Fullfillment possible?
April 6, 2010 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Are you fulfilled in your job? Should I seek to be? I have a job which paid me over $450K last year. I worked maybe 50 hours a week to generate that on average (although with wild swings and a lot of travel.) If I stay I will be on track to make $1M a year in a few years. I am not terribly happy, but not totally miserable.

1. At times, the job affords tremendous personal flexibility (I have many potential bosses or clients; and therefore, no real boss. Many teams working for me; so therefore, no one knows where I am.)

2. Large amounts of money. (Although I live in NYC so it's all relative. But you will not catch me complaining.)

3. Great people at my company. Smart, nice, treat people humanely.


1. At the end of the day I make powerpoint slides for a living and don't actually do anything..."real."

2. Sometimes nasty clients.

3. Travel (I have 2 young kids.)

4. No passion for my chosen industry or specialization within this job.

Bottomline: I know this search for "passion" is a luxury. At the end of the day I'm providing for may family, not working THAT hard, but am a bit bored and frustrated.

Tell me stories of how you've managed the compromises. Or, just tell me I'm a whinger and I should stuff it and drive on...
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (46 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Live way within your means - modestly & save all you can, see an investment/retirement advisor, invest wisely and put away enough so that within a short time you can reasonably live on your earnings from investments. Then retire & travel, go to school & take what you want - laugh all the way to the bank.
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:22 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

If I were in your shoes, I would live as if I were making one quarter of what you make (which is still more than I make living in NYC), save and carefully invest the rest, and retire as soon as I humanly could. I imagine having young kids makes that a bit more complicated, and you would have to commit to a certain level of frugality (although not painfully so), but you could have a couple of million socked back in five years. Then... do whatever your heart desires.
posted by kimdog at 6:26 PM on April 6, 2010 [9 favorites]

Well, with that income, you could also just cut your expenses as much as possible, save as much as you can, and then retire in a few of years to a less expensive part of the country (or world) and do whatever you want for the rest of your life.

Also please MeMail me what line of work you're in because I think I picked the wrong profession. I would be perfectly happy to make PowerPoint slides and ride airplanes for 50 hours/week for $450-$1 million a year. :)

Money issues aside, this -- "Great people at my company. Smart, nice, treat people humanely" -- in my opinion is key to job satisfaction. So even if you made significantly less money, I'd still recommend sticking with it. In my experience, most jobs are full of jerks and idiots and if your coworkers are great and you only sometimes have to deal with nasty clients, you have a pretty good thing going. In the end, what you actually *do* all day (if it's not too unpleasant) is less important than the relationships you form.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:26 PM on April 6, 2010 [20 favorites]

If the only reason you stay with this job indefinitely is for the money, I'd imagine it would make you very unhappy. Of course, there are some people who don't seem to need to find personal meaning in their work, but by stating you're unfulfilled, you don't seem to be one of them.

Don't just keep doing something because it pays well and it's tolerable...take steps to figure out what makes you satisfied, and in the meantime, save/invest some money.
posted by bearette at 6:27 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I make 1/10th of what you make and live in NYC (outer borough, but awesome neighborhood that I adore). I wish I made a more, I wouldn't be so stressed out over student loans and rent. I wish I could afford to go somewhere with my time off (even, you know, out to lunch with my friends), instead of working extra hours at my second job. I'm just sayin'. If you're not worried about one thing, you're worried about another. From my vantage point, I'll say the stability of paying the bills is key.

I don't mean to dismiss your concerns or stress, but you are in a very privileged position, even if your job isn't perfect. Find your passion in the other 50ish waking hours/week you have free. Your passion doesn't have to be separate from your family (my dad got big into Little League when he coached me & my sister back in the 80s, and I'm still in love with baseball because of that, and sports is something we share to this day).
posted by AlisonM at 6:27 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're a whinger and should stuff it and move on.

If you can't afford life in NYC on $450K per year, either you're doing it wrong or you need to wait until you're making $1 million + per year. You'll notice that as your income scales up your needs will scale up commensurately. So, either enjoy the fact that you earn more than virtually every person who has ever walked on this Earth...or malinger in the feeling that you're missing out on...well, I don't know what. You've already accomplished more than virtually anyone else.

