to the higher ups over this period of time before they start dinging you. That's what I'm trying to say.

Now, if you are in a place where 24/7 is required or you are fired... I have no answer.

Oh, and I'm not talking about assigned on-call days. If you have those, probably need to honor those. I'm talking about this unwritten expectation of 24/7. For most, it is bogus and self imposed.
It actually is one of those jobs. I have a ton of responsibilty. I cover multiple states with a dozen direct reports for a Fortune 50 company. I have all the cool stuff most people want - I made 300k last year, have an assistant, I drive a BMW, all that crap. I welcomed the rat race for a long time: "Give me the hardest job that pays the most", etc. Now I am here just for the money - hoping to gain financial independence and then run for the hills.

Recently i have begun wondering how someone in great physical shape who doesn't smoke or drink, sees the doctor regularly can have acid reflux, chronic tension headaches and high blood pressure.

For the first time in my life, started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist. That has helped a bit.
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Old 06-14-2013, 02:07 PM   #9
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Yes, Listen to JoeWras and Meadbh

I saw similar circumstances, the last several years of teaching. As a dept. chair, faced typical "middle management" challenges: politics, pressure for test scores, unhappy/complaining dept. members, tightened budgets, etc.

I made several personal rules that saved some sleep, allowed me to dodge some arrows, and retire with self-respect/reputation intact:

1. No matter what the meeting or location of a conversation (ie. ladies room, water cooler), I refused to say anything about anybody that I would not readily say to him/her in person.

2. Memorized the "Serenity Prayer": "Help me realize what can and cannot be changed, and be some kind of 'instrument of peace' (no matter what the politics or pressure)."

3. LISTEN (ad nauseum): politics seem to result from struggling egos and frustrated venting. Many times, people just need to be heard; they might not even expect you to fix the problem. (This also helped me to just keep my mouth shut!)

4. Check my ego at the door. Be open about what I can and cannot accomplish, yet still maintain the same professional output of previous decades.

5. Pursue FI, to be "free to walk" whenever the BS saturation point is reached.

6. Be aware that, when I choose not to "walk," for OMY, it's a choice. I'm doing it to pad the travel budget, RE lifestyle, and savings (to insure that I don't have to come back).

7. Focus on the parts of the job that appealed to me from Day 1, then find ways to enjoy those at least a few times each day.

8. Escape whenever possible (as Meadbh and JoeWras suggest). Also found refuge in son's sporting events, good books and movies, evenings at the symphony, time outside in nature.

9. Overall, find ways to enjoy the last couple years of the career. I'd say to myself, "A year from now you won't be here. And you don't plan to come back. So, what will you miss?" Then I made sure to invest in those parts of the job.

Of course, some approaches might not work in other careers. But, FWIW, they did help me focus on the positive, enjoyable parts of the job ....allowing for some nice memories.

Good luck, Corporate Soldier. And hang in there!

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Old 06-14-2013, 02:28 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by CorporateSoldier View Post
Recently i have begun wondering how someone in great physical shape who doesn't smoke or drink, sees the doctor regularly can have acid reflux, chronic tension headaches and high blood pressure.
From what you've said, the answer is perfectly obvious. I think a prescription is in order:

Rx:

One balanced lifestyle
Exercise daily
Limit work hours to 60 per week maximum
Leave behind feelings of indispensability
Omit BS
Vacation q3 monthly

Dr Meadbh (ret)

Feel better now?
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Old 06-14-2013, 02:33 PM   #11
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From what you've said, the answer is perfectly obvious. I think a prescription is in order:

Rx:

One balanced lifestyle
Exercise daily
Limit work hours to 60 per week maximum
Leave behind feelings of indispensability
Omit BS
Vacation q3 monthly

Dr Meadbh (ret)

Feel better now?
Dr. Meadbh is on it! Agree 100%. And I highlighted one of the good doctor's points. I still think some of your 24/7 is self imposed. Nobody is indispensable. Not even the Governor, or the POTUS, or the Pope.

I thought you might be the guy who sits next to me -- except he has no assistant. He says he thrives on it and is taking the health hit now for glory later. I ask him if he's gonna make "later." We had someone drop dead a few months ago.
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Old 06-14-2013, 02:49 PM   #12
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Dr. Meadbh is on it! Agree 100%. And I highlighted one of the good doctor's points. I still think some of your 24/7 is self imposed. Nobody is indispensable. Not even the Governor, or the POTUS, or the Pope.

I thought you might be the guy who sits next to me -- except he has no assistant. He says he thrives on it and is taking the health hit now for glory later. I ask him if he's gonna make "later." We had someone drop dead a few months ago.

Yeah, that has pretty much been the plan here. Good advice. Thx!
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Old 06-14-2013, 03:01 PM   #13
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Yeah, that has pretty much been the plan here. Good advice. Thx!
Hang in there, Soldier! Like I said, I was like you, minus the BMW, assistant and pay.

