{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt

Thousand miles

The most random nights out are often the best nights out. Surprising. Entertaining. Educational.

Lately, my passport has been getting more exercise than my gym membership. As sure as Christmas decorations appear in stores by the beginning of October, so too does the annual corporate panic to deliver projects before the year ends and the money runs out.

Retention decisions depend upon it.

Payrised? Performance bonused? Promoted? Passed over? Purged? Pensioned off?

At this stage of the year, all remain potential outcomes. Though the decisions are being made in the now, long before any performance management theatre has finished playing out.

One of the joys of working in a global economy is having ready access to a vast pool of resources.

Interesting people doing interesting things from interesting places.

Meanwhile, megacorps pride themselves on their cultures of diversity and inclusion.

Combining the two produces a diverse pipeline of ever-changing lowest-cost locales, from which to include and exploit commodity workers. Equal work for equal pay? There is not much equality in doing the same job for one-third the money, or working six days a week when on-shore counterparts work five.

I have teams scattered across locations ranging from Barcelona to Bucharest. For the first time in a long time, I don’t currently have any Chinese or Indian resources. Economic snakes and ladders render both locations too expensive or too controversial to source interchangeable cogs for the corporate machine.

Brisbane? Birmingham? Boston? Forget about it! Same quality at supersized costs. Local lifestyle costs drive up prices demanded by local talent, until they are uncompetitive on the global stage.

Benefits further compound the challenge. 30 days paid annual vacation. 20% pension contribution, on top of base salary. Employer-provided health insurance. Training allowances. Volunteer days. All sound enticing to a local employee, until they find themselves competing on price against equally skilled people from a locale where none of these things are included in the asking price.

I would like to believe the equitable outcome is eventually all employees, everywhere, receive good salaries and rewarding packages. But the reality is the equilibrium point trends towards the lower end of the earnings spectrum. The duty of care to look out for the short-term and often short-sighted interests of shareholders ensures that this is so.

Most of us say we want equality in the workplace.

The true test is whether we back up our words with deeds, when equality injures our personal finances or individual prospects. An unpopular opinion. Harsh truths tend to be.

Recently, I found myself hunkered down in a bar named after a dubious 1980s hairstyle. Late at night. Located off an old town side street, in one of those lowest-cost locations.

The place was heaving. Local twenty-somethings fuelled by half-price cocktails and party drugs danced away their midweek blues to an eclectic set of tracks, being mixed by a DJ sporting a spectacular mullet without the slightest sense of irony.

Not my typical surroundings.

Nor my comfort zone.

Needs must. The venue was self-selecting, being both open and on the way back to the hotel.

I was surprised to recognise many of the tunes. Remixes of 80s songs, over electronic backing tracks with massive drum beats and strong baselines. Catchy enough to get even the most reluctant of suburban shufflers nodding heads and tapping feet.

Phil Collins, before the back injury.

Depeche Mode, before they sobered up.

The Smiths, though curiously with Rick Astley singing rather than the now cancelled Morrissey.

Michael Jackson. Prince. Whitney Houston. Before their pharmaceutically induced pop royalty regicide.

Interspersed with random Taylor Swift anthems, remastered to avoid supporting the evils of Big Machine.

The tune changed once more. A surprising, yet fitting choice, from my youth half a world away. Capturing the disconnected feeling of my recent existence as a road warrior.

Estimated time of arrival 9.30 a.m.

Been up before the sun and now I’m tired before I even begin.

(Now you’re flying) I got so much work in front of me,

(Really flying) it stretches out far as the eye can see.

I can see.


Spend half my life in airports doing crosswords and attempting to sleep,

And when the bar is open then you’ll often find me warming aseat.

(Now you’re flying) I never find a place where I can stay

(Really flying) I’d rather be a thousand miles away.

Thousand miles away.


Working for yourself sometimes ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

It can be as lonely at the top as at the bottom of that corporate tree

(Now you’re flying) I’m told I’m going places – who can say?

(Really flying) I might arrive but I’ll be gone the very next day.

I must be on my way

A thousand miles away.


Promised to myself someday I’d take the time and try to make sense

Out of all those opportunities I’ve lost from trying to sit on the fence

(Now you’re flying) But right now I’ve got no time for yesterday

(Really flying) Yesterday’s a thousand miles away.

A thousand miles away.


What was that that you were trying to say?

I guess I was a thousand miles away.

Sing it again.

