While going through my ever growing list of unread mails, I chanced upon a “feel good” forwarded email. Usually I skim through such emails with a cynical disdain. However, in one of them, a sentence that had the words “satisfaction”, “success”, “compass”, “clock” in some order caught my attention.

My career so far has been a 15 year long journey. There have been highs and lows but overall it has been satisfying. When I look back, I realize that I have sometimes followed the compass and sometimes followed the clock.

Following the clock is about racing against time and trying to climb the “ladder” as fast as one could. Comparing oneself with peers and feeling the pressure to perform, more in the way of accomplishing things as fast as one could. The motivation to follow the clock is not intrinsic. It comes by comparing oneself with others.

Following the compass is about moving in the right direction. One could miss a promotion or a hike or a trip abroad. But there is quite some learning and most importantly there is satisfaction. The motivation to follow the compass is intrinsic. And therefore it is sustainable and one never gets fatigued soon.

Working for a small company that is cash strapped, resource constrained is an ideal set up to observe the Clock Vs Compass dilemma. Whereas one understands the unique opportunity that such a small company provides, sometimes the sacrifice made is a bit overwhelming (at least for some). People are caught up in the dilemma and eventually, some of them give in to the Clock.

In my career, it has mostly been following the compass. There have been couple of occasions where the Clock influenced me. In the long run, I realize, the clock does not matter at all. Those who went by the clock, reached first but stayed there, stagnated. Those who went by the compass, reached little late, but their journey continues. There are happy faces on either camp, but their numbers seem to be more on the Compass camp.

What I follow and what I would advice anyone is to just follow the Compass. Throw away the clock.