Moving On: Kids Have All the Answers

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New Workbar member Chas Wagner discovers some of the unexpected benefits of coworking. This is a re-post from medium.com.

I left my job at RunKeeper nearly two weeks ago to the surprise of some co-workers and even myself. As I sit here at a Cambridge coworking space with no paycheck, legitimate job and defined career path, it’d be really easy to second guess my decision. Why would I leave a growing startup?

One that is riding the wave of the Quantified Self phenomenon. A company that aligns perfectly with my interests in health and fitness. The reasons for my departure are pretty clear in my head, however, super ambiguous to others. Yet, when I sat down my first morning at Workbar, it all crystalized. What was this magical elixir of clarity?

Play-Doh.

Yep, the kids schtuff! No joke, hundreds of Play-Doh jars were sprinkled throughout the co-working space, that Monday morning, after International Play-Doh Day took place the previous week. It’s so clear now that my time at RunKeeper had become far too un-Play-Doh-ish. Rigid, predictable, and constrained was how most of my days felt. Forced to respond to a certain number of support tickets in a certain amount of time with a certain level of customer satisfaction.

Disclaimer: highly encouraged is a better word, since we did have a great deal of autonomy in our jobs, which was empowering! Nonetheless, while metrics are important, I was beholden to the numbers, not empowered by them.

Play-Doh, on the other hand, opens up that world of possibility. Never finished. Always evolving. Constantly adapting. Kind of ridiculous. Above all else, it’s child-like. You are playing, as opposed to working with the compound.

With Play-Doh, you are the creator. At RunKeeper, I was the reactor. Always on my heels and at the mercy of our product and the users, I never felt in control. As much as I would have liked to mold the direction of the RunKeeper community, it was a never-ending uphill battle reacting to changes in the product. A perpetual state of reactiveness, unfortunately, led to burn-out. It’s why you see many Community Managers, and support professionals at-large, hitting a breaking point after only a few years on the job.

Now, that first molding of the Play-Doh at Workbar was a complete piece of crap. Who cares? I gave it a freaking try, knowing that the next one would be less hideous, just like my attempts at carving out the next stage of my career.

How about you? Any items around your office that serve as good metaphors for your job/career?

About the Author: Chas Wagner is an entrepreneur currently building a sports marketplace.  Follow him to learn more @ChasWagner.  

 

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