Learn From Mistakes, Don’t Repeat Them

While browsing the announcements board at my local library, I saw a job listing that seemed familiar:

“Library Assistant — Public Library Technology Center”

It reminded me of my last job — I started as a “Library Assistant,” graduated to a “Computer Guy,” then left after two years.

I scanned the requirements and duties in the listing, and immediately knew that my previous work experience could qualify me for an interview.

Faced with this blatant temptation to return to a life with a steady paycheck, I considered it for a few seconds before remembering:

“No — I’ve been down this road already.”

Regardless of how I’ve repeatedly left computer support jobs countless times in the last seven years, I regularly find myself in situations like this.

Though I’ve lost my passion for that line of work, I often feel tempted to return to it — because it’s what I know.

The thing is, I also know that any enjoyment I receive doing computer support will only be temporary. I know this because I’ve given in to the temptation before — many times — and the result is always the same:

After starting yet another job doing computer support, I’d lose interest within a year or two — because my heart was never in it.

Once I lost interest in a job, I’d want out. There were times when I’d try and negotiate better pay, more flexible hours, or more independence on the job — but these negotiations would never be enough to make me truly happy.

My strategy for finding happiness, therefore, was to just look for another job.

My mistake using this strategy, of course, was that I always looked for another job doing computer support.

This was stupid. I was being stupid.

Though I see that now, I never realized how stupid I was being during those seven years of career hopping. It’s as if I missed that particular lesson in common sense: If you don’t like your job, don’t quit to find another job just like it.

So what was my reasoning? Why was I continually applying to jobs knowing that I wouldn’t stay around very long?

Because I know computer support. I’ve done it before and I’m comfortable doing it. By comparison, everything else is terrifying due to uncertainty.

Consequently, when I see job listings saying “Strongly prefer recent, paid work experience working in a library and/or experience providing personal computer support/instruction” I immediately think “That’s me!”

It’s almost as if I completely forget about the notion of personal satisfaction the instant I find a job I can already do. Then I fool myself into thinking that maybe this time, I’ll be paired up with an employer that makes me happy.

The problem is, employers don’t make me happy. They make me feel safe — and the desire to feel safe caused me to repeat the same mistake:

I sacrificed personal job satisfaction just so I could feel safe.

This isn’t unique. Sacrificing personal enjoyment for job security is common. I see it in my friends, family members, former co-workers, and sometimes even in strangers.

When did we all decide that our identities would be defined by our jobs? Why do we sell ourselves into indentured servitude? Why don’t we all just do what makes us happiest to be happy, instead of letting our employers redefine who we are?

Maybe because being unemployed is overwhelming and terrifying.

Maybe because you can often get away with doing next to nothing on the job.

Maybe because investing in yourself is hard work.

Maybe because you’re afraid of failing.

In my case, all of these reasons caused me to repeatedly run back to a job where I felt safe. Choosing to hide from my problems this way was like lying to myself.

In February ’07, I faced the truth: I wanted to change careers. I wanted to move out of state and reinvent myself. I wanted to quit this unending loop of working careers I hated.

So I did all of that.

I’m a writer now — or at least I’m trying to be.

I’m not successful at it yet. I make very little money. Under $200 a month.

I’m nervous because I spend more than I earn. If my earnings don’t improve, my savings will surely run out. I don’t know exactly when. What I do know, is that I’m tired of selling myself short for temporary happiness.

So as tempting as the job might be to a man with limited income and many worries, I turn my back on it. I’m not going to make that mistake anymore — I’ve made it too many times already.

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5 Responses to “Learn From Mistakes, Don’t Repeat Them”

#1 Lauren on 08, Jul, 2007 at 11:44 am

Hey we could have been co-workers! I applied for that job about a year ago but they said I didn’t have enough experience. I’m actually glad I didn’t get it because I don’t think I would have enjoyed it much.

#2 Shaun Boyd on 09, Jul, 2007 at 8:42 am

Whenever I’m using the computers in the Technology Center, I overhear the phone conversations that the staff members have. It’s a gentle reminder of where I’ve already been.

#3 Rachel on 02, Apr, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Thanks for your blog…it is so refreshing to read about your courage. I am currently frustrated with my increased work duites and constant pay for the past four years. I have to admit that I am afriad of the uncertainty asking for a raise brings and eventually having to walk away. Whatever happens, thank you for sharing your experience and giving me courage to take a leap of faith into something better waiting ahead for me.

#4 chasingDreams on 15, Aug, 2009 at 11:19 am


I had the same past experiences like you. I have been job hopping for the past 4 years. The longest I can stay in a company was 1 year and the shortest was just 1 month.

This year, I am not sure if I was considered lucky because I got a job in insurance company as a programmer. I thought I can stay for long but eventually I quit after working in there for 1 month. I hate the feeling of job hopping. Everyone thought I am crazy and lazy especially my mum. I am trying hard to find happiness in my job but none of it that really makes me happy.

Finally, I walked away from my current career and do something that I have passionate all this while, utilize the talents that god has given me. Though i am struggling with my income but I am looking future. With wisdom, patience, endurance, self discipline, thriftiness, determination and will power. I am sure I can get what I want. I don’t want to waste my time.

Remember,we only live once so live life to the fullest.

#5 Michele on 23, Sep, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Thanks for the read. I really needed it tonight and have for a long time. I can honestly say that I think I am far from even considering stepping outside the box from my current job but parrallel to that thought, I know that this job I’ve had for almost 6 years has pretty near taken the life out of me emotionally. I know that every workplace has it’s problems but I don’t think that I have ever worked for a company that made me feel (or should I say I “let” them make me feel) so invisible and unimportant in what I do. I need to find a way out of there and soon – therefore it has lead me to trying to find myself a happier life by reading your information and knowing where to turn. Please keep up the good sound work you are doing here. It has touched me and made me feel so not alone.

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