Your chance to offer advice to creativity-impaired cube dweller with career conundrum

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Sometimes I like to write headlines like that just to freak out professional writers.

But here is a real email I got from a “gentle reader” (I love to use this Miss Manners term) who said he would be happy to get your input about his situation:

“I came across your site while trying to decide if its right for me
to leave my job right now to pursue a passion of mine since i was a
kid.  I’m 23 now, and have worked at this job straight out of college
at 21, and recently was given the opportunity to play semi-pro baseball
in germany.  the catch being the team can only pay my rent, so it is a
great opportunity cost to leave.  I have a nice chunk of money saved
up, so financially im ok to do this for a summer, but this is a really
good and high paying job that im sure a lot of people would kill to
have right now.  this should be an easy choice, because i hate this job
and cannot see myself in not only this job, but this entire field, ever
again.  baseball has been my love since i can remember, and this would
be the perfect end of an era for me to say goodbye to my playing days
with this trip, as my job allows me to do basically nothing with my
free time.
I noticed you said at one point to quit before your job makes you,
and this has already happened.  i was given an action plan that if my
preformance does not impove in 30 days, i will be terminated.
honestly, im in this situation because i just havent tried.  i know i
can blow them away with preformance since now i work at about a 20%
motivation level, and them seeing me at 100% would really change their
perspective.  but still after the 30 days nothign will change and i
will be back to being miserable.
id appreciate any advice you could give me!”
He followed this up with:
“Some more detail if needed – I’m looking to go into a creative
field, possibly writing or something with creative advertising.  If not
that, I’ve always also had a passion for business start ups, as i love
troubleshooting the unknown.  I know what i want to do, which is more
than I can say about myself than 2 years ago when i first graduated
college, so I am very thankful that i’ve come to this realization.  I
also definitely know what I don’t want to do, thanks to the job in
traditional finance I am at now.  Part of me is seeing this trip is a
way to break loose.  All of my friends are 100% supportive of me taking
this trip, but its my parents who are on the pessimistic side which is
keeping me from diving straight into it.
As you can see from this 3:30am email, ive lost a lot of sleep over this decision.
Thanks so much for your help!”
Despite all the things I know I should say to be responsible and balanced, my gut reaction to this question is:

Quit the job you loathe and go play ball in Germany!!!

That and read Jonathan Field’s book Career Renegade, out today.

Any more mature/nuanced advice out there?

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71 Responses to “Your chance to offer advice to creativity-impaired cube dweller with career conundrum”

  1. […] Your chance to offer advice to creativity-impared cube dweller with career conundrum […]

  2. […] inspired this post, where my community went nuts with fantastic advice like this from my favorite Ninja Baker Kathlyn: […]

  3. […] The 23 year old ballplayer trapped in a cube and the follow up post with input from his mom […]

  4. […] source career coaching” possibilities, as my friend John Fritz recently called the “Jon the ballplayer” […]

  5. […] week, I published a question (see post here) from a 23-year old reader (whom I called “Gentle Reader” at first, and who has since […]

  6. valerie says:

    Update from Jon’s mom:

    Jon finallly called his dad and told him his plan over the weekend. He also told him about all the support he received from this website to take the adventure. His father didn’t say don’t go but I’m sure Jon sensed in his tone that he was concerned about the future. Jon called me after the conversation and I could sense in his tone he was disappointed he didn’t get the enthusiam from him he wanted. Which of course then leaves him to doubt his choice to go.

    How sad that the financial crises has gotten so complicated and intense to second doubt life choices. Considering the government doesn’t know how to correct it – how do we plan for the future. This decision to escape should not be that difficult but it does reflect on the current crises. Jon’s responsible enough to think ahead . He said to me – I don’t want to go to Germany and think about not getting a job when I return. I want to be able to go and enjoy the time there for the experience. He’s so right. He has to go with a clear head otherwise the guilt and doubt will over take him. The reality is I know he will get a job – He is confident in himself to know he’ll get a job — so what’s the problem….

