Episode 182: “I just don’t belong here!” Dealing with loneliness and dissatisfaction at work – with Anthony Kuo of Untamed Career

When you’re unhappy in your job it can be hard to know who to talk to or what steps to take, your friends and family might not understand your struggle, and talking to work colleagues can cause all types of other problems.

Anthony Kuo is a Career Satisfaction Coach who helps people craft a career they’re excited to wake up for.

He explains the source of loneliness at work, the warning signs that you’re becoming dissatisfied with your work and the biggest things that prevent people from making a change.He also talks about the importance of bringing your whole self to work, different ways to address feelings of dissatisfaction and loneliness and how to save a job that you want to quit.

Today’s guest

Anthony Kuo of Untamed Career

Website: Untamed Career

LinkedIn: Anthony Kuo

Instagram: Anthony Kuo

Anthony grew up playing the piano at a very high level.  Thanks to his Juilliard-trained parents, he performed at Carnegie Hall when he was only 17.  Despite his talent, his heart just wasn’t in it.  So once the concert recording helped him lock down college scholarships, he called it quits.

There’s a huge difference between having a skill and genuinely enjoying it – but Anthony didn’t learn that lesson until much later, eight years into a rapidly advancing corporate career.  On paper, he was living the American Dream.  But he was anything but happy.

It turns out that focusing solely on our skills is just half the story.  In our frantic quest to answer “what can I do?”, we often lose sight of a far more crucial question: “what do I need to thrive?” 

Career satisfaction isn’t just about landing a new job.  It’s about defining “satisfaction” on your own terms (hint: not your mom’s).  As a career satisfaction coach, Anthony helps clients uncover their unique career fulfilment formula, locate fitting opportunities and present themselves effectively to attract the right employers and repel the wrong ones.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [1:40] The constant search for what we want to be when we grow up.
  • [4:45] What it’s like to be lonely at work.
  • [9:35] Being disconnected from your work.
  • [11:40] The symptoms of work dissatisfaction and the effect of being unengaged with your work.
  • [15:00] Warning signs that you’re becoming dissatisfied with your work.
  • [18:48] The biggest things that prevent people from change.
  • [19:56] The importance of being able to bring your whole self to work.
  • [22:45] What to do if you’re being pigeonholed in the workplace.
  • [27:00] Helpful ways to address feelings of dissatisfaction and loneliness.
  • [32:22] How to save a job that you want to quit.
  • [35:45] Who to talk to when you feel isolated and alone. 
  • [41:30] The achievability of career satisfaction.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

Episode 182: “I just don’t belong here!” Dealing with loneliness and dissatisfaction at work - with Anthony Kuo of Untamed Career

Jeremy Cline 0:00
When you're unhappy in your job, who do you talk to? You can talk to family and friends. But if they don't work in the same industry or area as you, then they just might not get it. Work colleagues, that presents its own risks. If you don't know who to talk to about work, and this is making you feel a little bit lonely as a result, then this is the episode for you. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:38
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that is all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. If you want to know how you can enjoy a more satisfying and fulfilling working life, you're in the right place. When you're unhappy in your job, you might experience all sorts of feelings and emotions, frustration, resentment, weariness, maybe even anger. But what about loneliness? I vividly remember sitting in meetings or CO presentations, feeling that I wasn't part of this, I didn't buy into it. I was no longer part of the mission. And this was quite a lonely feeling. If I wasn't part of this team, what was I part of? That's what we're going to dive into this week with my guest Anthony Kuo of Untamed Career. Anthony is a career satisfaction coach who realised after eight years in the corporate world, he was filling his bank account, but leaving his soul empty. He now helps people answer the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? Anthony, welcome to the podcast.

Anthony Kuo 1:37
Thank you. It's wonderful to be here.

Jeremy Cline 1:39
So, this question about what do you want to be when you grow up, is this a question that we ever stop asking ourselves? I was just thinking of a client I had, who had just retired, and he came to me and said, 'Well, you know, I've just left my really highly successful corporate career, and now I'm thinking, what do I want to do when I grow up?'

