Charles Scharf, the former head of JP Morgan Chase’s largest division, recently left his post in a major management shake up within one of the financial industry’s most stable management teams. After two decades heading up the retail financial services, Mr. Scharf said the headaches of running the bank’s largest division was getting too much to bear.
“You get to a point in life where you have to enjoy what you do when you come in every day,” he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “I wasn’t enjoying it.”
Well, good for him. Even though this eyebrow-raising move most certainly takes him out of the running for CEO successor.
“I feel great about it,” Mr. Scharf told the New York Times. “It gives me time to think and do other things.”
I tried to picture Mr. Scharf at the precise moment when he reached that breaking point: He’s hurling a stack of foreclosure documents across the board room at the dozens of prowling lawyers who have been hounding his every move. “I’ve had it with you people!” he cries, storming out of the office building.
All right, it was probably a bit more calculated and nuanced than that. But, dear career-minded friends, we all understand the reality of doing something you hate for a period of time in order to serve a greater purpose down the road.
It’s called “paying your dues.”
The long hours, constant fire-fighting, tedious grunt work, putting up with a lousy boss or high-maintenance employees – these should be just steps along the way to get you someplace better.
But definitely not the end game.
Back in the day when I was an aspiring young man clawing my way up the corporate ladder, I used to complain about hating my job. Then a very wise and sensible woman (um, my wife) put it to me like this: “Well, what did you expect?”
And then, “Anything worthwhile is going to be hard.”
One of my first professional jobs was a 100% commissioned gig selling management consulting services. I ate what I killed. I hated the direct cold-calling and the rejection and the literally gut-wrenching anxiety associated with the insecurity of commission. But I did it anyway.
Every morning when I woke up for work, I had – what’s a nice way to say this? – gastro intestinal issues. (Hello, body? It’s me, Stress!) But I knew it was going to be an invaluable experience and would help me to get the next job I wanted. And the next one after that. This is where I learned the value of gritting my teeth and just showing up every day. It toughened me up. It taught me to think on my feet.
I stuck it out for three years, and became the top performer in the company. When I simply couldn’t take it any more, I moved on to a much, much, much better situation, and my gastrointestinal issue miraculously went away.
In many ways, that tough job launched my career.
Wherever you are in your career, you are there because of the choices you made along the way:
- To stick it out, or quit.
- To get a degree, or skip over the education.
- To take a risk, or play it safe.
- To do something you dislike for a greater purpose, or to stay comfortable.
- To stick with a job you hate – even though it offers no better prospects – or to move on.
Like Mr. Scharf says, if you don’t like what you do every day, there comes a point in life when it’s simply not worth it anymore.
But when is that point?