Tom’s Journal-March 21, 2008
So here I am alone in the admitting room of Froedtert Hospital and Medical College of Wisconsin. Just finished calls to my wife, brothers Jack, Jim, Bill, Feds, a friend from high school and college, cuz Mary, and my secretary at UW Milwaukee. Feeling pretty talked out. We’re getting ‘er done on Thursday—2 days from now. Following several days of being concerned about “sensations” in my chest—not pain as I’m sure to add whenever I’m telling someone. I went to the Heart and Vascular Center last Friday to have an EKG. Results were fine. Came home but forgot my journal in the waiting room.

Returned on Monday to retrieve it and told Rebecca, the PA, I still had the “sensations.” She smiled but escorted me into the exam room— did one more EKG; it’s still fine, but calls Dr. N. She hangs up and says emphatically, “Dr. N said, “Admit him, cath him and we’re doing it tomorrow!” Ok—it’s on! I’m grateful…and scared. Hopeful and confident. God’s in it. I will get a repaired heart; it will tick like a Swiss watch.

No small deal here. Open heart surgery. Five hours. Body temperature lowered while I’m placed on an artificial heart, they cut you down the middle through the breastbone; take out the old valve and replace it with a new, porcine (pork and synthetic material) and repair the aneurism in the aorta. Piece of cake…

This does feel mixed up. I’m the guy in the hospital bed in the movie. With tubes in arms. Not the visitor, the guy who comforts or who prays with the person in the bed. Cathertization pre-surgery went great. The techs were funny, compassionate and professional. I liked them The rest of my heart is great. No bypasses needed. Let’s go


It’s easy to put big things like a job change off and even easier to rationalize that things are ok as is. Philosophy like “the devil we know is better than the one we don’t” promulgates this pessimism which drives immobility. I don’t have time for empirical analysis but I’ll bet few people will argue that most of us have stayed in jobs too long. What are the clear signals that you need to move on? Other than the obvious like you hate getting up for work; you dread Mondays, you despise your boss and your work has not progressed with challenge, depth and variety, there are others.
J.T. O”Donnell, Career Writer, has 5 more…

  • You only think about your work 9-5, Monday—Friday
  • You break the 80-20 rule—you should be “happy” with 80% of your total job
  • You don’t read about your field any more—or very little
  • You look for an excuse for a day off

Sometimes, someone else needs to get you moving. I still regret the decision to not deny tenure to a loyal colleague, friend and supervisee. He needed to move on to more challenges. He was better than the job he had worked his way out of. He stayed and languished for the next ten years. We both agreed (later) that it was a poor decision—but the easiest one at the time.


What work decisions have you wrestled with for too long?

If you could snap your fingers and be in a new work situation, would you? What would it look like?

Who or what can get you moving?

*This TranSpirations focuses on the relationship between Tom’s journaling about his successful heart surgery in 2008 and possible lessons for career/work/retirement transitions.

Thomas Bachhuber, Ed.D., President of the Board and Executive DirectorThomas Bachhuber, Ed.D.
President of the Board and Executive Director for The Center for Life Transitions. Tom is responsible for overall Center leadership and strategy. His individual coaching/counseling as well as workshops and retreats focus on integrating leading career development ideas with spiritual exploration. Read more.