Anthony Kuo 2:02
I don't think we ever stop asking it. Or at least I don't think the question ever stops being present in our lives. Whether we give ourselves permission to engage with it or not is another question. And especially, whether we let ourselves play with the question in that childlike wonder like the question implies. I remember being asked, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' when I was a child. And I remember answering, 'I want to be an astronaut.' Now, clearly, we're not having this interview from space. So, I've not realised that particular dream. But I do think, actually, I am continuing to play with that question of, can I be an astronaut or not? Because what to me was the most appealing thing about becoming an astronaut when I grow up was the whole thing of exploring worlds, exploring new possibilities. And I actually feel like I get to do that every day when I speak to somebody, and they're a completely different human being with a completely different map of reality and how they perceive the world. And to me, it's like exploring a different world.

Jeremy Cline 3:14
That's really interesting. And I think what that highlights is the importance of uncovering the values behind whatever it is that appealed to you. So, for example, in my spare time, I'm an amateur musician, and I really, really love playing in amateur music groups. And I think it's not so much the excellence, the striving for my own performance, but it's part of being part of this wider thing, this wider ensemble, and playing a part in now, which is what really appeals to me. And that's something that I reflected on when I was looking my own values work, because it pointed to the idea that I didn't want to be just someone who was doing their own thing, never talking to another person, I had to do something that was collaborative and involved other people.

Anthony Kuo 4:06
Yeah, that's fantastic. And you're right, it is very much connected to our values. That I think is a big part of finding a career that aligns and is satisfying is it has to align with your values. And not only your values, but also your personal style, right? If you're somebody who enjoys collaborating with people, and you're not getting that in your day-to-day work, then it would absolutely make sense that you'd find yourself in amateur band, whether you have any designs on professionally performing or not.

Jeremy Cline 4:39
Yeah, certainly not. Okay, so when we first spoke, you mentioned this topic of loneliness in the context of a job, in the context of being unhappiness at work, and it intrigued me. So, I'm really interested to dive into this topic. Why don't you start by just introducing this concept, this idea of being lonely at work, particularly in the context of perhaps unhappiness with one's job?

Anthony Kuo 5:10
Well, I really enjoyed and appreciated how you introduced this topic at the beginning, all around, when you're unhappy with your job, you may feel a whole number of things: dread, anger, anxiety, exhaustion, all of these things. And I remember being unhappy in my corporate job, and feeling all those things and more. And I remember going home at the end of the day, and the only thing I could do, the only thing I really had energy or emotional capacity for was just to flop onto my couch and binge watch TV. And I had a fairly robust professional and social life. I was surrounded by people. I was part of a team, I was leading a team. And I was surrounded by people all day. And so, it was very, very confusing to me that on the surface, everything was going well. I was getting promoted, I was respected, I was on the fast track to, quote-unquote, 'success'. And at the same time, I felt absolutely miserable and empty on the inside. And I didn't feel like I could really talk to anybody about this because of how well things were going on the outside. And I felt like if I spoke to somebody about it, especially to my friends who were in the same workplace as me, they would say, 'But Anthony, everything's going so well. What's wrong? How does it make sense that you're doing so well, and you're so unhappy?' It didn't make sense to me, and I certainly didn't think it would make sense to anyone else. At the same time, I also didn't feel particularly safe talking about it. Not only because I wasn't sure that I would be understood, but also because I wasn't sure if word would get around. There's quite a bit of reputational and professional risk to being open about the fact that we're unhappy. You don't go on LinkedIn and post, 'Oh, my job sucks, and so and so is a thorn in my side.' Right? It just doesn't happen. And so, that eliminates one of the big outlets, that when we spend the vast majority of our time doing something, but then we can't talk about our experience, except in a relationship, if you have a partner or a spouse, maybe you bring it to therapy. There's also only so much you can bring. I felt I could bring this to my girlfriend before I got afraid of overburdening her. And so, there I was, just in my own head, experiencing all of this by myself. And the thing about this that really strikes me as absurd about this whole situation of having all these feelings and feeling alone is that career unhappiness is so prevalent. It doesn't matter what survey you read, whether it's Gallup in the United States, or there are plenty of other internationally focused surveys, but any given one is going to say 50% or more of people are unhappy in their jobs. And so, there was a striking juxtaposition of me feeling absolutely alone in my experience, and the reality that the person right next to me had a 50-50 shot of feeling exactly the same way as me, and I just didn't know, and we couldn't talk about it.

