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Thursday, March 15, 2007

9.5 hours in the office

Like a proper little salary man me. I spent 9.5 hours in the office today.

Thankfully, I was assigned a task I quite like (making a website), and I was given free reign to do it however I liked (I opted for Dreamweaver 8 on my MacBook!).

It was pretty satisfying really - basically a case of creating an English version of a section of the Oxfam Trailwalker website. It's a basic design - functional - but nonetheless I ran into some real problems with some fiddly bits of formatting which kept on screwing it all up.

At the beginning of the day I was working from rough translations done by other staff - but by the end of the day, when everyone was running around trying to get everything done for tomorrow's deadline, it was a case of "Here's a Japanese document, can you translate it into English and upload it please?" Thus, today I did my first bit of paid translation. In the past I've always been the proofreader - it was nice to be able to do it all myself without any problems with the language (although admittedly it was very simple stuff, and context told me a lot of what I needed to know).

I'm glad to be able to help out - everyone's running round like headless chickens at the mo, there's so much preparation to do. And they're very nice people too, encouraging me to shout out the office window at the election candidates on the street below to tell them to shut up!

If I was to put to one side the fact that I was working for Oxfam (for a worthwhile cause in a nice environment), I would have found my day as a salaryman incredibly depressing...

*Twinkle* and I have a goal: to make £1500 a month in passive income by June 2008. This would mean that we can effectively "retire", as that's all we need to live on. Of course, in reality we won't retire, we'll just put our time into creating more business for our businesses, but it will be nice to know that we don't actually have to get up the next day if we don't want to. We can lie in bed all day and read about how to make amazing videos with Final Cut Pro, and what legal hoops we have to jump through to set up a charity organisation.

Our current passive income, excluding interest on savings, is only about £300 per year (mainly advertising on TGW), so we have a fair way to go! But we'll get there. As long as we don't spend too much time in the office.

Anyway, my head is pazazzed, so I'd better shut down. *Twinkle*'s away for a couple of nights with her work colleagues (soon to be EX-work colleagues!), so it's mightily quiet round here!

Joseph

P.s. Father update: The doctors can't seem to make their minds up what to do. They couldn't complete yesterday's test as the thing they stuck in him to investigate his innards started to damage the artery wall! They say it'll repair itself in a couple of weeks... In the meantime they might try and go in through his arm. Ouch.

I've been learning about free radicals lately. Scary stuff. I didn't know that doing sports actually increases your free-radical production - not that that's an excuse not to exercise! I've also been noticing how many people smoke in Japan. And they say suicide is painless. Not when it comes in the form of a long, drawn-out case of death by cancer.

Hmm, what a jolly thought.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question: where would we be in life if everyone chose not to be a "slave to the system" and "put up with the menial roles"...such as, I don't know, sweeping the streets you walk on or putting the jam on your cheesecakes?

Not everyone has a choice, it's a sad fact of life. Your woolly middle-class thinking is idealistic and, ultimately, incredibly patronising. You are lucky enough to be in position where you DO have a choice, be thankful for that and stop preaching to others who may not be so lucky.

16/3/07 06:44  
Blogger Joseph said...

Of course you are right, we do need people to fill up the strawberry jam vats for the cheesecakes, although I can tell you, it certainly won't be me eating them after having seen what sort of things go on in places like that. In fact I'd advise you to avoid all supermarket puddings.

Having read your comment I deleted the relevant paragraph from my Mumble, as yes, it did sound utterly patronising and was totally unqualified. I tried to re-write it but found myself stuck for words.

When I speak of my frustration at seeing others trade their time for yen in that way, I am talking about 2 specific parties.

The first, is me.

The second, is me.

I have done this for about 10 years now, always wanting to start my own venture, but just putting it and saying "one day". I haven't had the guts to take that step out of the comfort zone that is 9-5 'security', and thus am ultimately committing myself to failure. I am struggling with this every day, as the fear is intense.

The second group then, is me at those times when I was employed in a job I didn't enjoy (OBC does not fit into that category). Joseph's who are unhappy in their jobs but cannot even contemplate change due to social conditioning. It's very depressing.