I think we have been a bit tough on you to give you a bit of a face slap. Wake you up, you know! But the good news is you are recognizing it. People DO die over these behaviors. It is not theory.

Here's a suggestion:

Why not start taking Dr. Meadbh's suggestions slowly. You know something to focus on. And you'll be making progress. I know that for most 24/7 types, "exercise" is a word they hate because, you know, you might miss that call... But try it. Just 20 minutes at first. Walk around the block without the phone. They can wait 20. Then expand your exercise time. This will automatically make you 23/7. Hey, it is a start!

Personally, I swim and bike. And I let people know it. You have a built in excuse. No damn phone while swimming (yet). Phone on a bike is dangerous, so I don't use it. Meanwhile, I see others on the walking trails doing work while walking. NO!

Then start limiting hours. You have to, somehow, someway.

If you phase this in, those two years will fly.
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Old 06-14-2013, 06:16 PM   #14
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Hey CorporateSoldier,

If I didn't know better it would sound to me as if you were a 17 year in service Army Soldier! Well, except for the "pays really well, stock and bonus" part!

This may sound silly, but it works for me. I too am in a high stress, always-on job that prevents me from taking more than a day off every few months. So give this a try...think back to a stressful occasion, and realize that the stress you are feeling in the present doesn't come close to it. Does a couple of things...reminds you that the current stress isn't so bad, that you can take it, and that you can handle much tougher events when you have to.

For me, I'll say "no one is shooting at me"...which hasn't always been the case in my line of work. Or, I remind myself (after a butt-chewing) that I've seen worse, and my wife loves me as much now as she did this morning. Makes it easy to keep things in perspective.

All that said, take out the best insurance policy you can ever give your wife and kids....a routine, vigorous physical fitness program. You'll feel better, perform better....work and at home, your attitude will improve, and you'll out pace your co-workers. You may be thinking I don't have time to devote to physical fitness...but you do. You'll find you have more time, more energy, and more clarity....plus you will live better, longer!

My provisions are crossfit and ultras. I'm a novice at both. I feel so much better when I do them. My wife clearly sees the difference in me too. As do my coworkers.

Invest your time in you...guarantee you'll earn impressive dividends!
Best of luck!
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Old 06-14-2013, 09:02 PM   #15
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haloFIRE is right. After you have been shot at in combat everything else is just a walk in the park. He is also right about getting lots of exercise. It can make everything in your life better including being better able to handle the stress of a 24/7 on call lifestyle.
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Old 06-14-2013, 09:53 PM   #16
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Wonderful advice from PP's.

I think it is really important to remember and maintain basics:
1. Get good sleep. You know what your body needs. Honor it by doing it. This is really really important.
2. Eat a healthy diet. Lots of veggies, minimize red meat. Lots of antioxidants. For fluid, stick with water. Lots of it. Your body will/ is working hard and you need to flush out all the waste products. Drink enough so your urine does not stink and is pale.
3. Exercise. As above.

I think in modern life, a lot of "it" is mental. As in a mental warfare.
So, it is important to have meaning. To make a lot of money can be a reason, but for me, I get a lot of motivation from my actual work. Knowing that I have truly made a life affecting difference every day keeps me going and working hard. I won't presume to know your job, but maybe.... Jobs that feed people's families. Developing the infrastructure of a region. Whatever it is, i know it is honorable. Yes, you get paid a lot and have a fancy car, but there is something
higher in meaning.

One thing I find useful is to do a kind of repetitive activity. For some people it is prayer, or yoga. Or jogging. The blandness of the activity I find conducive to your mind being able to process.
For example, my longer taking activity is sewing. I can spend hours tracing a pattern, matching up pieces, sewing, bzzzzt bzzzt. But all the while my mind is wandering, recalling this conversation, considering this person in context. For me, a lot a revelation happens during the spells. Unfortunately I haven't had much opportunity the last few years.
So I have a short timed bland activity- vacuuming. It is important to have a very good vacuum, since i vacuum a lot, but it's cheaper and more convenient than therapy.

And then, when I really am feeling oppressed ( and again it is just in my mind right?) I review/ read about really bad oppression. To give myself context. One can gain a lot of wisdom too. Anything by Elie Wiesel (sic). Anything about any war. The situation in north Korea. The human sex trade. Listen to podcasts. 15 min of that, and my bitterness is swallowed by gratitude and I can go on. Gratitude is a great motivator for me but oftentimes I'm not feeling it. This makes me find it.
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Old 06-15-2013, 07:02 AM   #17
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I find that I can better face the challenges of the world if I'm doing the following:

1. Eating right - skipping the fatty and fried convenience type foods and eating fresh vegetables and salads. I sit down at the dining room table and eat dinner with the young wife almost every night.