What more do you want?
posted by dfriedman at 6:30 PM on April 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

Also, this: I am not terribly happy, but not totally miserable. -- don't rely on your job for fulfillment. It's a job. You show up, you do stuff, they give you money. That's all.
posted by AlisonM at 6:31 PM on April 6, 2010 [12 favorites]

"Are you fulfilled in your job?"

To answer this question more specifically and to give an example of what I mean about the importance of workplace relationships for job satisfaction, I would answer "yes" to this question, not because my work is interesting (not really) or especially remunerative (ha), but because I love my coworkers and my boss is the kindest person I have ever known. So it feels a lot more like I'm coming in to hang out with my friends and help them with stuff than it feels like "working."

(Except when they give me eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil multi-authored Word documents to straighten out, then it feels like work, but I forgive them.)
posted by Jacqueline at 6:32 PM on April 6, 2010

Please memail me. I make powerpoint slides for a living too, and don't get paid that much. (Actually, I earn a pittance - less than 1/20th what you make).

Am I fulfilled in my job? Hell yeah. I work with a bunch of different and interesting academics, work on their data, learn new shit all the time, don't have to deal with the general public, work from home sometimes (like right now), and don't need a PhD (painful higher degree).

But my values may be very different than yours - I value serenity, creativity, freedom and I'm willing to not get paid very much for this.

If you recieved a massive inheritance and didn't need to work ever again, what would you do to fill in your time? Let's pretend that you would learn how to bake, that it's your dream to prepare the staff of life, to know that you are feeding the people. Now, imagine being a baker, with the hours that involves and the (low) wage. How does that make you feel? "Eeek no!" or "hell, yes!"? If it's the first, then your value of providing financially for your family is probably more important to you than having a job that is "real". In which case, bake on your weekends, and keep on doing what you are. If the second, then it's time to start salting away as much cash as you can, and looking at what the minimum you (and your family) can live on, and go follow your dream.

Good luck! (but please, if you could, memail and tell me how to make that kind of money from PowerPoint slides).
posted by b33j at 6:32 PM on April 6, 2010

I recommend finding a way to help others. I know it sounds cliche, but use your financial position to sponsor a family for Christmas. Pay someone's rent for a month. Take the kids to Mexico or Costa Rica to build houses for the poor. There are 1000 ways to volunteer in your local community. This should add immediate fulfillment in your life. It won't solve your problems at work but it will make you look forward to each day nonetheless.

Don't quit your job. Do more fulfilling things in your off time.
posted by shew at 6:33 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I give you permission to quit your job.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 6:33 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

(but please, if you could, memail and tell me how to make that kind of money from PowerPoint slides).

Based on the description I would guess that the anonymous OP works at an investment bank putting together "pitch" books for teams of investment bankers. It's possible he also works for one of the large management consulting or accounting firms, though at that salary, it's not likely.
posted by dfriedman at 6:35 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are anonymous so I know you won't answer this - but about 4 years ago I was in a very similar place. My initial conclusion was that the career was the problem. After I reflected for a while I realized it wasn't the career, it was the job. Took me a while to get there, even resigned to do something else before I got there, but I did. Am very happy now doing pretty much the same thing I've always done. But I travel a lot less.

Seriously the "not real" thing was huge for me. Also here's the other thing - I'm sure you are going to get lots of "Save and retire" advice - that was not something I was interested in. I'm not interested in living a frugal lifestyle so I can transition to an early life retirement. I want to like my job not view it as something to escape.
posted by JPD at 6:38 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have a cause you care about? Or can you find one? Once you're making a million, keep living as if you made $450K, and give $550K a year to a cause you think is really worthwhile. Then you're not a guy who spends 50 hours a week making PowerPoint, you're a guy who turns 50 hours a week of not-very-hard work into a half-million dollars a year for the poor, or cancer research, or a publishing house, or your political party of choice... Whatever it is, you'll have a much better claim than most of us to be doing something "real" with your working day.
posted by escabeche at 6:39 PM on April 6, 2010

you would have been so much better off leaving out the comp numbers. The comp numbers are irrelevant to the question.
posted by JPD at 6:41 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't mention your age, but I imagine you're not terribly close to retirement age since you have two small children. So, you may want to think in terms of serial careers. Do what you're doing until you:
- have enough money
- can't stand the irrelevance any longer
- have a clear idea of what you would find fulfilling

Then you devote yourself to the career that sparks your passion without having to worry about how much it pays. That is the very definition of true luxury.
posted by DrGail at 6:52 PM on April 6, 2010

Think of the job as a means to an end. Then find what you are passionate about and find ways after work to do something about it.

