Prince Harry's advice to quit jobs you don't like shows how out of touch he is – Aidan Smith
The other day the editor called me into his office.
It wasn’t that kind of summons (phew), simply that after so many Zoom sessions he wanted to have a chat in 3D form with a bunch of us, and it was good to see colleagues again and be the butt of some merry banter, just like before.
As this ed is the 17th of my career – the 18th if you count the one who was in charge for just a day – you can imagine I’ve heard quite a few of these pep talks. But I left this one genuinely enthused.
Like everyone apart from perhaps Emma Raducanu, Adele and William Shatner who got to rocket to the final frontier for real, we’ve come through a tough year, after an even tougher one the year before, and lucky for us we’re still standing, more or less.
The first day of 2022 will officially be the first in our new HQ, bang in the centre of town after a spell in the ’burbs. Omicron may preclude our attendance for a while longer, but despite all the gloom I believe there will be better times ahead. New year, new invigoration. I realise, though, that I am one of those nuts who likes to work and loves his job. Not everyone does.
So what’s Prince Harry’s recommendation if you don’t? Quit, jack it in. If it isn’t making you happy, then leave. He says: “Many people around the world have been stuck in jobs that didn’t bring them joy, and now they’re putting their mental health and happiness first. This is something to be celebrated.”
Now, Harry is speaking as the “chief impact officer” for BetterUp, a Californian start-up. According to their website, they offer “the most comprehensive coaching experiences in the world – driving whole person growth and sustained organisational outcomes”.
Fair enough, I suppose, for BetterUp will want to see bang for their buck, or whatever the woke version of that might be. They’re paying him a reported six-figure salary, after all.
But it’s difficult when listening to his latest princely pronouncing not to think of him, still, as the Royal who bolted. Who supervised a “floating” kitchen floor as part of the £2.4 million renovations to Frogmore Cottage and then with his wife Meghan just floated off. Who gave up on whirring curtains at official openings, small talk with blinged-up mayors and posies for the Duchess for a new life and an £11 million mansion in Santa Barbara County boasting 16 bathrooms.
Whose deal with Netflix is worth £100 million. Whose deal with Spotify is worth £18 million. Who, whatever the familial estrangement, will always be looked after by his papa and The Firm. Who, if BetterUp goes belly up and straight down one of those pans, will always be alright.
It’s incredibly easy, then, for Harry to say walk away and in such grim times his “advice” judders like one of those stop-start plaque unveilings he’s left far behind.
Many don’t have jobs to leave. Many who have a job don’t have the luxury of knowing they’ll be able to swap it for something else. Many prioritise putting food on the table over mental health because they don’t have any other option. And some think wellness is just millennial narcissism.
Why does Harry insist that the litmus-test for how you earn your living, and whether you stick at it, must be “joy”? Norman Wisdom would find joy, and provide it for others, as a comic actor but as a young man he walked the 192 miles from London to Cardiff in search of work, eventually finding it as a cabin boy on a ship bound for Argentina.
In Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff, the hero Yosser Hughes’ desperate cry was: “Gizza job.” Maybe that brilliant TV drama, in the era of Thatcher, was a lament for the end of Britain’s working-class culture but not everyone now expects to be treated as a king – or indeed a prince – simply for turning up for work each day.
They do this gladly. The dignity of labour is, in language a work-shy snowflake would understand, even if they wouldn’t get the concept, still “a thing”. The Protestant work ethic is another thing. And many have a calling for jobs where they know from the start there will be little joy but probably much sadness.
Did Harry’s brother Prince William expect only joy when he was a pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance? Around the same time as Harry’s blurt, he recalled how attending a road accident involving a child left him feeling like “the whole world was dying”.
I didn’t have to walk 192 miles for work in my pre-journalism days – nothing like. But in the local chip-shop (let go after three nights for being too slow wrapping the suppers), the local supermarket (molested by the vamp in charge of shelf-stacking) and a Princes Street hotel (as a bell-hop, molested again, this time by the night manager) I forsook joy to earn money for clothes and records.
No one molests me now. There are other occupational hazards but not that. So it’s onwards to another year, and while I don’t think I could do anything else even if I tried, I’m very happy with the “whole person growth” I’m achieving and believe there’s more to come.
Harry of course once did something else – he was an army captain for two tours of Afghanistan and good on him for that. But he’s got this wrong.
Remember when it was predicted that he would reboot the monarchy, make it more relevant to his generation and indeed save it? These days he sounds more and more like some batty prince from the previous century, completely out of touch.
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