    So when I came home I printed all the letters from this website and showed them to his father. My husband is very sensitive – he got teary eyed – reading comments from strangers in support of his son. It seemed like the Verizon commercial – he can go – he’s backed by the network…..The letters completely turned around his sentiment. He said — in his own word — He has to go and I have to be positive and show support. I called Jon twice that night expressing our total support and excitement (which really is what he wants from us) He felt sooo much better. It made me and my husband feel better.

    The next morning my husband and I were having coffee and the news came on with the latest layoff counts, 20,000 for catapillar, 7000 for home depot, 4000 for IBM, etc. etc. We didn’t say anything – just continued to drink our coffee —and that’s a good thing.

    I have to thank Pamela Slim for posting his letter and
    I have to thank everyone who took the time and interest to respond. This was certainly a combined effort. What a wonderful feel good experience.


  7. Rob says:


    I don’t know if this is too late, but –

    do it, if you are prepared not just to live in a US-ghetto in Germany. This place is not the USA, the language and culture are not the same, you could/can /will learn a lot, but only if you learn the language and get to know German people… Btw, my references for this statement: I am a Brit who has lived here for 29 years…


  8. valerie says:


    Thank you for your wonderful — supportive letter – I realize I have to step aside — and that’s not a bad thing — Jon is capable of making the right decision and should not be influenced by my motherly insecurities.

  9. Carolyn says:

    For Jon’s mom —

    Thank you so much for posting your perspective on Jon’s choices. I very much felt your love and concern for him. I thought I’d add a little to what’s already been said. I’m in my early 50s, I’ve had at least three careers, and I’ve run organizations for Fortune 50 companies and hired (and fired) my share of people and I’m STILL growing and learning!

    In my experience, job stability is an illusion — we have only to look at the current economic situation and the loss of jobs in formerly “stable” industries to get lots of evidence! What’s most important are personal qualities like resilience, flexibility, creativity, enthusiasm because those are the ones that will ensure your ability to weather whatever storm comes your way (I’m sure there are many more qualities that make a difference, too — for me, though, resilience is the most important). I’m guessing that Jon’s experience in Germany will give him tremendous experience in developing resiliency since he’ll be faced with many challenging situations.

    Learning what you don’t want in life is as important as learning what you DO want. Sometimes it takes the experience of something you really don’t like to learn what really is important to you. I wouldn’t spend any more time feeling guilty over the job he has now — he seems to have learned a lot about what he doesn’t want AND been able to save enough money to go have a life-changing experience. How many people at 23 can say that????

    By the time a company has put you on a 30 day performance plan, they’ve already given up on you and are ready for you to go. Yes, you can turn it around sometimes but in the case of someone like Jon (and, I’m totally guessing here from his note and yours) who is very bright, capable, creative the problem isn’t that he can’t do the job, it is that he doesn’t want to do the job — that fundamental problem isn’t going to go away in 30 days. Even if he was able to stay past the 30 days, he’ll be on the list of people to lay off when the next round of lay offs happens and he’d be in an even more precarious situation with no job, no baseball in Germany and only prospects for things he doesn’t want to do anyway.

    I remember being in my 20s and thinking that I really needed to settle on a career and get started already! From the perspective of 30 years later, I now think it is much more important to spend that time exploring, finding out what is important to you and what isn’t, trying things on, taking them off until something really does grab hold and pulls you from inside (everyone who grew up just knowing they wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, architect, archeologist, superhero can skip this part, of course!). We live in a time where people can and do have multiple careers. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It matters more that you actually care about what you’re doing.

    Ok, lots more rambling than I planned. It sounds like you and your husband have a wonderful son, full of life, adventure, responsibility, intelligence and capabilities — all the things he needs to do a great job of living his life….

  10. valerie says:

    Response from Jon’s mom.

    I am overwhelmed by the response and support Jon has received in his quest for adventure.

    As a parent, of course, I only want him to be happy. If his life is complete — my life is more complete. I want him to be financially secure, have a good career, and ultimately be successful. That is my job as his life coach. Jon was always a good, conscientious student. He cared about his grades – I didn’t have to care for him.

