April 2015 by Jeffrey Zeldman

Know Yourself

This is a guest post by Jeffrey Zeldman. Dubbed "King of Web Standards" by Business Week, Jeffrey founded A List Apart, the design conference An Event Apart and the publishing house A Book Apart. Jeffrey has written two books and was the first designer inducted in the SXSW Interactive Hall of Fame.

Happiness in work isn't merely a question of skills; it's about who you are, how you relate to others, and how others see you.

In 20 years of working for other people, I never got a significant promotion, never made real money, was never given any true authority over the creative product. Finally I quit. By the second year of working for myself, I was making substantially more than I had earned working for other people. Within five years, I had earned a reputation—something I had never achieved previously. Today I earn many times what I made at the peak of my career working for others. Much more importantly, I'm happy creatively and professionally. I love the people I work with today, because I chose to work with them.

Not everyone can be a freelancer, or a founder, or a boss—and there are plenty of people far more talented than me who are happy working for someone else. (I know, because I've hired a few, and I'm thankful.) "Quit your job to succeed" isn't the takeaway here. That's what worked for me, but it might be wrong for you. The takeaway for you is, know yourself, and find what works for you. Find it now. Don't waste two decades or even two years beating your head against a wall. If your job offers the right intellectual and creative challenges, but you don't look forward to Monday morning, you're in the wrong place.