I feel especially strongly about the system in japan where grad students are conditioned into joining the ridiculous wagon train that is job hunting. Talk about robbing people of their ability to take control of their own lives! This society has a lot to answer for!

It results in people thinking that they are secure if they have a contract, insecure if they don't. Only yesterday, a very kind friend offered myself and *Twinkle* words of comfort now that she is unemployed - rather than words of congratulations on our new freedom. When the system has affected people to this degree, there is clearly something wrong.

Anyway, I must be off to the office. My apologies for my original offensive paragraph. It was a slap-dash piece of crap.

(so what's new?!)

16/3/07 09:02  
Blogger Shari said...

I missed the version of your post which contained an offensive paragraph so I thought anonymous was being a bit hard on you.

I've had my issues before with people who work freelance who describe what we do as "worker ants" (even though my husband and I do not work the excessively long hours that Japanese do) so I guess I can see where anonymous might be coming from. Someone has to do manual tasks.

However, I think there is a difference between being an unhappy wage slave and happily doing what might be considered "grunt work". The important thing is to find satisfaction in what you do and I think that's the vibe I've gotten from reading your posts on this topic. You're focusing on what does and does not work for you, not denigrating what works for others.

16/3/07 11:16  
Blogger Joseph said...

Thank you Shari.

Yes, I don't mean to criticize others, although sometimes when I write in haste or when shattered, I misplace my passion through the poor choice of vocabulary, and come across as a right middle class know-it-all looking down his nose at the underlings. Thus, I can completely understand Anon's opinion as yesterday's post was one such mistake.

Still, I do try and learn from my mistakes.

The reason I revisit this topic so often, and with such fervor, is that I'm a pretty late developer, only now realizing what possibilities I can embrace should I choose to. Thus my disgust with my belief system that I feel has held me back for the past 10 years, and continues to cause me angst.

I strongly disagree with criticizing others for the decisions that they have made. Everyone is entitled to do as they wish, and why should the world obey the laws of Joseph Tame? What does upset me though is when people are unaware that they have choices, and complain that they don't. But it is wrong for me to blame them. It's just the system. It makes us blind to what in my opinion is the truth: we are all capable of achieving our dreams.

The Daily Mumble is of course highly egocentric, but that is what it has been since its inception over 5 years ago, and it has never pretended to be anything else. I find it to be an invaluable tool for self-development. By sharing my journey with others, I benefit enormously - the feedback I receive is often very instructive, and of course mistakes are often the best teachers. I also hope that others benefit from reading it, even if it's only through being able to laugh at the idiotic nature of the Tame.

I feel fortunate to have people such as yourself and Anonymous comment on TDM. I respect your opinion a great deal.

Your message also served to give me a break in the middle of another 9 hours in the office! It was an interesting day though, interacting with the very cream of gaijin Society in Japan - 35th floor of Roppongi Hills - Bankers, Bureaucrats and all that. It was an over-the-phone affair, with me in the position of humble servant. A different world.

Anyway, I must have a cup of tea.

tarra

16/3/07 22:40  
Anonymous Amelia said...

There are many, many success stories out there of people who started from nothing and pulled themselves into financial freedom through sheer hard work. There are even more success stories of people who did badly at school, resigned themselves to menial labour from the age of sixteen then decided later on that they could and would go to university and gain the qualifications for a better job, which they did.

I understand "woolly middle class thinking" as an argument against, say, putting your child through private schools if you don't like the state ones, or switching to private healthcare if you're unhappy with the NHS. Those things take money and money alone, amounts of money that are impossible for even the lower-middle class. Breaking free of the rat race though? That doesn't take money, that takes determination. The determination to work at your crappy job long enough to raise the money to go to a community college/attend an access course/apply to Open University, the determination to find the cheapest lodging possible and avoid buying luxuries to get you through that time, the determination to study so hard that your grades are high enough to qualify you for scholarships and bursaries. Anyone can do that, anyone can turn their lives into a success story, though the path is definitely a lot smoother and paved with gold for some than for others.

So to me, resentment of your current ideals just seems like saying, "Why don't you sit down, shut up and be miserable like the rest of us?" which misses the point entirely. If Anonymous is happy with his/her job then your words of finding a way to make money that make you happy (maybe not the point of that one paragraph, but certainly the point someone gets from the Mumble as a whole) are irrelevant, and if he/she is unhappy with it then they should be looking for ways to change that as you are doing now as a legally bankrupt mature student, not the easiest path in the world.