Jeremy Cline 8:49
Okay, so the way that loneliness showed up for you, it sounds as though it was an inability to share these feelings of unhappiness about the job itself. That's interesting, because certainly when I was going through similar feelings, I mean, yes, it was something that you wouldn't routinely share with colleagues, I mean, let's face it, all work colleagues in an office will have something to grumble about, but you don't usually kind of go, 'I hate my job, I'm thinking of leaving', that kind of thing never usually becomes that explicit. But one thing I certainly did notice was this slight disconnect, when a boss or someone was giving a presentation, and they're geeing up people and talking about targets and that kind of thing, and I kind of had this slight feeling of otherness, almost like, even if I wasn't putting it in train, I had this feeling like this no longer applies to me. I'm not long for here, at some point, I'm going to move on, so all these targets and things you're setting in the five-year vision, it didn't feel relevant to me.

Anthony Kuo 10:08
Yeah, that's very well put. I experienced that as well. And I think that contributed to what I was feeling. I spent a good portion of my career working for large food manufacturing companies. And for some time, I was on the confectionery side of the business of candy, cookies, that kind of thing, sweet treats, which were, of course, it was fun to have those products laying around the office whenever I needed to emotionally eat something to relieve the tension and the boredom. But exactly what you were saying, for me, it just wasn't something I was particularly passionate about. And there would be those big meetings, where the leader is saying, 'Oh, we grew candy consumption by 2% this year.' I was like, 'Great, I'm not saving the world, I'm really not that engaged with this mission.' And that's not to say that it's not a worthy pursuit, it just wasn't right for me. And I did feel very much like the odd man out and just shrink to the margins. While at the same time, my job description had me charging into the fore of it, because I was supposed to be helping with promoting the sales of these products. And yeah, there was that major disconnect.

Jeremy Cline 11:39
So, it sounds like in your case, and I think probably to an extent it was in my case, the loneliness was more of a symptom of this general feeling of dissatisfaction at work. But I wonder whether, either in your experience or maybe with some of the clients you've worked with, whether it's ever become a cause. So, maybe someone who feels unsupported, not listened to, line manager who, never mind weekly catchups, never has any kind of catch ups, whether that can of itself contribute towards these feelings of loneliness at work?

Anthony Kuo 12:23
Absolutely. And it really is a chicken or the egg. It can flow both ways. And as you say, for us, in our experiences, we did have that experience of the dissatisfaction was probably the root. And that flowed out to loneliness. I do see quite often with my clients that it runs the other way round, where they are not engaged in their work with other people, and they're of the sort of personality where they need that engagement. And it's very interesting that if you read the media, most of the discourse is the employers want people to come back to the office, and the workers are insisting upon remote work. And I always found those headlines very amusing. Because in my coaching practice, more often than not, I would have clients come in, in fields that are typically remote work heavy, like tech, data, data science, those types of roles, and they were complaining of, 'God, if I could just get into the office, I would be happy, if I could just do my same job and actually see people, that would be excellent.' And these were people who were very talented, but it was really a strain on them to not be in the office and not engaged with people. And there are degrees to the engagement that is required, right? Sometimes if my manager would just have a real check in with me once a month, heck, even once a quarter, that would be enough. And then, there are people, like some of my clients, who really need that social contact daily, or at least several times a week.

Jeremy Cline 14:20
Yeah. And I think there's a wider conversation there about the extent to which companies can introduce that kind of contact into the culture, even if it is hybrid or even fully remote. I mean, I'm aware of some people who very strongly believe that it is possible that you can create this feeling of connection, team, and so on, even if everyone is working in different parts of the globe. That's perhaps a different conversation. We've talked a little bit about the feelings, but I'm interested to know from you or from your clients, what were, if you like, the warning signs that you might notice, that could give you an indication that there's a feeling of loneliness and unhappiness here?