Some of us have to do that on way less money. You are blessed to have money AND congenial colleagues.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:54 PM on April 6, 2010

im not sure if work fulfillment is possible. i'm doing what is basically my dream job, but i have so many qualms with it (excessive overtime, low pay, my creativity limited by what sells and is marketable) so i believe that with every job there is always SOMETHING. if anything, working in something that i had a passion for (art) has sort of killed my passion for it. just a word of warning in case you think you'll suddenly feel 100% fulfilled if something you've always considered your "dream job" falls in your lap.

work is WORK. it is usually not 100% what we want. we wouldn't be getting paid if it wasn't. there's always going to be at least one thing that bothers you about what you do for a living.
posted by raw sugar at 6:57 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

That kind of cash buys you a lot of flexibility. Dedicate yourself to (for the sake of argument) another 5 years of that kind of work. In doing that, you can build up quite a nice nest egg, possibly enough to partially live off of the interest, and then devote yourself to finding workplace fulfillment. At the end of that time, you ought to have zero debt and a couple of million in the bank. Assuming passbook savings rates, that gives you a $20,000 a year annuity to live off of, forever. Almost any job + $20,000 a year would get the bills paid quite comfortably with no mortgage or other debt to pay off.

I know this doesn't help *you* that much, but I'd bet a lot of people would put up with a whole hell of a lot of crap for that kind of dough.
posted by gjc at 6:57 PM on April 6, 2010

It's possible he also works for one of the large management consulting or accounting firms, though at that salary, it's not likely.

A senior, but non-equity, executive director at a consulting firm could make that much; and if they were on deck for partner that would explain that part about being "on track to make $1M a year in a few years". Though frankly I don't know of many people in that position who work just 50 hours a week.

As for the OP, my advice is that looking for fulfillment from one's job is a mug's game. The purpose of a job is not fulfill you as a human being, it's to provide you with money. Most people's work conditions are much more awful than yours in a multitude of ways, so the only real reason I can think of for quitting your job is if you just can't square the travel with your responsibilities as a parent. Otherwise, I think your best bet is to downshift your spending as much as you can, start saving your money to retire in as short a time as possible, and start figuring out what you'd like to do with that retirement.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:00 PM on April 6, 2010

Many, many people have jobs with at least two of the cons you listed, sometimes all four, and none of the pros, and couldn't hope to make fifteen percent of your income. I'm one of 'em. Most of us deal by finding something interesting to pursue in our free time - take up a hobby, go running, learn how to cook fantastic meals, read stuff that makes you think.

Whatever you pursue needn't be profound or ambitious - if collecting toy trains or whatever makes you happy, that's all that matters. The notion of "passion" is kind of misleading, the career equivalent of a perfect Hollywood romance: we don't all have secret things that we were meant to do and that we'll love and be paid handsomely (or at all) for. You could go mad trying to find your True Calling if nothing seems to be actually calling to you. Most of the time, aiming for "interesting" works pretty well.

I'm not going to snipe at you for being unfulfilled despite an income that would seem, to many people, about as fantastic as Uncle Scrooge's money bin. If you don't feel good, you don't feel good, and telling yourself that you're better off than most people can feel a little hollow and counterproductive. And anyway, the cliche is that money can't buy happiness.

However, it will be able to help you in your pursuit of happiness. Save wisely and start brainstorming things you'd like to do, whether or not you're any good at them or could make them a career, and you will have a very good base to start from.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:02 PM on April 6, 2010

really you only have a limited number of options here:

1. Keep job indefinably, find another outlet for fulfillment
2. Keep job for the medium term, retire as soon as possible and putz around
3. Quit job, change lifestyle

Your potential pitfall is expanding your consumption to meet your income and growing complainant with that.

In all honesty though, you have the resources to seek out and employ professionals to help you with this crisis of conscious. You don't need an anonymous internet board. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are truly seeking help here, but parts of it come off the wrong way.