    My parents were immigrants but they achieved more financial stability than my american friends. They worked harder. I am programmed to work hard and earn what you make. I was upset to read that Jon only put in 20% effort at his job. That’s not like him. I don’t want him to carry that to his next job. I ultimately feel responsible because I was the one who talked him into taking this job. But I thought I was doing the right thing. He had the chance to interview for a Hedge fund that would have given him more job stability and financial success. Even with that I couldn’t see him taking the job because l. it was 2 miles from home 2. he would work nights and possibly weekends to start 3. he would still live at home. I didn’t see that as a life for him while he was young- contrary to what my sister thought. I know they think I made a mistake to tell him to take THE ADVENTURE. So I carry the mother’s guilt that my decision didn’t work out……………..

    All the posts were positive to go which I do understand but I did appreciate those that brought out the reality of the present financial crises. I told Jon if it was any other time I would be thrilled that he had the opportunity – knowing that finding another job would not be a problem. That is not the case now. Every morning my husband gives me the unemployment count and that doesn’t help. Of course my husband is self employed and has been since he was 21 years old. He’s lived on his own since he was 17 so he is also so proud of Jon’s accomplishments and his success. He wants Jon to have job stability. My husband still does not know that Jon is considering this offer — I told him he has to call his father himself when he makes the choice. I know he will be worried about his future when he returns from Germany.
    I am proud that he is not making this decision irrationally. That he has taken the time and effort to get opinions. If he wants to go I will support his decision but I will also have to add that he should complete his present job at 110%. To leave the job and wow them. Give it the same energy he would a job he wants. He has to be realistic about his return. There is no guarantee he will find his dream job right away. He has to understand that he will have to get experience and put in 110% – sometimes even 100 is not enough to stand out and be noticed. Whatever the job is – he should bring forth creative ideas for change — Am I wrong? Can any job became a challenge? That’s another topic.
    Sorry for the length of this reply. But I know he will make the right choice. I know he will make it work just by the way he approached his decision.
    Just like one person said there might be days in Germany that are not the greatest. Sitting on the bench…losing a game because of an error..culture But I always say when you are on vacation you say you are having a good time. When you’re home a week you remember it as a great time. When you talk about it a year later it was the greatest vacation you ever had. I’m sure that will be his experience. It gets better as you get older.
    Thank you for taking the time and interest in his quest. He’s a very responsible son and I’m sure he will make the right decision and it will work……I also have sleepness night worrying about him……

  11. Kathlyn says:

    Go, but realize that your parents are most likely concerned about your well-being and you should be too. Not only is your job at risk right now (no matter what you do because all our jobs are at risk), but you’re not going to have any kind of financial stability unless you make it happen for it yourself. I don’t either and I’m much older than you. So go, definitely go. But plan. Make this not just a “heart” thing but a “head” thing too. Make this part of your plan for your life, not just a detour. If you want to write, this is the perfect opportunity for you to write about an amazing life experience AND see if you have the discipline to write about it every day while you’re doing it. If you’re going to go into an occupation like writing, you’re going to need the discipline (and it’s HARD). This is a chance for you to experience, plan, and make an unpopular decision that you know is right for you – because as many have already said, your parents probably aren’t going to back you up on this one no matter what argument you give them. I have a good friend who decided to go into a very competitive creative field who’s parents didn’t support her and now, guess who’s most impressed with her kick-ass work? Dad. Most parents are like that – they think they’re protecting you. Go, definitely go, just be smart about it and realize that this will be work, just like your job now is work – it’s all work and it’s all hard. But some work is more rewarding than other work and when you find your thing, you gotta grab it! Good luck!

  12. Um. Germany!!! HELLO?!?!

    Oh. Sorry. You asked for mature advice. That I don’t have. But I still say Germany. In the words of my 2-year-old career counselor in training:

    “Ummmm, DU-uh!”

