Those of us working in Information Security and Information Technology all know the cost of doing business. Late nights, working lunches (if you get a lunch at all), and 70 hour weeks are common if not expected. They are part of the job. We know it, but we suck it up and do it anyway. As bad as it is, these are the relatively innocuous aspects of the job that we just put up with, building up a callous over the years. We establish this as our baseline for what is normal. In our field, we care about our work. We understand that lives can be destroyed when make a mistake. A raided bank account can leave a family unable to pay its mortgage. A defaced website, or network outage can push a company into financial distress or effect sales; both of which put jobs on the line.
Beyond this baseline are the wounds and festering sores that if untreated can send our personal and professional lives into chaos. I’m referring to the missed birthday parties, anniversaries, and Little League games. Don’t stop there. Consider working on vacation, the holidays spent at the office, and the times we tell our loved ones “just one more email”. We push these off to the dusty corners of our mind. Perhaps to relieve guilt, perhaps just to rationalize our behavior telling ourselves that it’s okay just this once. The problem is that it isn’t just once. More and more, I see this as becoming the new normal. It’s happening across industries and in organizations of all sizes. The expectation is quickly becoming that we are at the whim of the business. We are its property. We give up these little bits of ourselves on demand. These little nicks, one here, one there, add up. They fester. Our very own dedication to protect the public, and to safeguard our own organizations turns against us. It eats away at our lives and more importantly the lives of our friends and families.
Our dedication, our loyalty to the business takes us away from our loved ones. It separates us physically and perhaps emotionally from our children, spouses, partners, friends and family. It steals from all of us the joy of seeing those first steps, the candles blowing out, or that last chance to say goodbye. We’ll never get these moments back.
Life happens. It puts things in perspective. We can choose to learn from the past or fall victim to our own blindness. It’s just a job. At the end of the day there are two paths that we can take. We can spend our days falling prey to this new normal. We can give ourselves over to the machine, the business, the beast with the eternal appetite. Knowing that it can never be satiated by our labors. Alternately, we can learn from our mistakes, from the misfortune of others, we can hit the reset button on our lives. We can wake up tomorrow and make the conscious decision to put our families and ourselves first. We can learn that the machine will always need fuel, the beast will need to be fed, and we can refuse to give in, to be more fodder.
It’s just a job.
We can work smarter. We can set limits. We can prioritize. I’m not advocating going in to work on Monday and refusing to work anything but an eight hour day. Rather, I’m suggesting that we look at how we spend our time and make wise use of it. Time is a precious and finite resource and shouldn’t be thrown away on valueless tasks. We need to understand that just as our employers can toss us away tomorrow, so to can our friends and family leave us in the blink of an eye.
I’ve had the privilege of learning this lesson in time to steer back on course. I’m sure you’ve seen or experienced your “shot across the bow”. Did you heed the warning? Do you understand the costs? Tomorrow when you wake up Anonymous will still be here, so too cross site scripting, and sql injection. Will your family and your friends? Our lives, and those of our families are worth more than that “one more email”. Our parents, children and friends are worth more than finishing that report this weekend. In the words of Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.” Twenty years from now will you regret spending more time at work, or spending more time with your family? The decision is yours. Choose wisely.