6 min read

#6 - You don't make friends at work

#6  - You don't make friends at work
prompt: best friends at work, laughing, happy, colourful, ghibli style --testp --upbeta --ar 16:9 --upbeta

This week I read a tweet that stirred up a thought that had been brewing in me for a while. Pieter Levels, founder of nomadlist, tweeted about the characteristics of the best jobs in the world. Side note: follow Pieter; this guy is incredible. He goes from idea to product in days while tweeting his progress. It is inspiring to watch. I agreed with the points mentioned in the tweet, but my feeling changed when I started reading the comments. People saw work as an individual, almost mechanical process. This negatively resonated with me because I often felt lonely since I began working alone.

What I have been thinking.

As you might know, I quit my job at the beginning of 2022. My initial goal was to leave the corporate world before I turned 30. I ended up quitting at the age of 32. Mission accomplished. There were multiple reasons why I wanted to quit. I hate meetings, commuting, traffic jams, corporate language, bureaucracy, bosses, endless administration, and KPIs. I wanted to act quickly on my ideas and receive direct feedback (instead of a form once a year). That is one of the reasons why I started my podcast, which grew into a full-time business. I own my time, and I love every second of it.

There are many great aspects of being your own boss:

  • No more commuting. During Covid-19, I noticed that I had a crazy commute. Once we started working from home, I had three hours of extra leisure time per day. The thought of spending these hours in a traffic jam suddenly seemed foolish. I filed my resignation letter the day we had to return to the office after the pandemic.
  • Unbounded creativity. The corporate world is a monster that eats creativity. The time it takes to go from an idea to implementation is frustratingly long. As an entrepreneur, you can increase the iteration time to days. When I have an idea for the podcast, I can implement it in the next episode. I also get instant feedback from the listeners.
  • Empty calendar. Many entrepreneurs will disagree with me, but I'm happy to keep my calendar empty. No more daily standups and weekly team meetings. No more driving to the office for one meeting. No more bullshit e-learnings.
  • Always on silent. My phone is in permanent focus mode. It's great. No notifications and calls go straight to voicemail. I have some exceptions for my girlfriend and business partners; other callers will get a call back at the end of the day or the beginning of the next morning.
  • Full responsibility. This one is tricky. When you are an entrepreneur, there is nowhere to hide. You are fully responsible for your actions and feelings. This is also true when you work a corporate job, but I noticed that it is easier to hide while employed. I made all kinds of excuses: the work wasn't that bad, the client messed up, or my boss was horrible. All these excuses divert attention from the root cause: I should quit my job.
  • Focus. I like the things I create, making it easy to focus while working. Working more extended periods without getting distracted is more manageable when I work on my own projects.
  • Freedom to think differently. My ideas and perspectives on life and work differ from what is commonly accepted. I take long walks and consider it work. I read books and consider it work. I tinker with Raspberry Pi's and consider it work. I think four hours of deep focus per day is working full-time. It is easier to implement these perspectives when you don't have to convince your boss.
  • No hierarchy. When I'm asked to speak about cryptocurrency or bitcoin it is because of my knowledge and reputation. It's not based on my age, rank, or years with the firm. In my corporate job, I needed a partner (highest boss in consulting/accounting firms, like Bowser in Super Mario) to sponsor my project. I always thought this was ridiculous. I was invited to talk about bitcoin on national TV, radio, and in newspapers, but I couldn't manage my own project in the firm.
  • All the above while generating an income.

Sounds good? I think it does. There was one thing that I absolutely loved about my corporate job: my colleagues. When I think about it, I loved this about all the jobs I had. I had a great time working as a student at Mediamarkt and the University. This is also the point on which I disagree with Pieter; I made many friends at work. I worked with people from every cultural background, ex-pats, rich and poor. It changed me for the better to learn about different cultures and lifestyles. The best thing about it? You only have to show up. I understand this isn't the case for everyone; I worked in teams that changed every few months.

The point Pieter makes in the tweet above is 100% valid. There are plenty of ways to socialize outside work and find people you can connect with. The thing I like about colleagues is that they fall outside of your bubble (at least for a bit). I'm a bit worried that when I choose the activities myself, it will mainly exist with people that fall into my bubble. The most important thing for me is that I find it hard to socialize. This is partly because I like being alone (and I'm quite comfortable spending time with myself and my thoughts). This, combined with the fact that this is all new to me, leads to days spent alone*.

*Don't worry, I have a wonderful girlfriend and great friends. The point is that they are not at home during the day.

The difficulty with working alone is that days start to blend together. This was a common complaint during the pandemic. It's a blessing to confuse Saturday with Tuesday without it making an impact. But it also makes me feel weird. Lost. Like an astronaut floating in space: intrigued with everything around him, but no one to share the joy with. The question is how to improve the social part without losing the freedom to think quietly.

I see two options:

  • Invite people I collaborate with to meet in real life instead of digitally.
  • Take Pieter's advice and explore social avenues outside of work.

I'm convinced that these options are not mutually exclusive. The challenge with the first option is to make meeting up with people a regular habit. I made many friends through the podcast, but I meet them occasionally (instead of weekly, like with a regular job). The second option is more challenging for me but, therefore, more fun (it is fun to get out of your comfort zone). I re-joined my local CrossFit box a month ago, which significantly helps. Maybe I should search for interesting entrepreneurial meetups in my area. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. I'm curious how you guys meet new people.

What I have been doing.


Thanks for reading. Like always: sharing is caring. Don't hesitate to leave a comment, either.

See you guys next week,