And people with much less income have exactly the same problems, that's why it is called "a job", and not "happy fun time".
posted by edgeways at 7:16 PM on April 6, 2010

I started a new job recently which I find very fulfilling. It's a position in an industry in which I never thought I'd work, but it's an uncanny combination of all the interests and skills I've pursued over the past seven years. I do work with good people, but for me the essential aspect is that I get to solve problems and make people's lives visibly better - both in indirect, long-term ways (hooray! You didn't die of TB and I helped with that in a tiny tiny way!) and in very immediate ways, by being a general-purpose computing-type guy in a place where not many people have those skills.

I do think you should seek to be fulfilled in your job. I'm really repulsed by the idea that you should sacrifice 50 hours a week for money and only then start worrying about fulfillment. But you also shouldn't ignore the fact that $450k a year (even in Manhattan bucks) is a hell of a lot of money with which to enable your fulfillment. Yeah, save-and-retire is the natural thought of most people (even mine, despite my satisfying job), but there are other ways. I like escabeche's.

On preview: I really do think that job fulfillment (that's a strange word) is possible. The trick for me, at least, is that I do something that I really enjoy, but would also not really mind walking away from if I won the lottery.
posted by McBearclaw at 7:18 PM on April 6, 2010

Think about your life without this job. Did you ever work anywhere else? What would your life be like if you had stayed on that path? Maybe you were one of those lucky kids that fell into this straight out of school and never looked back, but surely then you have a friend or two from school that went a slightly different way. What are the real tradeoffs you've made? You are almost certainly trading money for something. What would happen if you went out and interviewed for some of the companies those friends work for, and maybe got an offer? Would you be more thrilled by the possibility of change or terrified by the probable loss of income and (possibly) security? Would you be willing to leave NYC? The world opens up if you are willing do this, the costs are so much less out there, but of course then you don't live here.

I find keeping myself in touch with the alternatives helps me to put my current situation in the best perspective. I don't mean the "I could be making 1/10th this salary" dire alternatives, because chances are if you truly have the skills and know the industry, you are not ever going to make 1/10th the salary except by choice. But the more realistic "I could make half as much, do cooler stuff, but then I would probably have to work longer hours, travel less, but the small cool company I'm working for might go under at any time". You can't answer this question if you have no idea what is really out there, so go find out.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:41 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

My 2 cents:

There are probably a bunch of things you want out of life - both that you want to have while you're living, and think about having had when you look back on your life. Some of them are things you can buy with money. Some of them are things like job satisfaction, passion, a sense of purpose, a sense of having made a mark on the world, things like that.

I don't think any of those things are inherently more valid than others. It's all about your own preferences, which things you want more than others.

It might be worthwhile to list all the things you want in life that cost money, and how *much* you want each of those things. How many of them do you already have? How many of them could you still have if you got another job? If there are ones that you want badly but can't afford yet, how much longer would you need to stay at your job to afford them. (I COMPLETELY agree with dfriedman that the more your income goes up, the more expensive the things are that you badly want or feel you couldn't live without.)

If you've already gotten most of the material things that are really important to you, and the things you could only find by switching jobs are more important to you than the things remaining on the list that you don't have, then I think it makes much more sense to find a new job that you love rather than staying in the one you have.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:01 PM on April 6, 2010

Uh. I lived in NYC on 20k a year. Last year. Pretend that you make 100k a year. Bank 300k. If you cannot do this, I do not know how to help you.

Do this for 2 or 3 years. Get someone to manage your savings. Quit your job. Do whatever you want. Save and run. There a zillion things you could do that would make you happier- The reason the rest of us don't do them is that we owe rent and student loans and whatever else. We NEED to be employed to LIVE.

Bank enough and do whatever it is you THINK you might want to do. With that kind of money you could get a degree or an internship anywhere you wanted. You could say SCREW IT! and go live on a beach for a year and homeschool your kids.

You do not need to feel trapped. I have 1000 other fun things you could with that money and people to talk to about doing it. I will happily MeFi mail you my dreams.
posted by GilloD at 8:04 PM on April 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

I should rephrase: There are a lot of STUFF IT JERKWAD replies in this thread. I think everyone is, obviously, a little jealous. But I think they forget how very, very easy it is to be unhappy. Anyone can be unhappy, money doesn't fix that.

What I mean to say was that money gives you a drastic competitive advantage. Many of us are locked in. You are not. Seize the day.
posted by GilloD at 8:09 PM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

I know this search for "passion" is a luxury.

Nah. This is just something our culture tells us. It's a vestige of an era when life really was that harsh and physical survival occupied almost all of a person's time and energy.