Anthony Kuo 15:12
Well, I think the answer to this depends on which direction your flowchart is running. Right? If it's loneliness leading to dissatisfaction, or vice versa. Speaking from the dissatisfaction first side of things, I think you mentioned this as the Sunday blues in your intro, I call them the Sunday scaries. Similar idea. And I think this can be applicable to either side of things. But really, if you're dreading going to work on a regular basis, that's a warning sign. Or if you're trying to negotiate with yourself. And one of my favourite soapbox to get onto is railing against gratitude journals. I think gratitude journals are great, but there is a way that they can be twisted against you, where that feeling of gratitude can be used to paper over your true feelings of dissatisfaction, and lead you to not actually taking action around it. So, rather than saying, 'I am grateful to have a job, and I'd like it to change', it just becomes, 'I'm grateful for a job, full stop, I'm going to stop thinking about this forever.' And so, if you find yourself doing that regularly and negotiating with yourself and rationalising, this isn't great, but I can make it okay, to me, that's a warning sign that, if left unattended over time, could lead to more serious experiences of dissatisfaction and burnout, and all of the unfortunate knock-on effects of depression and anxiety and loneliness, et cetera.

Jeremy Cline 17:11
Okay, that's interesting. So, like a feeling of, well, it's not awful, is it? It's okay. It's not dreadful.

Anthony Kuo 17:20
I think the most difficult position to be in is okay. Because if everything is great, there's no problem. If everything is awful, it's uncomfortable, but there's a clear way forward, right? There's a clear solution, is make the thing stop. When things are okay or just sort of bad, it's quite difficult, because then you have some things keeping you there, there's some good. It's not super clear cut. And for better or worse, this is what the majority of life is like. We exist in gradients. We're on spectrums, not complete binary, black and whites. And for the most part, when I see clients for the first time, they are in that place where they're in a job, they don't like it, it's bad enough that they're seriously reaching out to speak to somebody like me, but it's not so bad that they've left already. And so, one of the first things we have to do is reckon with that ambivalence, which, again, I think is something that contributes to the loneliness because it's very multifaceted. And it takes the right type of listener to really fully appreciate that dynamic tension of, I hate it here, but it's also kind of great, but I hate it here.

Jeremy Cline 18:45
Yeah, and I wonder whether there's, there's probably many elements to that, but fear of change is one that goes through my head, that it is comforting the familiar, I'm well paid, I'm well looked after, there's health benefits, all that kind of thing. Okay, I might be fairly miserable for the eight or nine hours a day that I'm actually here, but you know, I'm still getting all these benefits on top. And I wonder if there's a lot around fear of disrupting that that's preventing people from doing something about it.

Anthony Kuo 19:21
Yeah. One of my favourite quotes is from Virginia Satir, and I'm going to look it up, just so I don't screw it up. People prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty. Just to speak to that fear of change.

Jeremy Cline 19:37
There is an awful lot to that. I certainly remember from my own perspective, there was also this kind of feeling of leading a double life, and in particular, that you couldn't bring your whole self to work. I'd be interested to hear your perspective on that.

Anthony Kuo 19:54
Yes, yes. This is a very important aspect of developing career satisfaction, is to be able to feel like you're bringing your whole self to work. I define career satisfaction as exactly that, actually. When you are able to bring your whole self and all of your weird personality quirks, and have that be not only accepted, but also actively appreciated and valued. And where most of us, I think, get stuck and unhappy is when we leave parts of ourselves at home. Or we feel like we have to partition ourselves off. My personal experience of this double life, which is a very good way to describe that feeling, in my case, towards the later stage of my corporate career, I was actively working to create a business. And I felt like I couldn't talk about it. Even though it was in no way competitive with what my company was doing, and when I finally gave my notice and told everybody what I was up to, everyone was supportive, and they were excited for me and immediately followed my profile on LinkedIn to keep abreast of it. And actually, quite a few of them ended up becoming clients, because all of a sudden, I became a safe person to talk to, because I was no longer in the system. But I didn't feel like I could talk about it. And there was this entrepreneurial side of me, this more personally relating side also, that I didn't feel like I could bring, because my job was all about numbers. I was marketing analytics, my job was to examine, with a very logical lens, how to improve the performance of the marketing tactics that these companies were doing. And my job was to approach it from a very analytical angle. But there was this very emotional side of me that wasn't getting to come out to play. And I didn't really find a place for it, aside from making friends with the marketing people, who were, I think, by nature a little bit more of an emotional being, because in order to be good at that job, you have to be able to emotionally connect with the consumer. And I wasn't able to find a way to satisfy that part of myself within the structure of my job. So, I had to restructure my entire occupation to fit that.