  13. Go to Germany. I played hockey for 17 years and during those last 2 years it was clear I wasn’t going to make the pros. But, I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t play it through to the end. Here’s the thing, business will always be there but this baseball opportunity will not. You will always wonder what would have been if you don’t go for it now. Lastly, money isn’t the main thing. It’s the journey that’s more important. Making good money isn’t worth it for a job that only brings 20% motivation. Besides, you may find that focusing on the journey and what you’re passionate about will bring more wealth in the long run. Good luck!

  14. Rae Darby says:

    Gentle Reader

    If you’re going to do The Big OE (Overseas Experience) you might want to add some planning into the serendipity.

    It can be very easy to get lost in the Now of being part of a new team (new to you) and lose the plot overall.

    Who’s on your list of ‘love to meet’ who ISN’T involved in baseball. Who belongs to the world you’re making for yourself after this adventure.

    Which of your innate core skills will you be consciously honing through this experience? Basic personality stuff such as encouraging others, for example. Things that use those parts of you that you feel are withering in your present job.

    Where will you go to grow yourself? What can you do when you’ve escaped the confines of your present local expectations of you?

    Practice and playing ball and meshing with the team is only a little part of the day, surely? You can either be a ‘typical’ – or you can play the part while you grow yourself for tackling your further-beyond intentions.

    PS There is absolutely no reason why you need to go home. Hone your imagination and find ways to stay as a welcome ex-pat somewhere/s in the EU. It seems to be growing every year.
    PPS – before you leave your present job – consciously collect your valuables. The skills and disciplines and information sets that are transportable anywhere. They might be useful later.

  15. Hey Guys,

    First of all, thanks to everyone for all the support. Like some people noted, I already knew what choice I should make before I reached out to Pam. Posting this on “Escape From Cubical Nation” made it a pretty unfair debate anyway. If I really wanted to see the other side of this argument I could post the same thing on a message board, but there’s no need for that. I was really just looking to hear some support backed by reason and experience. When I brought this up to my friends, all of whom close to my age, most initially thought I was crazy (which is partly true) but after thinking about it for a second or two most agreed this was the opportunity of a lifetime. So much so that of about the 20 or so people I asked, 100% were completely behind the idea, and the few that made a effort to point out some negatives did so with a hint of jealousy. The problem I’ve had internally was when I asked my parents, who have always been my voice of reason, they weren’t too keen on the idea. They didn’t completely reject it, but gave more of the “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” routine… which everyone knows is the hardest to cope with. This was why I was looking for some advice from people like yourselves, who could share their actual experiences rather than just my friend’s ramblings (ex. “Dude I heard, the bars in Germany are sick.”)

    I have never been one to seek people’s approval on the choices I make, but this one seemed different. Within my immediate circle of friends, I have always been one of the most responsible when it came to major decisions and life events, and felt I was always one step ahead of the curve. I got into a good college, concentrated on keeping my grades up, switched majors to make sure I could get a high paying job, then landed a good job before I even graduated. Most of my peers are just now starting to get to where I am at with their careers. In one light, it felt like I might be throwing it all away by leaving now… but then again, in another, brighter light, everything everyone has been saying here holds true, and I realize that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I would be stupid to pass up. My main arguments, most of which seem to have been covered in people’s posts were that:

    – I didn’t take any sort of “find yourself” trip after school, even though I originally planed to, due to the job I had sign on for.
    – I put a lot of time and effort into finding this opportunity, and after a few years of pondering, I still want to go. (I’ve wanted to do this since I decided not to play baseball in college in order to go to a better school)
    – I already don’t like this job and need a reason to leave.
    – I’ve always loved baseball, and this could be my last chance to play at this high a level.

    All of my friends hate the fact that they’re working already, and I seem to be the only one doing something about it. Once again, I appreciate all of support and the context everyone has put behind their posts, it really helped me to solidify my choice.