We believe that if we're well provided for materially, that not only should we not concern ourselves with happiness, fulfillment, and general mental health, we should be ashamed to do so. This is horribly damaging to the psyche and fabric of this culture and I recommend that you as an individual try to get past it. Even within the answers here you have people trying to shame you in this manner.

No passion for my chosen industry or specialization within this job.

You spend most of your waking hours at this job. Is this how you want to live? Do you feel good at the end of the day? When you come home from work feeling flat, bland, and uninspired, do you want to transmit this attitude to your children?

Because of your financial means you have a strong ability to seek out something you are passionate about. If you're lucky you already have something you are passionate about. Work toward doing that as a job.

Other workable options have been mentioned - "retire" in five years with the then option of engaging in a passion that doesn't otherwise pay money. Or try to swing a similar gig where you work part time - 20 hours a week or six months a year - for a lot less money, then use the free time you have gained for your passions.

Time is all we have. Use it for something that makes you happy as best as you can.
posted by MillMan at 8:12 PM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

Fyoi (for your own information), have you looked at your powerpoints? They have to be good in order to be paid 450K a year rt? I mean otherwise it's a modesty/self-esteem issue.

You are building human relations, pitching businesses perhaps, or pitching stuff and making it look great, have you tried making better presentations experimenting with other software and finding different ways to make your current job more interesting?

Also, have you tried picking out other hobbies and following on them in your free time perhaps with your kids or asking for more work from your office?

Here's what I am saying based on self-thought-of assumptions: Perhaps what you are facing is hitting a brick wall thinking that Oh, I was going to do all this with all the money I make and now you realize once you hit that goal, there's not much else to do.

consider this:

leverage your job to make your own life interesting, pick something else to focus on and do that. Then, eventually retire after making secure investments. Take shorter but varied vacations with the family maybe? (this is what I've seen other people do)

What I guess I am really trying to say is have you looked at this job from all perspectives rather than just dichotomously as put in your query?
posted by iNfo.Pump at 8:33 PM on April 6, 2010

From what I have read above I understand that you find the job boring and unsatisfying.

Have you thought of doing your own business? From a satisfaction point of view, doing your own business is challenging and gives one a sense of accomplishment. If you are successful you have a legacy to leave to your children over time. If not, it is an experience. Of course, any risk you take business wise has to be calculated and keeping in mind the financial future of your family. With young kids you may want to keep their future education needs in mind.

Also I don't see a reason to quit your job to do a business, maybe you can find something small to invest in and run on the side. At the start any business requires hard work and attention to detail, once you have it up and running you can hire capable employees.

Jobwise, can you be a consultant in your own field? May be start your own consultancy business?

I also see the option of continuing with the job and seeking out hobbies, spending more time with the children, participating actively in school activities, maybe joining the Parents group/association at school and being active in the community.

Also, I would recommend spending some time with yourself to dig deeper into yourself to brainstorm maybe what you would like to do. In your case with you being a family man, I am sure discussing things with your SO would also be helpful.
posted by VickyR at 8:49 PM on April 6, 2010

Just a addon about compromises, Life is always a game of give and take, it is rare that one gets a chance to do what they want. Having said that, whatever the situation, a compromise is not a bad thing in life, and must be made considering one's priorities in life.
If family time wins over money, then it is possible someone may choose a low paying job to spend more time with the family, just an example.

In the end it is for you to make a list of items important in your life and rate them on a scale of essential to not so important. FWIW, my suggestion is that you do this exercise of listing important things in your life and then make a decision.
posted by VickyR at 8:58 PM on April 6, 2010

Sever the connection between your "money work" and real life. I work at a job that is not fulfilling and pays great (although not as great as yours). (I wonder if part of your dissatisfaction is that you haven't defined what "fulfilling" means?) I think the difference is that I don't care if my money work is personally fulfilling: I get satisfaction from doing my work well, getting along with my colleagues, cashing my checks, going home every night and never thinking about it until the next morning. In my real life, I do things that build real life fulfillment--working on my hobbies, socializing, doing stuff around the house, and being generally happy.