Jeremy Cline 22:45
That's really interesting. I think there's something around pigeonholing here. So, as much as people say, particularly if you work for a large organisation, that there might be opportunities to explore other bits of the business, that can sometimes still be pretty tricky, particularly if you have become known as the person who does X Y, Z. So, maybe when I was having conversations about coaching or corporate culture or that kind of thing, people would look at me and go, 'Hang on, Jeremy, you're the tax lawyer, what are you doing talking about this thing?' And it was preventing me from expressing something which was increasingly coming to the top of my mind and my levels of interest.

Anthony Kuo 23:36
Pigeonholing is absolutely a reality. And you're touching on something that I think is very important, which is the possibility of exploring internal movement, especially if you're in a larger organisation with lots of different opportunities. It is a very tempting and also a very real possibility that you could solve your problems by just simply moving into a different role, and you don't even have to change employers. And this is actually something that people, when I work with them, are surprised to hear or to learn is a possibility for them. Because most of the time, by the time somebody has worked themselves up to a point of, I need a career satisfaction coach, they've already mentally committed to, I need a change, and it's going to be major. But I subscribe to the principle of minimum effective dose, right? If you've got a pounding headache, you're probably going to need more than one Advil, but you probably don't need more than two. And with each increase in dosage, you increase your risk of side effects and complications, without necessarily improving the treatment outcome. And so, when I work with people on their careers, that's one of the first things I'm thinking about. Because career change is inherently disruptive, and it can be anxiety producing in its own right. And there are switching costs that are very real, especially the bigger the change, are you going to go back to school, are you're going to start over in a new field, are you're going to have to relearn a whole bunch of things, are you're going to have to start over in terms of your goodwill? So, one of the first things we look at is, is it possible to address this within the organisation? And sometimes, quite often, the answer is yes. Sometimes the answer is no. But we really only want to approach that as a last resort. In my case, I had tried everything. I had tried all the internal moves, I had tried to become a, quote-unquote, 'intrapreneur' within the organisation. And I was successful in that right. But there was this part of me that is fiercely independent. And there was just no way, I realised, for me to be happy without actually working for myself. As long as somebody else was signing my pay check, and as long as I wasn't seeing 100% of the risk or reward, or being in full control, I wasn't going to be fully satisfied. So, there was no fix within the organisation for me, I came to conclude. And so, that led to my leap.

Jeremy Cline 26:44
Before we come to talk about what the actions could be, what, if you like, the cure could be, and we've touched on this a bit, but I'd like to know your take on what are perhaps some helpful ways of looking at it when you are going through this feeling of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. So, we touched on before the idea of gratitude, and well, it's not that bad, I am getting paid, I'm getting all these other benefits, my colleagues are actually all right, I think you called it negotiating with yourself, and the comments from other people, what's wrong with you, why are you thinking in these terms, you're well-paid, you're in a job that most people would give their eye teeth for, how can you possibly be unhappy, so I'm curious as to what's a helpful mental framework that you can incorporate, that isn't one of just, oh, you're being silly, just get over it, but is more, I don't know, acknowledging. Yeah, over to you.