For my part, I can't completely take hold of your enthusiasm as I would like, mainly because there isn't a single business I currently feel knowledgeable or enthusiastic about to the point of being able to start it up from scratch. In addition, there are jobs Taku genuinely wants to do so the partnership you and Twinkle share is lacking for me, as it is for most people.

Don't get me wrong, it's great reading about your own motivation and experiences (I'd love to read more about the actual process of refining and setting up a business from your perspective!) but I can't identify with it just yet. If I ever come up with a workable business idea and the drive to see it through, then I'll come back and scour the Mumble for encouragement. : )

17/3/07 22:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amelia: I’m afraid you’re ideas about people making their way in life sound remarkably like the ‘American Dream’ mentality i.e. if you work hard enough you, yes you, can be a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist. I doesn’t matter if you’ve lived in poverty your whole life and as a consequence don’t even know the opportunities that are available to you. You struggle just to gain basic qualifications, to find a job and stay out of trouble in deprived areas (the two go hand in hand unfortunately). Indeed the whole American Dream ideal is a myth propagated to allow some right-wing economists wet-dream to exist. Can’t afford healthcare for your dying mother? Didn’t work hard enough. Can’t afford to send your gifted kid to a good school? Didn’t work hard enough. You only have to look at the shocking disparities of wealth in the US to see that that kind of mind-set just doesn’t work.

The ‘woolly middle class thinking’ is none of the things you mentioned – with all your examples you could say they are fairly logical decisions (provided you have the money). The fact is I think it is safe to say our parents always instilled in us the idea of POSSIBILITES. If we want to go to Uni, we can and we will. If we want to go travelling, we can. If we want to climb Everest, we can. If you haven’t had that mindset drilled into you from an early age all the possibilities that WE see suddenly disappear. The very idea of going to University is distant and alien, as are all the other things you mentioned. True, some people do achieve wonderful things from the most difficult of circumstances, and I respect that greatly, but those people are few and far between. They could be 1 in 100, 1 in a 1000, even less…who knows. The ‘woolly middle-class thinking’ I speak of is this incorrect notion, which you unwittingly illustrated, that EVERYONE has the same concept of possibilities and opportunities as we inherently do. This is sadly incorrect.

HOWEVER, I do genuinely admire the off-centre stance Mr Tame is taking in life and I am sure that he will have great success with whatever he sets his heart on achieving, I just disagree with denigrating those “below” him (even if that was not the intention, that’s how it came across). Some people may not have ambition, which is unfortunate but forgivable, but many don’t have opportunity and we should not, and can not, criticise people for that.

18/3/07 22:35  
Blogger Joseph said...

Anonymous: I strongly disagree with you when you say that "the whole American Dream ideal is a myth propagated to allow some right-wing economists wet-dream to exist."

If one carries out a survey of the world's most successful people, as many researchers have done, you'll find that they come from all manner of backgrounds. It's not just those born with a silver spoon in their mouths. In fact, being born into poverty can be the very reason why people do succeed, as they will do everything in their power to rise out of it. The same goes for minorities - look at the South Koreans in Japan - some of the richest and most successful people in the country. We see this phenomena repeated throughout history.

I find your argument very depressing, as it is a graphic demonstration of exactly why so many people do not succeed - because they lack the self-belief and confidence.

Yes, it may be idealistic, and it wouldn't be the first time I have been called idealistic, but I firmly believe that if one believes one can succeed, one will, no matter what the odds. Thus, the American Dream performs a very important function: to give people the belief that they need in order to succeed.

18/3/07 22:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No. Since there is no social security of which to speak of in the US, people do not have a choice. You succeed or you are condemned to a life of hardship and they’ll be damned if society will give you a helping hand on your way or pick you up if you fall.

