The Horrible Lie That Just About Everyone In HR Tells Themselves…

By Alan Collins

My eyesight used to be bad.

Very bad.

I’ve worn glasses since I was eight years old.

But that all changed a couple of years ago.

Here’s what happened.

When I took my bi-annual eye exam, my optometrist gave me some distressing news.

He told me that I had an early onset of cataracts in both eyes. And I had reached the point where glasses (or contacts) could no longer correct my vision to 20/20.

Or to 20/30.

Or even to 20/50 for that matter.

This was not a surprise.

For a number of years, I found seeing distances extremely difficult. And I was finding it almost impossible to read small text often having to squint just to read labels at the supermarket.

All of this just validated what I had long suspected.

However, this eye doctor suggested I get a second opinion from a specialist.

And I did.

And after two days of extensive tests, the retina specialist confirmed that I had indeed acquired cataracts and that the condition would get progressively worse over time.

I was also told that I had two options.

One, I could do nothing.  This meant living with the fact that my vision was bad and getting progressively worse (which would seriously impact my quality of life).

Or two, I could opt to have cataract surgery.

Doing my own research, I discovered that cataract surgery is a very common outpatient procedure and over 40% of the American population have had it done.

However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s not risky.

Cataract surgery requires removing your eye’s natural lens located behind your cornea and then replacing it with a synthetic lens.

I don’t know about you, but to me that’s scary stuff.   All is takes is one screw up by the surgeon and you could become permanently blind…or worse case, bleed out and die.

Candidly, the likelihood that any of this would have happened was quite remote.

Nevertheless, I didn’t take the decision to undertake the surgery lightly and I had a few sleepless nights beforehand.

However, in the end, all went perfect.

The surgery was successful.

My eyes aren’t bad anymore.

In fact, today, my vision today has absolutely never been better. My long range vision is 20/20 and I only need and wear glasses now for reading.

I’m a very happy (and relieved) camper.

However, this whole episode — and the surgical risks involved — caused me to come face to face with own my mortality and the fact that…

Someday, I will die.

I know this is a morbid topic for an article on HR and I’m sorry to bring it up, but hang in there with me.

Pretending that this doesn’t exist is just a horrible lie.

So let’s be real.

I will die.

And guess what…YOU will too.

However, like most HR people, I’ve spent a lot of my time pretending that I won’t.

Like many HR pros, I’ll waste a month doing something meaningless and figure, “Oh well, Iʼll try something different next month,” as if the supply of months is endless.

Someone who is very aware of his or her mortality would never piss away hours, minutes, or seconds.

We all know the cliche of the person who discovers they have only six weeks to live, and who suddenly discovers that sunsets are beautiful.

Then, because itʼs a movie and fiction, the same man or woman usually survives and continues their life with a new appreciation of what it is to be alive.

Itʼs the very realization of this mortality that makes them appreciate each sunset, each moment they have with their  family and every chance they have to make a difference in their career.

However, many HR people never get that wake up call until itʼs actually curtain time, when itʼs much too late.

But enough philosophy…let me bring this home and get crystal clear about what this all means…

#1:  If you’re now working in an HR job that you absolutely hate….then you are pretending you will never die.

#2:  If the way you feel about going to work on Monday is that same feeling you get when walking down a dark alley in a bad neighborhood….then you are pretending you will never die.

#3:  If you regularly feel that Fridays don’t come fast enough…then you are pretending that you will never die.

#4:  If you find yourself watching TV shows that you donʼt give a damn about but donʼt turn them off because they are a diversion from that HR job you detest….then you are pretending that you will never die.

#5:  If you miss something you really wish you could be part of (let’s say, missing your kidʼs bravo theater performance or baseball game) because you’re so insecure you dare not take one stinking vacation day off…then you are pretending that you will never die.

Again, I promise you — promise you — that you will die.

And whatʼs more, I promise you that the day you really, truly, with all your heart grasp the fact that you will eventually die will be the day you wake the hell up and begin crafting a career that isnʼt just fine or “okay” or “good enough for a Monday.”

Do you want craft a legendary career in HR?

Then step NUMBER ONE is to start acknowledging and making friends with that big clock  youʼve been ignoring — the one that says that itʼs NOW… or itʼs never.

Without a fire behind you, thereʼs NO urgency.

Thereʼs no reason to act when you have all the time in the world.

So go get started.

Because…you don’t have all the time in the world.

And if you don’t start going after the career in HR that you really want…right here, right NOW at this very moment…you never will.

