If Your Job Ended Tomorrow...

For the past 33 days the entire Fast Company staff has been enduring what we call "purgatory." The space of utter limbo in which you don't know if every day at work will be your last. You know your company is up for sale, you know the chances of survival are slim, and yet you have to keep on working creatively to put out the best magazine you possibly can. Every minute is a personal battle of trying to focus on the micro when the macro is the subtext of your every move.

The thing is, at Fast Company, we all love our jobs. We have the unique 360 degrees of satisfaction: our work is meaningful, we deeply admire and respect our coworkers, we love the product we put out and all the people who are part of the process. So the thought of losing this amazing reality was heartbreaking for all of us. But, the interesting thing it did do was force each one of us to really think about, if our dream job came to an end, what would we do next? While none of us wanted to even contemplate that scenario it was a reality we had to consider.

While most of us would try to get a similar job in journalism (if such a thing exists), as much as we probably wouldn't want to admit it, the thought of being forced to start from scratch was mildly exhilarating. What about trying to relocate to Europe? Or start a non-profit? Write a book? While none of us certainly would have asked for this, it was humbling and refreshing to be forced to reevaluate the who, what, where, when and why of our career paths.

Thankfully, as of yesterday, thanks to Mr. Joe Mansueto, we won't be forced to make those decisions. But I walk away from this experience reminded that it shouldn't have to take a crisis to force us to ask ourselves these questions. If you found out your company was shutting its doors tomorrow, how would you change the way your career, your life looks? Are there dreams that you've successfully repressed over the years? Are you in your current job out of complacency or fear of risk? My personal guide has always been: You'll never regret the things you tried, only the things you never tried. Figure out what your guide is — and then go for it.

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13 Comments

  • Lionel Matecha

    I have to admit that I haven't been following the FastCompany saga since the boom times. However, my previous career in magazine publishing has taught me two lessons: 1. If the magazine does well, it usually is bought out by a larger organization and there will invariably be some layoffs; 2. If the magazine does not do well, it will 'fold' and there will certainly be layoffs.

    Whatever the outcome, be prepared for the next challenge.

  • Heath Row

    "Johnny Youngblood" appears to be a troll -- someone who leaves comments in discussion forums and blogs to incite argument and debate. He neither works for Fast Company nor represents the opinions or ideas of the Fast Company team.

    Usually, the best thing to do is to ignore trolls -- they feed off responses to their bait -- but if he keeps this up, we'll take other action.

  • Katherine Bourgeois

    Please let us know whether the first post from JY is real or not. If it is, I'm cancelling my subscription immediately.

    Either way that guy is a jerk.

  • Michael Jones

    A bizarre first comment, and likely fake, since the name links to Oracle's Web page and has no provenance in Google. If you don't exist in Google, you don't exist. QED. So, I figure JY's not only a troll, but a chickenshit one at that.

    Great post though. Near-death experiences certainly help you figure out what's valuable and how to get closer to it. No guarantee you'll attain or remain in a near-utopian state, but it may be better than resigning yourself to the evils of totalitarian bureaucratic or shareholder control.

    The latter environment tends to be more stable and have better benefits, true, but it comes at the expense of your soul. It's a hell of a tradeoff.

  • Danny C.

    JY’s post is a little scathing – but his point is well taken.

    It’s wonderful to dream the impossible dream and then have the opportunity write lovingly about it. The problem with this utopia is that it only works for a very small percentage of the total working population. Those left out of utopia are made to toil under the weight of a Totalitarian bureaucracy schooled by the reality of shareholder pleasure / displeasure.

  • Lycanthrope

    Good job, JY: you have pissed off a reader.

    Because of your publicly humiliating, insensitive post, I have crossed FC off my reading list. If you are an example of what has been kept, I feel no need to support it.

  • kr

    Hi,
    I've been a fan of FC for the past few weeks, and i really look forward to the blog everyday. I've thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the FC readers community, and am glad that the team would continue. Hopefully, you-all will keep up the good work, and continue to be even better.
    With best wishes from Asia!!

  • TB

    Welcome to the reality of *most* of your readers in the small business/independent professional world.

  • Peter Lucash

    I also read JY's post and found it a bit odd. The trouble at FC may not be on the expense side, but on the revenue side. Cutting expenses, per se, is not always the best idea for the long term. The FC brand, content, and approach to business has a solid place in the business world, not only in the US, not only in Western countries, but in the developing countries such as China, India and the former Soviet republics.

    I have enjoyed FC since the first issue, and am thankful that someone with brains and muscle has bought it. Thanks, all!

  • Milton Kauahi

    I have been at companies that have gone through the transition of merging a different culture into ours and I have been in a situation where the company I worked at was sold, but kept whole. In either case I was not affected. However the events of 9/11 took me and my boss by surprise...since then I have changed industry.
    Today I look forward to launching my own enterprise. So while I have had a chance to reflect and review, the big shocker was what I least expected.
    As to FC. I used to travel a lot at a previous job and looked forward to every other month picking up the refreshing FC in the airport, despite its thickness. I was glad to see a leaner more frequent magazine and the staff should take pride in what you have created. Your legacy now is what the next level is... I am standing by...WooHoo!

  • Jim Wesnor

    Sort of reminds me of a quote I heard some time ago - "Never love your job, because it can never love you back."

    Your work, however, is another matter.

    Try not to get the two confused. Your job can end, but you're work - in all likelihood - will not. The passion you have, the relationships you've made, the skills you've acquired - the things that make work fun - will go with you, not stay at the desk that used to be "yours".

  • Jennifer Warwick

    JY - oh dear. What a strange and unpleasant post. I felt I was reading what was intended to be private, and not particularly constructive, correspondence.

    In answer to your questions, Danielle, what I got from your thoughtful observations was that many of us don't take the time to ponder what we'd "do next" because we are so busy luxuriating in (or struggling with) the present...and that once the factors that provoke that comptemplation resolve themselves, we go right back to being small, instead of staying in that place of possibility.

    Living a deeply fulfilling life is a radical act. I'm grateful to say I have a job I love now, and I don't regret all the pain and sacrifice and walking through fear it took to get here. Someone told me when I was a kid that a caterpillar doesn't just grow wings: it has to dissolve completely inside its cocoon and become a butterfly pretty much from scratch. I know I appreciate my life as deeply as I do because of all I went through to earn it.

    I have no idea from this post if you are still at FC or not. Either way, enjoy the journey, and remember what greatness and possibility that fear pulled out from each of you...and stay in that magnificence. Don't settle for only what you had before, now that you see what else is possible.

  • Johnny Youngblood

    Danielle,

    I'm sorry, but while Joe Mansueto was able to keep most the Fast Company staff on board, he's using the changeover to let go of some of the underperformers, yourself included. While your talent was recognized, your inability to keep on task was seen as an obstacle to personal growth at the company.

    So, the upside is that you will have time to ask yourself the poignant questions, after all.

    JY