Compartmentalization is a positive way to keep a work/life balance. You really don't need to eat/breathe/think your money work to be happy.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:52 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

You know how every hedge fund guy has a charter school? You should do something like that. Clearly you have knowledge and talent that isn't being fully used by your job. You should find some problem and work to solve it. Because it sounds like you're craving fulfilling work, not fulfilling activities like taking up painting or tennis.
posted by acidic at 9:54 PM on April 6, 2010

Like many others in this thread, I've concluded that I must be working for the wrong company: I'm reasonably paid for my field, but you make easily ten to twelve times what I do, allowing for fulctuations in the US$-AUD$ exchange rate.

But in all seriousness, your job sounds not too different to mine on the surface. It sounds like a job that you're not passionate about, but for which you do have a bit of a knack, making it an easy job you can almost do with your eyes closed. And it sounds like you're helping people that you like (ie you coworkers). As I've discussed with my boss in the past, not having any special passion for what I do, is I think handily outweighed by the facts that the money's decent, I do it well, and it's at least kind of rewarding that my work helps the friends I work with (and, although I'm not proud of it, I instinctively distrust people who claim that their job is what fulfils them as a person).

Plus, you know, it's work. It's not supposed to be fun. If it was, you wouldn't have to be paid to do it.
posted by MarchHare at 10:06 PM on April 6, 2010

There's a continuum here:

On one extreme, if your job's sucking the life out of you, then it's no longer a job: it's a parasite with benefits. Time to make a change.

In the middle, a job is just that - a job. It's not necessarily how you fulfill yourself, it's an ATM. If you can keep a job that pays you enough money that you can put in your time, then leave the job quarrantined away at night/weekend/whenever you're off the clock so you can do what you want, then it's serving its purpose. Sure it's not inspiring, but it's not hurting you either.

At the other (lucky) extreme, your job is fulfilling you personally. It's something that excites you and is continually new. Keep this job.

Unless you really think you can trade "up" I'd either start a new project to support yourself, or wait for something better to come along before changing careers.
posted by stewiethegreat at 10:35 PM on April 6, 2010

Regarding advice to save for N years then start doing what you want -- after a certain number of years not doing something not only do you get used to not doing it and it's harder to switch, but you waste valuable time getting better at whatever other thing you wanted to do. If you ultimately decide you want to do something else, find some way to do start doing it NOW simultaneously with your job, so when you do have a couple million in the bank saved up, you're entering some new field, hobby, or business with some skill, momentum, and connections.

As far as discovering what that thing is: I find that finding happiness" works better if treated less of a matter of introspection, thinking, and "finding your passion" and more of an exercise in problem solving, experimentation, and action. That way you're actually trying things, generating options, and making changes to see what works. Since you have a lot of time flexibility, can you cut back on your hours worked? Delegate more? Start your own business doing the same thing, but taking less of your time? Add a hobby? Switch to a new hobby if you don't like the first one? Take a class? Move to a different role at work? Work for a charity? Volunteer? Do some kind of fulfilling project with your extra money? What else -- there are probably many more options. I disagree with the poster above who said you have only three options. There are always ways to work around a situation to make it work better for you.
posted by lsemel at 10:54 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that switching jobs/fields does not always have to be as drastic as some people make it sound. I don't think the options are just: suck it up and stay, or quit and become a cartoonist.

I think you could also try to find a job that is similar enough to yours that you've already got some of the essential skills, but different enough that it is more interesting and/or better suited to you.

For example, is it possible for you to find a way to basically keep doing what you do but travel a lot less? You mention that as one of the downers, and changing that alone might make a big difference. It would let you spend more time with your family and enjoy more of the benefits of making the kind of money you make. If you're always half jet-lagged and frazzled from living in airports and strange hotels then that might be a big factor in making you unhappy too. Cumulative exhaustion can drag you down in ways that you're not even fully aware of at the time.

Anyway, I'll bet there are other possibilities for either tweaking the type of job you've got or finding one that is related but more fulfilling, but it's hard to guess without knowing the specifics.

And I don't know if this applies to you because you're in a different sort of income bracket, but I know in my family and in my friends' families that college was a big enough expense that all of our parents got pretty conservative financially for a while, both right before sending us off to school and for a while after we graduated. I have some friends whose dad seems to change careers every 3 or 4 years, but he stayed put while they were in college.

