The Sticky Spider Web Of The College Degree

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 Spider Web

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology. It helped me gain skill and knowledge with technology, particularly web development. This degree allows me to work at a near six figure day job with great perks, and to live in relative comfort with my family in our house. Life is good and comfortable… or is it?

Work Hard and Get Your Degree

I was taught to work hard and get a good education. The proof to me that the education was worth it is the job I have right now that pays well and has great benefits. I am able to live in comfort with my family and kids. As long as I continue to learn and add value at my job, I stand a good chance to not get fired or laid off.

However, such comfort does provide a snag. What happens after you get your degree and you’ve worked for a while and you want to take your life to the next level. All of a sudden, you have years of routine and comfort built up. There really is little pain in my life (besides my back and some basketball injuries) that causes me any grief. Sometimes I want to screw up just to add some variety to my life (don’t tell my wife that… oh wait, she reads these, hmmmm).

The many years of comfort and routine are the sticky spider web I’m faced with. Every hour of work I do on my book, this blog, or websites with my twin brother can sometimes feel like trying to hack through a giant spider web. There just isn’t a lot of pain and discomfort to fuel real urgency. I do have urgency, but it’s for the future – What will I think if I get to a point in my life I am about to die. Could I have done more?

Needing Pain to Become More

There’s nothing like pain to create an impression. I was walking upstairs in our house one night and stubbed my toe against the corner of a doorway. I believe I invented new swear words in that instant combined from forms of religious and derogatory terms. Seeing the blood and feeling the pain causes me to walk very carefully everywhere. My toe still has problems to this day.

That kind of pain also helps us progress. Because of the pain in my toe, I’m much more alert and aware of what I do with my feet. I imagine if I were hungry and scraping by to survive, I would have a tremendous amount of urgency. Were I sick with a life threatening disease, I believe my actions each day would be much different than they are today…

I don’t want some of that pain of course. I don’t want to get sick with disease or have my family suffer. But I recognize that my situation with my job and degree provide me with little incentive to go for an executive position at my day job or burn the midnight oil to succeed with my book, blog, or websites. You must feel sorry for me, I have such big problems I’m facing :)

Can the Spider Web Be Breached?

I believe all is not lost if you are comfortable and successful with your college degree and job. There is hope for us still. However, that hope comes with a price… Long hours and undoing habits and routine built up for many years is certainly one way to try. This kind of schedule is actually what I’m in the middle of experiencing. It’s the only way I presently know how to try to break free of the comfortable spider web and become even more.

I often wonder what would happen if I quit my day job and had to make something happen. Back in July of 2008, I was in a situation where a start up company I was part of failed. I had a couple months to try and make something happen. I wrote some blog entries and put down some tasks in an Excel spreadsheet. But little came of that for the couple months I tried it. And so I went job hunting and found a good web development job, and that is where I am today…

It seems to me that getting past the spider web of comfort and middle class success is not going to be easy. I can certainly work on the side for 5 to 8 hours a day in addition to my 8 hour a day job. But with a family and kids, this adds strain. I admit wholeheartedly that I don’t have an answer to breaching the spider web. Most of what I hear is to add more value than anyone else, but the vagueness of that is starting to glare at me as I seek to make a difference and earn income outside my day job. For most of us regular people, it seems to be a marathon – years, if not decades to really make the leap.

Conclusion

There is a sticky spider web that forms when you decide you want to do more with your life and you already have a college degree that got you a job that pays well and has good perks. Throw on top of that a family and it really becomes daunting to move forward. I’ve concluded that I can do all I can at work to advance and spend as much of my free time as I can in pursuit of what I really want. For me that is my book, websites, and speaking opportunities.

Those of you who are making it on your own – and especially those of you with families, how are you doing it? What value are you adding that allows you to succeed on your own outside of corporate employment? Was it just length of time and sticking with it and becoming an expert in your niche/field? Did you learn to market yourself in a unique way?

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3 Comments

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  1. Being comfortable is also complacency. What is your long range plan? Are you still learning new skills at your job? Are you contributing and do they appreciate your effort? There are a lot of questions to ask yourself to keep you from just being “comfortable”.

    1. Those are great questions Krant, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

      Long range plan:
      Author, speaker, and business owner of multiple websites. All of these are happening right now in my life, but not paying enough to live on.

      Learning New Skills At My Job:
      Definitely yes. Right now I am learning about improving website performance (making pages faster and more efficient). I moved teams a few months ago.

      Contribution and Appreciation:
      I am definitely contributing as a scrum master (software team organizer), and creation of web tools for the company to use. Am I appreciated? That’s a good question. I’ve had some good bonuses and a few people tell me they appreciate me, but overall, I’m not totally sure on that one.

      I am doing my best to be proactive and think outside my realm of work at my day job. I send out a monthly report to the company on performance that I tailor to the lowest common denominator for ease of understanding and regularly assist my manager with his reporting.

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