Going Around in Circles — Why Your Job is Like Spin Class

April 15th, 2008

Yesterday, I decided that spin class is a lot like a bad corporate job. For those of you not familiar with this particular type of exercise  torture, spin class involves a bunch of people pedaling madly on stationary exercise bikes to music for an hour or so, following a lunatic instructor’s orders to go faster, increase resistance, stand up, sit down, sprint until you want to throw up, etc. Sounds like fun, right? In a sick way, it kind of is. Plus, you can burn 600-800 calories in an hour.

But as I was pedaling frantically in place yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of my last corporate job. That’s mainly because one of my biggest complaints in my corporate days was that I often felt like a hamster on a wheel. There was just SO much frenetic activity — so many documents, meetings, conference calls, and email trails –  to achieve very  little. Often, by the time I would receive all of the approvals and "buy-in" I needed for a particular project, there would be some kind of reorganization or budget cut and I’d have to start over from the beginning. It once took me more than nine months just to get the approval to redesign a brochureware web site. That was just to get started. The actual design process was a study in endless torture that I don’t want to get into. Spin class is similar in that you expend a lot of energy and work up a real sweat, but you never actually move forward.

Then there’s the instructor. See, in spin class, I don’t really mind when the instructor yells random instructions at me or seems to get great glee out of causing me pain. I’m definitely not as forgiving toward corporate bosses that do the same thing at work.  At least I know that spin class will only last for an hour and I’ll leave in better shape. (Shout out to Chris Murdoch, brilliantly evil trainer and spin class instructor at Equinox in New York and a corporate escape artist himself).

But the biggest reason that spin class is a lot more fun than a bad corporate job is because it’s actually challenging in a good way. Spin class forces you to  push yourself, to get stronger and better every day that you do it. Similarly, when I was working in the corporate world, I was able to put up with a lot of annoying stuff if the job actually allowed me to learn and grow. Most of us don’t mind sweating as long as we’re sweating for a good reason.

Now if only bad corporate gigs burned 600-800 calories per hour. Then, even if we were aggravated and frustrated, at least we’d be in great shape and could eat all the Krispy Kremes we wanted.

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