So it seems to me (as long as you've got enough money to pay for the basics) that having young kids is a more flexible time financially than having teenagers, and therefore maybe a better time to take a risk with your career than several more years down the road. Which I guess is just something to think about in your long-term plans.
posted by colfax at 10:55 PM on April 6, 2010

What interests you? What do you imagine will fulfill you? How well do you know yourself? How long have you felt this way about your job? Have you felt this way about other things in your life? At other times in your life? How will the rest of your family feel about a significant drop in income?

Answer those questions before the one you asked.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:58 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

3. Travel (I have 2 young kids.)

IMO your family has to come first. All the money in the world won't make up for poor relationships with your family.

If you feel your job is interfering with your family, you need to take a sober look at what you do.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:47 AM on April 7, 2010

I wonder if all of you recommending he find his passion outside of work (except AlisonM) underestimate how difficult it is to devote a lot of time to other interests when you work 50 hours a week on average, with wild swings that (given the salary) you probably don't control. And when you have two kids.
posted by pollex at 7:00 AM on April 7, 2010

I live just outside NYC on LI and make a tenth of what you make and work about 48 hours a week on average and go to school at night. If you can't make $450k work living in the city, move out to the suburbs where you can get by making $100k a year and support a family. Bank the extra $350k a year for the next decade and then retire. By then, with raises and interest, you should have $5 million. Retire to some cheap country.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:52 AM on April 7, 2010

OP never said he couldn't survive on 450k. Indeed he even said "You won't catch me complaining" He said he was unfulfilled by his job/career. not the same thing. Stop hating on the guy becuase he makes a lot of money and doesn't have a permanent smile. There's a reason why you were always told money isn't everything.
posted by JPD at 9:39 AM on April 7, 2010

I would keep the job, only because to me it sounds like you'd be unhappy anywhere because you don't know what you want to do or what your passion is. For that reason I'll join the camp that says live frugally, save, retire way early, leaving you time to futz around and figure out what will fullfill you.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:07 AM on April 7, 2010

First of all, good for you! You are so blessed! I don't think you are a "whinger" nor do I begrudge you your good fortune. Your dissatisfaction does not mean that you are spoiled, but it may mean that you could use some extra mindfullness to provide some valuable context to your life.

There was a scene in a favorite film of mine called The Razor's Edge, where the protagonist, Larry Darrell, was in India watching a man wash dishes in the river. The man told Larry that washing dishes was a religious experience for him and that sort of impressed Larry, which I guess is why Larry followed this man up to a monastery on a mountain later in the movie.

What hit me most was the exchange they had that went something like:

Larry: "I worked in a mine for two years to come here."
Dish Man: "You worked in a mine? What was your intention?"
Larry: "To make money so I could come here to India."
Dish Man: "That was your reason, but what was your intention. Without intention, it was just an empty action."

I go though all this to suggest that your vague dissatisfaction may be that you are disconnected with your intention (or "core value") for working. I think providing for your family and sharing your blessings with those less fortunate are very good intentions to motivate staying in a job that you find slightly boring but otherwise rewarding.

To put this in a generic, rather secular mode, I'd suggest spending 10 minutes at the beginning and end of every day appreciating the gift of the day, your life, and your job.
In the morning, consciously enumerate and embrace the responsibilities of the day on behalf of... whomever, whatever. (e.g. -- "I dedicate this day to..." )
In the evening you could inventory your response to these gifts during the day and learn from what didn't go well and appreciate what did go well. Then meditate on your core value.

I do this in a non-secular way and find that it helps me in good times and in bad, through high-paying stressful jobs and through unemployment. I kknow many others this kind of meditation helps as well. Maybe it could help for you?
posted by cross_impact at 11:17 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're spending 50 hours a week on something that really doesn't interest you. That's enough to take a toll on anyone. I bet you'd be 10x happier if you could get it down to 25-30 hours a week.

Is there anyway you can delegate your workload better? Do you really need all that face time? If you have the ability to scale from 450-$1mil in one year you have the same ability to scale down.

Alain de Botton has a good TED Talk on exactly this topic.
posted by geoff. at 5:36 PM on April 7, 2010

If you work in the financial sector in sell-side investment banking or debt/equity capital markets (as dfriedman guesstimated), have you looked into buy-side jobs? Specifically hedge funds and private equity groups: the pay is equal if not better, hours are about the same (sometimes a little more, but little travel), and the work is far more interesting and analytical/quantitative than proofing PowerPoint slides all day.
posted by chalbe at 6:31 AM on April 8, 2010

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