My argument is not depressing, it is reality that is depressing. You can stick your head in the sand and pretend that that is not the case but it doesn’t change anything and makes your arguments rather blinkered. I think you and I came from very different backgrounds and so my perspective on this is very different to yours. However, this has not held me back from doing what I want to do in life but I find it easier to understand, and empathise with, people who have not (or can not) succeed in life. It has nothing to with “self belief” and “confidence” (this is another example of the ‘woolly middle class thinking’ I mentioned earlier…and, yet again, rather patronising) – it is simply a matter of socio-economic circumstance and the “system” being stacked against people. The US just represents are much harsher version of this reality. The grinding poverty in which some people live in that country (AKA “the land of the free” “the land of opportunity”), the richest nation on Earth, is a disgrace. To pinch a quote “a society is only as rich as its poorest citizen is the people only as strong as its weakest members are”.

Plus, I think you’ll find that I agreed that some people do make it out of poverty through hard work and perseverance, very admirable, but they are a tiny minority.

18/3/07 23:27  
Anonymous Amelia said...

The fact is I think it is safe to say our parents always instilled in us the idea of POSSIBILITES. If we want to go to Uni, we can and we will. If we want to go travelling, we can. If we want to climb Everest, we can. If you haven’t had that mindset drilled into you from an early age all the possibilities that WE see suddenly disappear.

Thus, the American Dream performs a very important function: to give people the belief that they need in order to succeed.

No. Since there is no social security of which to speak of in the US, people do not have a choice.

Which is it, Anonymous? Either hope and self-belief, instilled from an early age or picked up by yourself later on as Joseph's doing via what you call the American Dream, is the key to going to uni, travelling or climbing Mount Everest, or there is no choice whatsoever for anyone born into the American social system, no matter how much hope and self-belief they have.

Also, believing that those of able body and mind have the potential to get where they want to be does not equate for holding disdain for those who don't manage to, for whatever reason. If you took such disdain from Joseph's paragraph then his words were ill-chosen, as is pretty much acknowledged by the fact that he deleted them. It is possible to hold the beliefs Joseph does and still empathise with those who feel incapable of and/or have had real trouble improving their lives.

We agree on one thing for sure: America's treatment of its poorer citizens is a disgrace, and does nothing whatsoever to give its people basic care. However, while the percentage of those who succeed despite that system may be a tiny minority, I imagine it's no tinier or larger than those who succeed in the UK, even with universal healthcare and affordable education. You say that to put it entirely down to self-belief and hard work is simplistic, but isn't it just as simplistic to blame everything on the system? You say Joseph is patronising people by saying that nobody has to be stuck in jobs they hate, but isn't it at least as patronising to say that anyone without the confidence WE were given by our parents no longer has any control over their own lives?

While you seem to be viewing the minority of people who succeed despite that system as small enough to dismiss, I view them as large enough to count as an inspiration. Of course they're a minority, but if even one other person has done it there's no reason one more person can't do it, and if hundreds or thousands have done it then you have hundreds or thousands of examples of people from various backgrounds with varying abilities and situations to choose from.

In addition, I think it's worth noting that "success" can, for a lot of people, stop short of millionaire riches in favour of simple social mobility up to middle class. I think this is certainly the case for many immigrants, which implies to me that not all success stories are famous. Particularly in America, there must be many, many success stories such as this by people who followed the American Dream to get there and work their way up. It may not be a practical reality for everyone on its own, but to the people who take that dream as the source of and target for their belief and hard work, it becomes a practical reality with practical rewards to reap.

So, to clarify what I said before, I believe self-belief and hard work are keys to success that even those without other keys to success like money, connections or some huge natural talent can utilise. Also, if utilised, in time they can lead to the money, connections, or even talent that many people will then classify as "luck", although people with money and connections to start with can just as easily fall by the wayside and waste those headstarts if they have no inclination to work hard, while people with talent can go unnoticed without the self-belief to promote themselves.

I agreed with you that not everyone has the same opportunities when I said that the path to success is a lot smoother and more paved with gold for some than others, but in this light it makes sense to me to focus on those tools that everyone has available to them and the possibilities those can bring, like the determination, confidence and willingness to take risks that are common variables in any financial success stories of any country, not the obstacles that stand in their way.

This is what I believe, and I suspect you disagree with that, but that's fine. This whole discussion came from a paragraph that Joseph's now deleted anyway, and we're all in favour of America treating its citizens better, so I'm happy to leave it at that.

19/3/07 22:08  

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