2. Exercising - nothing fancy; I just take a walk outside alone for 30 minutes to an hour at lunchtime. No phone, no blackberry; just me and my thoughts.

3. Drinking less alcohol and more water - makes it easier to sleep and cuts down on the weight gain that makes me feel lethargic.

4. Sleeping well - it's hard to feel good about yourself and your situation when you are sleep deprived.

5. Doing at least one thing just because I enjoy doing it, not because someone else requires me to do it. -- For me, that includes singing in the choir, but it could be anything.
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Old 06-15-2013, 07:22 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by LitGal View Post
I saw similar circumstances, the last several years of teaching. As a dept. chair, faced typical "middle management" challenges: politics, pressure for test scores, unhappy/complaining dept. members, tightened budgets, etc.

I made several personal rules that saved some sleep, allowed me to dodge some arrows, and retire with self-respect/reputation intact:

1. No matter what the meeting or location of a conversation (ie. ladies room, water cooler), I refused to say anything about anybody that I would not readily say to him/her in person.

2. Memorized the "Serenity Prayer": "Help me realize what can and cannot be changed, and be some kind of 'instrument of peace' (no matter what the politics or pressure)."

3. LISTEN (ad nauseum): politics seem to result from struggling egos and frustrated venting. Many times, people just need to be heard; they might not even expect you to fix the problem. (This also helped me to just keep my mouth shut!)

4. Check my ego at the door. Be open about what I can and cannot accomplish, yet still maintain the same professional output of previous decades.

5. Pursue FI, to be "free to walk" whenever the BS saturation point is reached.

6. Be aware that, when I choose not to "walk," for OMY, it's a choice. I'm doing it to pad the travel budget, RE lifestyle, and savings (to insure that I don't have to come back).

7. Focus on the parts of the job that appealed to me from Day 1, then find ways to enjoy those at least a few times each day.

8. Escape whenever possible (as Meadbh and JoeWras suggest). Also found refuge in son's sporting events, good books and movies, evenings at the symphony, time outside in nature.

9. Overall, find ways to enjoy the last couple years of the career. I'd say to myself, "A year from now you won't be here. And you don't plan to come back. So, what will you miss?" Then I made sure to invest in those parts of the job.

Of course, some approaches might not work in other careers. But, FWIW, they did help me focus on the positive, enjoyable parts of the job ....allowing for some nice memories.

Good luck, Corporate Soldier. And hang in there!

I may print and post this right next to my computer. Great stuff.
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Old 06-15-2013, 07:36 AM   #19
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To everyone, thank you so much for all of your thougtful responses. I really appreciate each of you taking the time.

The "gain some perspective" point is very, very well taken. Having a crazy boss rip you when you did nothing wrong is not in the same galaxy as getting shot at. I will use that for sure.

The thoughts on finding meaning in my work are excelent as well. I do work for a company that provides incredible opportunities for regular folks (I grew up very blue collar and went to a marginal state school). Many people who work for me have similar stories.

I have done quite a bit of what was suggested already over the past couple of years:

1. Started eating right. No junk food, lots of fruits/veggies.
2. Dropped 20 pounds - I am very fit now, at ideal weight.
3. Joined a gym and a tennis club. In the best shape of my adult life now.
4. Bought a classic Porsche 911 (paid cash, everyone relax! ). Makes weekends more fun and drives to and from the offfice are a hoot.
5. Started seeing a therapist - mostly just a good outlet. Finally realized my mental health is kinda important. Was diagnosed as OCD so that explains some of my issues (perfectonism, worrying about everything, etc)
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Old 06-15-2013, 07:46 AM   #20
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It actually is one of those jobs. I have a ton of responsibilty. I cover multiple states with a dozen direct reports for a Fortune 50 company. I have all the cool stuff most people want - I made 300k last year, have an assistant, I drive a BMW, all that crap. I welcomed the rat race for a long time: "Give me the hardest job that pays the most", etc. Now I am here just for the money - hoping to gain financial independence and then run for the hills.

Recently i have begun wondering how someone in great physical shape who doesn't smoke or drink, sees the doctor regularly can have acid reflux, chronic tension headaches and high blood pressure.

For the first time in my life, started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist. That has helped a bit.
This brings back memories. You're already being hard on yourself because of the job. Don't add to it by thinking you're doing something wrong here. This is a tough situation and we all struggle to deal with it.

Lots of very good suggestions so far. I would just add that in response to increasing demands at work you probably have taken away from another part of your life, and if you are trying to avoid impacting family, you are taking away from yourself as an individual. You might try to bring back into your life now one thing that you enjoy but have stopped because of time constraints. It could be golf, or reading a book. The whole point is to do one thing to begin to restore balance and get something to look forward to.
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