Commit to the Cubicle

Cubical LifeThis past weekend, I saw a friend whose son was graduating from college.   As we laughed about the empty nest he was about to experience our conversation circled back to our work and now the newly found job of his son.  I asked him how his son was handling the transition from college life to the nine-to-five world of work.  He said his son hated it.  He then laughed and commented on how his son is now a younger version of himself.  How he dressed and had to get up every day and go to work.  He then said something I’ll probably never forget.  He said, “Yeah, he’s just not ready to “commit to the cubicle”.  What!?!  His son is a gifted athlete and snowboarder.  I mean practically an Olympic level instructor type.  He spent every second of his free time on Mt. Baker between classes while at Western Washington University studying for his degree and has also appeared in a few snowboard promotional video commercials.  So you can imagine my heart sinking when I heard his father say this.   Especially with me on the heels of finishing my soon to be published book “The Art of Working for Yourself”.

All I could imagine was a scene from National Geographic in my head as they chased down this young lion that was about to be tagged and released for observation.  First, the lion struggles after it’s been hit by the tranquilizer dart.  Then they pet him to keep him calm, so he won’t wake up and eat them alive as they slip the transmitter collar around his little neck. Before the lion realizes what hit him, he wakes up and realizes that he’s got this thing now wrapped around his neck.   I know this is a bit dramatic, but I had to ask myself the question… “Did this happen to me?  Did I get tagged and “commit to the cubicle?”  When did I give in and what type of tranquilizer dart did they use on me?

Knowing what I know now, I think back to when I was younger and wiser and believed I could do anything.  I couldn’t quite remember how I fell for the Jedi mind trick and committed to the cubicle.  I’m sure it happened slowly at the guidance of our beloved media, teachers, friends and family; somehow I was trained away from my true essence.  As for my friend’s son, my lament for him is that most of us who “commit to the cubical” never leave it and we will begin to look at the cubicle as the best thing we will ever accomplish. Our wants and desires will take a back seat to day to day existence.  Sure there will be promotions and awards that reinforce our role as the cog in the wheel.  But, I wonder whose greater good this is serving?  Does committing to the cubicle mean we are not working for ourselves?

I believe the way we live and work is about to undergo a radical shift and it will be those who can’t and won’t commit to the cubicle who will show us the way.  They will live and work in a way that is more fulfilling to who they are and how they live (even when they work for someone else).  I’ll leave you to answer this for yourself.  Can you “commit to the cubicle” and still embrace the “Art of Working for Yourself”?  If so, how do you do it?  If not, then why not?

Read Gerald’s blog @ The Twelfth Power

6 thoughts on “Commit to the Cubicle

  1. Gerald – this post is amazing. I can think of numerous people to share it with. It is great exactly as it is. As a member of your writers’ group, I also have two questions:

    1) Do you really mean the word “cubical,” which is an adjective – some offices are “cubical” in shape; or do you mean “cubicle,” which is the noun for….. the work spaces. Using the adjective would be clever…. a commitment to things being “cubical” not only in the office…. But because there is no mention of that “humor,” I wonder if you meant “cubicle.” Either way is fine…. but the question exists as I read this.

    2) I LOVE the term “Jedi Mind Tricks!” But the Jedi Knights are …. “the good guys” in that great hero story. I wonder if it might be worthwhile to work a “Dark Side” reference into the piece so that we who love that George Lucas learned the structure of a hero story from Myth scholar Joseph Campbell would know that you are not really “in favor of” the cookie-cutter formation of our beloved young people.

    Thanks for posting this here. I heard that it was posted first someplace else…. but I do not know where… I would love to see what else is at that spot!

    • Liz! You’re revealing more of yourself! An advocate who knows Joseph Campbell (I think of Jedis as the good guys, too) and left out what could be a nasty pun with the word “cuticle” or hey, check out “cubicel,” – having the properties of a cube & thus easily contained (!) and “cubicell,” – a misspelled combination of cubicle & cell as cubicles are smaller than prison cells, so small indeed that it is where one goes to put on excess weight. Cubacell, however, is Cuba’s cell fone company. Yep, lookitem up. (I confess I’m one who loves to make up new words & delights in mangling our very own English…only to discover they’re often already created & sometimes centuries ago.)

      • I love these comments! I did make that correction to “cubicle” that was completely an over sight on my part. Although cubicell is really good! Jedi’s ARE the good guys, but I loved how the trick was used by Luke and Obi Wan Kenobi when they were hiding from the storm troopers (that’s why I added the link). Thank you both for reading the enjoying the post.


  2. Gerald, a profoundly provocative piece. You lift up the rock & roll back the stone to reveal the questions that make our chairs wiggle and scrape. You’re on to something here…this essay challenges the conventional wisdom and the conventional anti-wisdom. Maybe time spent in cubiland is how we pay our dues in the Postmodern Word. Maybe time spent in cubicells is how we learn to appreciate Freedom. Maybe we learn certain skills that … wait, what skill is there possibly to learn we in those #%^&@!:) cubical cubicles that we can’t possibly learn better elsewhere?

    I highly recommend checking out Chris Guillebeau’s “The Art of Non-Conformity” and “The $100 Startup” as there is a synchronicity between some of your themes.

    Thanks, Gerald. Really enjoyed it, too.

  3. So Gerald has changed the spelling to “cubicle.” That’s cool. But maybe he will ponder the adjective “cubical” and it will inform his life, work, and future writing. Thanks for the on-going collaborations.

  4. I think it will and I will! It’s a funny thing as you look at definitions of words and you can’t help but think about how to apply them to life. It’s life’s journey of expanding one’s life that takes us to places we never thought possible. It’s all in how you say it…or in my case spell it. Thanks again for the catch.

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