The Cafe Question

by Nitesh Dhanjani

For 3 years, I had the opportunity to work from home. I would travel to client locations as needed, and enjoyed the freedoms of a true and ideal consulting lifestyle. During this time, I felt I was most creative, for I had the energy to author two books, articles, and speak at information security conferences around the world. During that time, I felt I was a member of the 'cafe environment' Mark Morford describes in his article "Why Do You Work So Hard?":

Call it "the cafe question." Any given weekday you can stroll by any given coffee shop in the city and see dozens of people milling about, casually sipping and eating and reading and it's freakin' noon on a Tuesday and you're like, wait, don't these people work? Don't they have jobs? They can't all be students and trust-fund babies and cocktail waitresses and drummers in struggling rock bands who live at home with their moms.

Of course, they're not. Not all of them, anyway. Some are creative types. Some are corporate rejects. Some are recovering cube slaves now dedicated full time to working on their paintings. Some are world travelers who left their well-paying gigs months ago to cruise around Vietnam on a motorcycle before returning to start an import-export business in rare hookahs. And we look at them and go, What is wrong with these people?

It's a bitter duality: We scowl at those who decide to chuck it all and who choose to explore something radical and new and independent, something more attuned with their passions, even as we secretly envy them and even as our inner voices scream and applaud and throw confetti.

Our culture allows almost no room for creative breaks. There is little tolerance for seeking out a different kind of "work" that doesn't somehow involve cubicles and widening butts and sour middle managers monitoring your e-mail and checking your Web site logs to see if you've wasted a precious 37 seconds of company time browsing [censored]...

These days, however, I am stuck with a routine 9 to 5 lifestyle. Add to that office politics, _ridiculous_ controls and procedures, the daily work commute routine - and I am left with no energy or the will to embark on anything creative. It does appear that the routine corporate environment does not suit me well, and I will have to negotiate some changes soon in order to revert back to my older lifestyle.

If you haven't had a chance to read Mark's article, I do recommend it highly. I will end this entry with the following quote from the column:

We are designed, weaned, trained from Day 1 to be productive members of society. And we are heavily guilted into believing that must involve some sort of droning repetitive pod-like dress-coded work for a larger corporate cause, a consumerist mechanism, a nice happy conglomerate.


2005-12-22 04:38:11
Your next book
Make your next title a 'how to get your own independent consulting firm up and going' and you'll make a ton.

I'm working for the Man now, but I've been planning an escape for the reasons you discuss above - creativity adds value. 'Corprate America', or rather, 'Big Corporate America' does not recognize creativity, in my experience.

They should - they'd make a lot more money. It's okay though, if they don't want the $, I'll go get it...