I was seated in a surprisingly quiet booth. An acoustical quirk of a modern venue housed within an ancient building. One that had seen duty as a wine cellar, partisan hideout, and fallout shelter.

Alongside me sat two disgruntled Westerners. Overworked. Underpaid. Put upon. Far from home.

A common refrain amongst the local ex-pat community. This was not a location people sought out, but one they sought to escape. A place where folks end up, despite their best efforts rather than because of them. A country where stability is recognised as a luxury. Fleeting and fragile.

One colleague regaled us with his struggles of an empty nest. Once the last of his kids left home, he and his long-suffering wife worked out they didn’t like each other very much. Hadn’t done for years.

He hadn’t given any thought to retirement until recently. It only occurred to him when his future ex-wife’s divorce attorney came after his workplace pension, having already claimed the former family home.

He learned that he was considered too old to obtain a mortgage for a new one.

Gobsmacked by the realisation that the traditional life script said retirement was what came next.

Quickly followed by the dawning recognition that he was thoroughly and utterly fucked financially.

My second companion grumbled about the joys of parenthood. Father to a small tribe of toddlers, including a pair of Irish twins. Four years since he had last enjoyed a night of unbroken sleep. Vasectomy booked in for the following week, tacked onto the end of a fleeting business trip back to corporate headquarters. For once, having his balls cut off during a visit to HQ was of his own choice!

He hadn’t given any thought to retirement whatsoever. With a couple of decades’ worth of parenting remaining, every penny was consumed by an endless procession of bills. Nursery fees. School fees. Tuition fees. Clubs. Sports. Trips. Uniforms. It was relentless.

Never mind that he came to the parenting lark late, already in his mid-forties when his first child arrived.

Decades spent playing good corporate citizen had stunted his earnings and strangled his progress. Ceding control over the pace and progress of his climb up the career ladder to his mentors and managers had held him back. Trusting them to support and encourage his development.

Realising too late the inherent conflict of interest that what was good for them differed greatly from what was good for him. For every well-publicised rags-to-riches, mailroom boy to chief executive success story, there are thousands of untold tales of those like my companion in the bar that night.

In the old days, they called it loyalty. A quaint notion, nobility starts to look a lot like naïvety when it is not reciprocated. Hindsight might even describe it as folly.

I must confess that hearing their woes made me feel grateful for my own lot in life. Not in a boastful, gloating, smug, or condescending way. Just appreciating a reminder that things can always be worse. One of my current delivery teams is comprised of Ukrainian and Russian developers, having chosen to avoid conscription by working remotely from Poland. Uncertain if friends and relatives back home are ok? Or even still alive?

I was somewhat sympathetic to the plight of my colleagues. Any journey that had led them to this dodgy Eastern European bar at two in the morning, listening to ancient mournful Australian pop songs, must have taken a misstep somewhere along the way!

As is so often the case, our present circumstances are largely determined by a combination of luck, past choices made, and past choices avoided.

At times I wish I could travel back in time to thank my younger self.

Other times, to go back and punch him in the face.

Our lived experiences define us, building character and resilience. My younger self generally looked out for my interests, making some good choices to start investing early and keep investing often.

Investing in my education.

Investing in my earning capacity.

Investing in my family.

Investing in my finances.

Investing in my travels.

He didn’t get everything right, but generally recognised his mistakes early, owned them, and learned from them.

Younger me believed that would help avoid repeating past errors and making mistakes in the future.

He was half right. I rarely make same mistake twice, but that hasn’t stopped me from finding all new mistakes to make instead!

My companions hunkered down for another round of drinks, drowning their sorrows as they watched beautiful people half their age dance away their worries. Freddie Mercury belted out “Too much love will kill you” as I opted to call it a night. There was just enough time to rescue my bags from the hotel before heading to the airport for yet another early morning flight.

I held the door as two paramedics wearing hi-viz orange and black uniforms hustled into the bar. One of the party people had sought escape by enjoying too much of a good thing. Another cautionary tale.

Sometimes lessons are best learned vicariously.

Sometimes avoiding mistakes is better than experiencing them.

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  1. Gnòtul 20 November 2023

    We learned nothing from the pandemic-induced opportunity to break with our past whirlwind of business trips.

    Two days on the road for two-hour meetings. Overcrowded and overpriced airports, hotels, rental cars and parking lots.