    I registered a blog today and will start updating it asap. The name fratology stems from a website url I registered to start up a frat guy humor e-magazine – which, now that I think of it, this is actually the first action I’ve taken on the idea. Check back often for any updates if you’re interested in my story. As of now, I’m waiting to hear back from the team to find out the exact financial package they can offer me, which should come later this week. I’m glad there has been interest in my case, since I had previously thought about making a blog to document this trip. I also thought to possibly getting some sort of media attention to create a story out of it to jump start a writing or journalism career, but I’ve scoured the internet for ways to submit article ideas to newspapers or magazines and had no luck. If anyone knows of ways to do this, my spam buster email address is any help is greatly appreciated.

    Anyway, thanks again and be sure to check out the blog.

  16. JB says:

    DUDE! GO PLAY BALL IN GERMANY! Parents are rarely supportive of anything that isn’t the steady, safe, certain path. You’re very young. It’s your passion. You have plenty of time to “catch up” later if it didn’t work out.

    Your concern is that it will only pay the rent, but you have savings. Valid, but…

    Thing is, you NEVER know today where that move will take you tomorrow! This could be the start of things that will reward you with even more money than you could ever imagine.

    DO IT! Your gut instinct, that it is your chance to break loose, is correct. GOOD LUCK! 🙂 PLAY BALL!

  17. Shawn Tuttle says:

    Considering that you wrote to Pam what you did says that you Know what the best answer is for you. It sounds like what your next question could be is,”How do I garner up the courage to follow my heart when that path is not fully supported by my loved ones.”

    Speaking at 38 y.o. and looking back on a lifetime of learning how to speak up for myself, I’m happy that you are taking this question so seriously while still so young.

    Your folks care for you, and understandably, concerned about your well being. Take it to the worst case scenario–are they going to reject you for turning from something you hate to embark on a fantastic opportunity? Really now, I’ll bet they’ll be cheering you on in no time at all…

  18. greg head says:

    Go! Would you hear anything else from readers of a site named “Escape…”? 🙂

    I wonder what you’d hear if you went to Probably “I shoulda spent time figuring out what I was going to do next.” So do that too.

  19. Katie says:

    Go! Go! Go!

    Don’t wait for them to get rid or you (or conversely be impressed by a new level of performance). Why would you put your fate in their hands?

    Go play baseball. When its over, you will be different and there will be opportunities available to you that you didn’t even know existed beforehand.

    Life is too short not to follow your dreams. Even if it makes you sick and nervous and fretful: the first day out on the field will make it all worth it.

  20. I echo everyone else here: follow your childhood dream! Go play ball. This economic downturn won’t last forever, so why stay stuck in a job that isn’t you. However, be sure not to burn bridges. Give your current job your all until that day when you walk into your boss’ office and say, “Sir, I’ve decided to follow my childhood dream. May I have your blessing?”

    Good luck and go for it!

    Pam, a follow-up post with this fellow would be great.

  21. Joe Neuberg says:

    You already know what you want to do. You just want to feel like it’s the smart thing to do. Most people regret the chances they didn’t take more than any of those they did. Let’s address your possible fears. Say it doesn’t work out and you’re broke, stranded in another country, and your parents are writing to say they told you so. Why am I only mentioning the negatives? The negatives are all your fears will ever show you. Failure is a temporary condition relating to a specific endeavor; failure is not a label or a state of being. You can fail – you cannot be a failure. We always begin from a place of not knowing everything we wish we did, and we make the best decision we are able to with the information we have. What are the possible positives? You respected yourself enough to admit that this is something you want and to go after it. Courage is built on action, on the willingness to take chances – that doesn’t mean you don’t assess and plan for the risks to what extent you can. Frankly, if you’re involved with finance, you probably do that anyway. If you long to do something more creative, it begins with being able to imagine the possibilities, to envision them, and to act upon them. Think of this as practice. It is unikely that you will get so caught up that you’ll forget all self-preservation and self-interest,… give yourself some credit in that regard. It is in not committing to something that we overlook important details, because that which we do does not have our full attention. We see our future dreams and fears instead of watching the actions we take now and where they are taking us, instead of choosing where we will take ourselves. One more thing. If you haven’t started yet, start writing now. Write what you think, keep a journal or a travel log. Notice what you admire or what inspires you, and how they relate to what you want yourself to be.