A Few Personal Aphorisms on Work

Justin Chukwumah
4 min readSep 12, 2023
  • If you have the opportunity to make the life of a colleague easier, make sure you do so. It’s called work, not the Annual Witchcraft Championship.
  • If you treat yourself like a loser, you will be treated like a loser at work. You set the yardstick. Credit to Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
  • Whenever the red devil appears on your left shoulder nudging you to behave badly, flick it away with your right hand. Flunk!
  • You don’t have to yell at work, except the colleague in view is physically deaf. And even if they are, I am sure you know that yelling won’t do you any good.
  • Hold the door open for everyone at work, from your subordinates to the cleaning staff, the security team, and even that random employee who hates you for no overt reason (chances are that they might still hate you).
  • Say the truth or at least don’t lie. Credit goes to Jordan Peterson.
  • Learn the art of running marathons and sprints at work. You run steadily in a marathon and speed is of the essence for sprints. The key to burnout and inefficiency is running one like the other.
  • I recently started playing with this: smile when you say hi to that random colleague. What’s the worst that can happen? Flips coin: heads, they ignore you. Tails, it becomes the beginning of a great relationship. Make that bet.
  • Before you throw a colleague under the bus, make a mental picture of what under the bus looks like. Is that somewhere you’d like to be?
  • Manage expectations. Do not commit to building a skyscraper in a month. It’s not possible. And if you think it is, please introduce me to your crack dealer.
  • Make room for uncertainty. Even when you think you have all the answers, you rarely do. Life is like a boyfriend who loves making [mostly bad] surprises.
  • If your leader treats you badly, you are not duty-bound to pass it down the chain of command. If you were handed sh*t from upstairs, you do not have to ensure your subordinates also have smelly hands.
  • If a colleague comes to you for help, listen to them, maintain eye contact, and show them they are worth listening to. They say no matter how fragile the shell that holds a life is, it deserves respect.
  • If you have to deal with garbage at work, put on garbage clothes and deal with it. At the end of the day, take off those clothes and keep them at the exit. The people in your life outside of work do not have to deal with your corporate dirt. To be honest, I still struggle with this.
  • There’s no such thing as work-life balance. It’s a silly concept. Instead, strive for work-life integration.
  • You are probably drained and worn out by work. I get it, I do. I am also worn out, most of the time. You may or may not get it. But can we have an agreement? How about we agree to treat each other with respect and kindness whenever we interact?
  • If you would rather bottle things up and keep things to yourself, to an extent, that’s fine. We can’t always be loud-mouthed. However, it’s crucial to show some teeth every now and then, to remind people that you are no pushover and you shouldn't be taken for granted.
  • Did you have a bad day at work? Good. Did you have a terrible week on a client’s engagement? Terrific! Does the new role feel like it’s killing? Fantastic. That’s life. You can either do something about it or suck it up and move on. That’s life. Credit goes to Jocko Willink.
  • If you find a superior who’s kind, intentional about your growth, and still shows you tough love, when necessary, go the full distance for them. Ask around; they are like Rolex and Rolls Royce; they don’t make a lot of them.
  • If you’ve been treated like dirt by your former team or place of work and you decide to go down guns blazing, burning down bridges, make sure you don’t get burnt in the process.
  • Be self-aware, there’s a difference between being the “fun” colleague and being the official “captain caveman.” It’s an office for Christ’s sake; we don’t do unga bunga here.
  • One of the best pieces of career advice I ever got was “Dare to be bad at something.” I’ll leave it at that. Credit to Rigoarcher.
  • Before you hit reply all, ask yourself, is this really necessary? If the answer is yes, ask yourself a second and a third time.
  • When you are asked to build castles in the air, where possible, hand over cement, bricks and labourers to the senders…And air.
  • If you want to be badly behaved, stay consistent. If you want to behave nicely, stick to the path. The water doesn’t stay hot without a constant flame.
  • It’s okay to shrug your shoulders and admit you do not have an answer, than having a strong opinion even if you have no idea what you are talking about. Admitting instantly when you don’t have the facts or knowledge to answer a question tells others that you are not arrogant or above seeking a more complete view. Credit to the Admired Leadership newsletter.
  • A dumb move is a dumb move. No need to sugarcoat it by using pointless words “I planned, I analysed, I anticipated blah blah blah.” Shut it and say “That was a dumb move.”
  • I recently came to a realisation: When everyone seems to be enduring a terrible work environment and you cannot cope, it doesn’t mean you aren’t tough enough to withstand adversity. We just have different levels of bulls*it tolerance.
  • It’s fine if there’s some perceived (usually burnt-out) office superstar who seems to exemplify the definition of “I can do all things” and you do not measure up. Remember the parable of the talents (Matt. 25: 14–25) and know peace. We all grind differently.
  • If a colleague or a friend gets a new job, except they explicitly tell you how much they’ll be earning, resist the urge to ask. It really is none of your business. Shut it, and wish them well. Selah!

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Justin Chukwumah

A corporate wanderer and reluctant project manager who's just trying to find meaning in work. I only write about what I experience and struggle with.