    The occasional, serendipitous, perspective-changing encounter making it seem worthwhile.. at least for a while. 🙂

    Thank you for this timely piece, Indeedably!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 November 2023 — Post author

      Thanks Gnòtul. Good luck with the business travelling.

      I agree, there were many life improving lessons to be learned from the pandemic, most of which have already been forgotten. I do find myself missing the tranquility of lockdowns on occasion, even with the “families are complicated” pressure cooker.

      A couple of years on, it is interesting to reflect on what was missed out on. The absence of socialisation during that period, both with friends and strangers, has left a mark on my children. The elder one is consciously working on it, overcompensating at times. The younger one struggles with being shy and reserved. Impossible to say whether correlation or causation, both have commented it is a challenge shared with many of their classmates.

      Speaking to high school teachers, the kids who entered high school during or immediately after the pandemic are veritable monsters. No learned fear of teachers or natural selection wariness of elder kids, as there were two years of no consequence for their actions. It is odd to see 13-14 year olds ruling high schools, stranger still to see 15/16/17 year olds wary of or being mugged by their younger peers. Size and consequence used to assert an implicit law of the jungle, for this cohort it is more Lord of the Flies.

      Reminds me somewhat of a scaled down version of the British government cabinet in recent years! We get the government we vote for, and the leaders we deserve. The examples they provide set the tone for what is acceptable throughout society, which is a troubling thought indeed!

  2. Donna 20 November 2023

    I personally find the exponential time wasted in meetings hard to bear. I would rather go back to two days of travel for a two hour meeting rather six hour face to face meeting at the local office! And this obsession with being in the office, rather than being productive it is rather hard to bear! I thought that post pandemic people would remember that life is precious and come up with sensible and pragmatic ways of working. Alas, I could not have been more wrong! I never contemplated the RE part of fire before, but now it seems quite appealing.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 November 2023 — Post author

      I share your pain, Donna!

      My calendar is a place of nightmares at the moment, often expected to concurrently be in 2 or 3 places at once. Today, a typical “day in the life“, I attended the eight meetings I couldn’t get away with skipping, and declined another six. The constant context switching alone is exhausting, not to mention being expected to perform a day job producing tangible outputs on top of the endless cat herding and upwards management.

      That’s the hidden downside about outsourcing the doing to locales where working hours are long but expectations are low. It’s often a false economy, much like buying cheap electrical appliances or discount store hardware.

  3. David Andrews 25 November 2023

    This reminds me why I chose to avoid any kind of management role.

    Any potential financial rewards cannot come close to the benefit of being able to walk my son to school and back.

    Those 25 minute trips where we can currently chat without gadget intrusion are near priceless.

    This year my employer abolished all increased financial incentives. In return they are seeing terrible morale and employee turnover. We are told to do even more with even less.

    Oddly they seemed rather surprised by the feedback in the recent voice of the workforce survey.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 25 November 2023 — Post author

      Thanks David.

      Sounds like you have your priorities right.

      The majority of the staff (and turnover) at my site are freelancers and consultants. They don’t get included in satisfaction surveys. Motivation behind that is don’t ask the questions if you won’t like the answers. Which creates a virtuous circle of happy-clappy self-delusion and feigned ignorance of the very real morale problems.

  4. Malcolm Wake 23 February 2024

    Is this good-bye or au-relire?
    If so thanks for the thought provoking content and for your efforts with Sovereign Quest.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 16 March 2024 — Post author

      Thanks for your kind words, Malcolm. {in·deed·a·bly} hasn’t gone away, I’ve just hit pause for a bit. My stories felt like they were becoming repetitive, a sign I was feeling stuck and not experiencing enough external stimuli to generate new ideas or have my perspectives challenged.

      Following 5 years of blissful rose-coloured semi-retirement, invested in school runs and pondering big questions of purpose, meaning, and identity, I returned to full time work. Now, after nearly three years of the daily grind in a demanding full time job, I’m running on fumes, feeling frayed, and counting down sleeps until the next vacation day. My once non-existent pension pot is empty no longer, my eldest child will soon leave home, and my youngest is about to start his high school journey. Which leaves me rolling towards one of life’s crossroads, self-aware enough to recognise I don’t have to keep subjecting myself to this for much longer, and pondering which direction to wander down next. Others in my position have bought themselves a trophy girlfriend half their age; a caravan, motorbike, boat, or little red sports car; or succumbed to the siren song of the early retirement cult.

  5. dee 3 March 2024

    What happened to Sovereign Quest?

What say you?

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