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The Four Horsemen of a Decent Job

From Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse painting by Viktor Vasnetsov United States public domain tag

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Conquest, War, Famine, and Death –  ride in on white, red, black, and pale horses, respectively. If your job is like most, it may seem like a modern-day incarnation of one of these belligerent road hogs brushes – or tramples – you every day.

It is so NOT FAIR…you did all the right stuff: Accelerated Reader, National Honor Society, stellar GPA, college clubs, unpaid internships, MBA…then you nailed the “right” job.

But you hate it.

What to do now? How can you make the next 80 years bearable?

First, consider the Big Four factors that make a job good or bad:

  • The Work

  • The Pay

  • The Location

  • The People

Second, see if you agree with this concept: you can be happy at any job where at least two of these four components are satisfactory.

What You Do All Day – If you love what you do, little else matters. Unfortunately, few really cool jobs exist. Or, more aptly put, few of us have a burning passion for the kinds of work that earn a regular salary, like accounting or renting cars at Enterprise. You might really love teaching kindergartners or fixing cars; if so, one down, one to go. But since your job probably involves running endless revisions the company Talent Database, the actual work you do probably isn’t going to be one of your top four.

How Much You Get Paid – Not many of us have the math ability to be an actuary or computer programmer, which puts a lot of super-high-paying entry level jobs out of reach. However, if you’ve got the in-demand skills to pull down a really high paying job, dollars can go a long way to making your workday go faster. It’s much easier to tolerate 8 hours at $40/hour than 8 hours at $14.10. If you aren’t raking in the big bucks, consider the next two components.

Where You Live – This factor can make a huge difference in your outlook toward your job. Waking up in a loft apartment in NYC or a Hilton Head beach rental you snagged with your buddies makes it a lot easier to service Mr. Shealy’s mortgage than enduring that same tedium when you go home to your rented basement in an Omaha suburb. Most jobs can be performed anywhere. So, take stock of what you like in weather, culture, water, friendships; if you possibly can, live in a place that fulfills those needs.

Who You Work With – This job perk can make the biggest difference of all and can count much more than the other aspects. You spend as much time, or more, with your work colleagues than you spend with your friends, with your family, with your dog, or asleep. If you dislike your co-workers, you need to be doing something enormously cool for lots of money to be able to drag yourself out of bed every day. If you can find a job where people you respect, you’ve found employment gold. Working with people you like is the best way to buffer the stench of the gas a bad job passes regularly.

The Take-Away – Every business meeting over 30 minutes yields at least one pointless comment. It was no different in 68 A.D. when the four horsemen of the Revelations Bible story met in conference room 666. As they jockeyed for position at their status meeting, someone as irrelevant as Michael in Accounting had to chime in: “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not waste the oil and the wine!” War rolled his eyes; Conquest got up for more coffee….

The irrelevant commenter offered one piece of valid advice: “Don’t waste the wine!”- which basically means that you’ve got to value the good part and not waste any of it. You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating – your attitude toward your job affects how good or bad your workday is. You choose how to look at things, as put so eloquently by the late David Foster Wallace in his commencement speech “This Is Water.” If you can find peace in two of the Big Four, you’re doing great.


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