“Olympic athletes are just like the rest of us. They wake up, get ready, and go to work. Just like us…And at the end of the day, they watch the clock, just like the rest of us,” was the voice-over of a Citibank commercial played during this year’s summer Olympics.
There are multiple reasons I thought this commercial was ridiculous and far from the inspiration that surely Citibank intended. “The rest of us” don’t train for a lifetime to seal the fate of our legacy in minutes. “The rest of us” watching the clock do want time to speed up, but not for the reason Olympic athletes do. To watch the clock is a sad report on the state of work, and unfortunately, I think entirely accurate.
Olympic athletes, I imagine, would gladly slow down time so that they could hold onto their peak. Just as Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings commented at the end of their final match, the win was bittersweet – their last professional match together with the retirement of May-Treanor. May-Treanor seemed ready to move into the next phase of her life but clearly she cherished her past.
Many of the jobs we walk away from, we won’t remember for the details. We likely won’t even remember the job as the dominant activity from any given past point in our lives. We will remember where we lived, our friends, the life changes we went through, and work as a sideline while we lived our life.
We can’t all be Olympic athletes. We will not always love our jobs. There is more to life than work. But work as nothing more than a clock-watching exercise, us sitting on the sidelines of life, is no way to live.