Anthony Kuo 27:57
It's really all about acknowledgement. And when I say acknowledgement, I mean, acknowledging all sides, all dimensions of the situation. And so, there are a lot of things that, if you're in this place of being deeply ambivalent about your job, there are things that are working. And that deserves acknowledgement. It could be the pay, it could be the colleagues, it could be, you actually enjoy making the widgets that you're making. And then, there's also something that's not being satisfied. This person is annoying. And I hate it when my boss micromanages me in this way. And so, what I find is very useful is to put this into a framework, because the framework kind of de-personalises things in a way, while also making it more relevant to you. And I call this framework the care card. So, it's like when you go to the store, and you buy a plant, there's usually a little card in the pot that tells you exactly how much water, how much light this plant needs, so you can take care of it. And if you follow it, you will help that organism thrive. And if you don't follow it, you'll probably see it crisp up and wilt. I have this Calathea plant, it's an absolutely gorgeous painted Calathea when it's healthy. Pink stripes in deep dark green, that's what the leaves look like. And I named this plant Celine, after Celine Dion, because this plant is an absolute diva. For better or worse, I have a tropical plant in New York City, and we're just coming out of winter, and I don't have the ability to create a greenhouse kind of environment here. So, she has to winter, and it's not pretty. It's very, very quick to let me know that her needs are not being met. And so, what if we were able to create such a framework, such a concrete language for ourselves, to say my needs are being met in these ways, so Celine has survived yet another winter, she has made it because I've given her the bare minimum of light and water, but certain needs have not been met, namely, the heat and humidity, just not possible in the winter here. And so, what are the things that are being met? And can you recognise, and can you name them, so that you know what to look for when you start searching for your next opportunity? And what are the things that are not being met? Whether it's an interest or a style or a need, or maybe your skills are being overlooked, or underutilised, or you're using the wrong skill. When you have that awareness, then you can include that in your search parameters for the next opportunity. So, this turns the conversation from being, oh, woe is me, or what's wrong with me, to a much more actionable orientation, where there's, here's something to go for, here's a much more tangible destination.

Jeremy Cline 31:23
Going back to what you were saying earlier about the possibility of staying with the same employer, but maybe switching roles, moving to a different department, then that sort of plan is going to emerge much more easily if you've done this exercise, if you've figured out which are the bits that work for you. And they may well be as materialistic and mundane as what you're getting paid and what the benefits are, and some of the other things, like well, I quite like these colleagues. Okay, so what is it I like about them? Why do I enjoy spending time with them? And then highlighting, okay, so what is it that's not working well? Which may be as much as, I want more of this. But then, you've got a much better framework in your mind about what are, if you like, the levers that might need to be adjusted a bit. I've kind of got in mind now, I've never done any kind of sound engineering, but I've kind of got in mind one of those huge soundboards in front of me, where you can move the little dials up and down and left and right, and you can make tweaks here and tweaks there. But I guess if you're, first of all, figuring out what your soundboard looks like, and then what you'd like it to look like, then you could figure out which of those knobs and dials you need to twiddle with.

Anthony Kuo 32:44
Exactly. And sometimes just a little twiddle is all you need. I've had quite a few cases now where simply an uncomfortable conversation with a boss or a co-worker is all that was needed. And taking the stance of setting a stronger boundary, or just laying out, this is what I need from you, can you please do this instead of what you have been doing, that have made a sea change for people. I had one client who, when she came to me, she was so at the verge of rage quitting, that all it would have taken was a light breeze to blow her over. And coming to see me was sort of her last resort. And she was absolutely convinced that she would have to leave this job, and there was no salvaging. And this actually reminded me of a time in my career when I thought the only thing that I could do to make things better for my life was to quit my job, to pack up my house, and move to New Zealand and become a sheep farmer, which my parents had to talk me out of. And so, she was in that place. And after doing this work, we created her care card, she realised, oh, actually, my needs just aren't being met, I haven't been allowed to take vacation, and my team just keeps throwing all of this work on me, that's not even in my job description, and I've just become the garbage pile for the team. And she started to sometimes forcefully, sometimes not so forcefully, reconfigure how she engaged with the team. And she basically had to retrain them on how to work with her. And fortunately for her, the team was amenable to this. And they started to reengage, and part of it was, she forced them to by going on a three-week vacation that she was very much owed. So, they had to figure out how to operate without her. And several months in, she told me, 'Anthony, I'm having the very weirdest experience of, I feel like a crazy person, because I love this job, I'm doing excellent, and nothing about this job has changed, except everything has changed.'

Jeremy Cline 35:19
Wow. Yeah, that is a really, really powerful story actually, an example of how it might just be the small thing that needs changing, and yeah, going back to what we were saying about identifying what that might be. I'd just like to finish up this conversation on the subject of talking to others, which was something you mentioned at the beginning, this difficulty or perceived difficulty of talking to others about these feelings of not being happy where you are. And maybe you've got some pointers about how someone can find a release of some description. I mean, obviously, there's paying for conversations with people like you or me, but that's not necessarily going to be someone's first port of call. But yeah, curious to know what other options that people might not have thought of could be out there.

Anthony Kuo 36:22
Yeah. Well, there's paying for conversations with people like you or me, there's also paying for conversations with a therapist or a licenced professional, the benefit of which is, you're also going to get the more holistic care for your overall mental well-being. But the first port of call really, I think, is friends and family, and engaging with the broader community. And crucially, I think, people outside of your workplace. These are free. But there's, shall we say, a calculation of safety that needs to be made, in order to feel okay having it. And this, I think, is what makes it tricky for some people, for a lot of people, to even make that first port of call. It's why people like you and me have a job in the first place. Right? Because everything we've mentioned, there's no guarantee that, oh, this person is going to get me, or they're going to be able to relate, or they're not going to immediately jumped to solving the problem and telling me what to do with my life instead. So, there can be a risk of that. At the same time, I think there are plenty, one place I suggest looking is to communities. And there are some communities that are free, online, like Slack channels, and Discord channels, and even subreddits, if you want to go that route, dedicated to discussing what's going on in your career. There's one... Shoot, what's it called? There's one dedicated to big Silicon Valley tech companies, where in order to sign up, you need to use your work email to verify that you have a google.com domain email address, where they can be quite segmented and very specific to the type of conversations. And those are places where, theoretically, they are curated to have a very open, usually anonymous, conversation about what's going on. And those can be wonderful. And at the same time, you can sometimes run into a, but what do I do with this, and that's where, I think, facilitated communities can be very useful. So, this whole topic of loneliness is, I've been grappling with this for some time, I've noticed it, not only in myself, but in all of my clients, and notably, I was having more or less the same conversations with each of my clients, just in silos, rather than them talking to each other. And I realise, oh, you're all having the exact same experience, and you would actually benefit from each other's perspectives and each other's connections. And so, for better or worse, it's not exactly safe to be talking about this openly, because everything that I've mentioned is sort of a closed space. The more closed and boundaried the space is, the safer people feel to really divulge what's going on. And so, I thought, well, if I created a safe space for these conversations to occur, then that would help. And so, that is one of the things that I'm most excited about in my business right now, is the community that I've created for my clients to connect with each other.

Jeremy Cline 40:05
That sounds very smart to me. It's one of those things which many entrepreneurs will be extremely familiar with, the idea of having like a mastermind group, where you have half a dozen like-minded people meeting together on a regular basis, agreeing terms of confidentiality, support, no judgement, that kind of thing. And, yeah, that being a space in which you can dive into the topics that you might want to discuss in your career, and get other people's perspective, because as you say, a lot of these issues aren't unique to one person, and many people will have the same, and some people may be further along the track and have found ways of managing or coping or changing.

Anthony Kuo 40:59
I thought about calling it a career mastermind, but I wasn't sure if that word carried much cachet outside of the entrepreneurial world. So, I just called it a community.

Jeremy Cline 41:12
We have the disadvantage in the UK that there used to be a very, very popular, very intellectual quiz show called Mastermind, and I think most people in the UK immediately think of that, at least those of a certain generation anyway. Before we finish up, are there any other points that you'd like to make, anything else that you'd like to leave the listener with?

Anthony Kuo 41:30
Yeah, I think the main point I'd like to get across is that career satisfaction is actually quite achievable. It sometimes feels very mystifying and overwhelming, but with the right tools, and if you sequence out the questions one at a time, career satisfaction is most likely much closer than you might imagine.

Jeremy Cline 41:56
That's a great sentiment to finish on. A question I ask all my guests, any tools or resources that you can recommend that people who are interested in exploring the topic might want to look at further?

Anthony Kuo 42:11
One of the books that I enjoy is called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-, and you can fill in the other remaining letters.

Jeremy Cline 42:26
Yes, I know the book in question.

Anthony Kuo 42:28
Yeah. And the general premise is that we only have only so many Fs to give in our lives. And so, it becomes a matter of choosing where to distribute your Fs. And particularly where I feel it is very relevant to career is that the author Mark Manson offers an alternative to the question of what should I pursue. So many people ask, 'What is my passion?' And I agree with this perspective that that is a pretty terrible and un-useful take on how to design a career. Because the passion is a high that you only get every so often. And it almost always is not indicative or reflective of the day-to-day realities. So, instead, he suggests we ask, 'What are you willing to struggle for?' So, one of the examples he gives is, you might be passionate about being a rock star, but are you willing to struggle for it? Would it fill you to go through the rigmarole of packing in your gear into your car, driving to a seedy bar at 11PM, playing a set to maybe 20 people, unpacking, and then breaking down all your gear and packing it back into your car, all for the glorious pay of maybe 45 dollars. Some people would really find that fulfilling, and they would just do it. As you say, as an amateur musician, just to be with your people, just to do something fun as a community. And for some people, that's not worth it.

Jeremy Cline 44:19
Anthony, where would you like people to go to find more of you?

Anthony Kuo 44:24
My website is untamedcareer.com. And I have all sorts of resources there, including videos and podcasts where you will be able to find this episode even.

Jeremy Cline 44:39
Terrific. Well, I will certainly put links to all those in the show notes for this episode. Anthony, thank you very much. This has been a fascinating, quite wide ranging, but fascinating conversation, and plenty of practical points to take away. So, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Anthony Kuo 44:56
And thank you for your curiosity. Thank you for having me.

Jeremy Cline 45:02
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Anthony Kuo. I think one of my main takeaways from this interview with Anthony was that change is uncomfortable, and when you're unhappy at work and possibly contemplating what's going wrong, there's going to be levels of discomfort. Loneliness may well be one of those symptoms of discomfort. And perhaps as a first step, if any of this resonated with you, you can start by acknowledging that these feelings exist. Rather than addressing them, ignoring them, trying to fix them, just acknowledge the feelings, acknowledge, hey, you know what, I'm feeling pretty lonely here, I don't feel like this is for me, I don't feel like I've got anyone to talk to. Okay, that's there, I'm just going to acknowledge you and sit with that for a second. Sometimes these negative feelings can be quite paralysing, but just the act of acknowledging them can take the sting out of them, almost put them to one side, and allow you to move forward. We also talked a little bit about the difficulty in potentially finding people to talk about this. But if you can find ways to make it happen, then I'm certain that it will be helpful. Can you create your own informal mastermind group of people you know? Maybe not work colleagues that work in the same place as you, but maybe people who work in the same or similar areas, and you can get together every few weeks, once a month, whatever it is, and discuss what challenges you're facing. I think one of my previous guests said something along the lines of, there hasn't been an original problem since the time of the Buddha. So, if you're finding things challenging at work, then chances are you know someone who is either experiencing the same or has done so and has some insight which might help you. You'll find the show notes for this episode at changeworklife.com/182, that's changeworklife.com/182. And there'll be the usual transcript, summary of everything we talked about, and links to resources mentioned. And what I'd really love you to do is share this podcast with someone you know. I've been doing this podcast now for about four and a half years now. And I know that there is some seriously good content here. And I'm going to give my guests most of the credit for that content. Whatever stage you're at in your career, whatever you need help with, there's something in here which is going to be useful for you and for other people. So, that's my request of you this week, share the podcast with someone you know. There's more to come with another great episode in two weeks' time. So, if you haven't subscribed to the show already, make sure you do so. Hit the plus button or the follow button or the subscribe button or whatever it is in the app that you're using, make sure you never miss an episode, and I can't wait to see you in two weeks' time. Cheers. Bye.

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