Need a few suggestions to get you off your butt?  Then check out the ones provided HERE.

Don’t wait.

Your clock is ticking.

I’d love your thoughts on this article.  Please add your comments by clicking HERE.

For even more specific suggestions on how you can craft your very own  legendary career in HR, check out:  WINNING BIG IN HR: 100+ Powerful Strategies For Accomplishing Great Results Faster & Getting Your Clients To Rave About You As A Human Resources Professional!  featuring FREE EXCERPTS that can be downloaded HERE.

About the author: Alan Collins was Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses. He is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of the two HR best sellersUnwritten HR Rules and Best Kept HR Secrets.  His NEW book, Winning Big in HR is now available on Amazon.

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50 Responses to “The Horrible Lie That Just About Everyone In HR Tells Themselves…”

  1. Teresa Says:

    There is one thing I do not like about my email subscription to your blog posts; I don’t receive them more frequently. I look forward to reading your thoughts and especially appreciate this article. Thank you!

  2. Edward Says:

    Alan, As always…great insights. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Toyin Oduola Says:

    This is really so true and I am happy i subscribed to this site.

    Few years ago, I was feeling like this and I eventually left the job. However, I learnt a lesson from the incident which is add value to myself.
    I am rouding up with my Masters degree programme in Industrial Relations and also on the second to the last stage of my professional exams.

    Today, i am not scared of working as HR because of the following reason:

    I am more professional carrying out my job
    I have the confidence of moving forward when the need arises
    I am currently working in a conducive environment, where my boss appreciates “professionalism” above sentiments and appreciate total compliance to company’s policy without any preferential treatment.

    Warm regards,

  4. Akin Ladapo Says:

    …sealed and delivered. A final nail to the coffin. This is not only a great lie we tell ourselves regarding our profession, we tell this same great lie to our lives. Alan, thanks again for this timely call for reality check.

  5. Andrea Says:

    Hit me between the eyes.

  6. Caren Tan Says:

    Thank you for the wake up even is hard on us and takes time to figure it out for one’s own. Nevertheless, believe that it’s relevant to keep question and find the solutions can make one happier. Yes, to die one day is a fact. Love what u mention about fire behind your back but prefer to see it as having fire in your heart ! to want to do the great things that we have it as well in each of us. Ok, lets all keep up the light and passion burning to bring professionalism our HR careers whereever we are. Strike the right cords to show the new way and do not be afraid. All the best!

  7. reena Says:

    never read an eye opener like this before, Alan!

  8. Sammy Says:

    You amaze by the naked truth in which you bring HR stuff out. I enjoy reading every piece of your work.

  9. Diana Says:

    Another great article, thanks for sharing. I appreciate so much your being straightforward and bold at saying the sheer truth. As readers , the same story is read and seen via different glasses due to the the current reality we are living in. I love HR work and have a real passion in doing HR. For a few month I am jobless, and even watching films , which I like doing and when being busy at work was begging for some fee time to watch a film and/or read a novel for pleasure, don’t seem to satisfy me more than reading an HR related topic article. Wish that in my job search I am blessed with a working environment that boost HR role and trust value HR adds to achieving org. goals. Think that, knowing what we want to do, and having real passion about it, paves the way to living a worthy life. Thank you again and again!

  10. Jayne Says:

    Yes, indeed, Alan. It just doesn’t have to be the thought that you will die someday but that you could be kicked out of your comfort zone (a monthly pay check) by losing that HR job. Great tips from you as usual which should make one act NOW! No need to say later “If only I knew then what I know now”

  11. Tashana Says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve been very discombobulated these past few months as I’ve sought employment. Late last year I was laid off. It was the typical HR layoff, fortunately for me, I saw it coming. I had a plan B.

    My plan B is teaching and writing, but lately I feel like I’m at a loss because things aren’t happening fast enough.

    So, what do I do – revert back to what I know, searching for jobs in HR. But after endless months of “no thank yous”, “you’ll get bored”, or my personal favorite, “you’re too experienced”, I realize that HR is no longer where I belong.

    I know this because the vigor and excitement that I once held at the possibilities of new HR roles has been replaced with angst, frustration and uncaring every time I apply for a job or a recruiter calls me with a new opportunity.

    My young son asked me some time back what I did for a living. He understood me to be more of a teacher than anything else, because he could identify with teachers, but he knew little to nothing about HR. So, when I told him what I did, and how I’ve been doing it for so many years, and I have degrees, etc. etc. etc. He said, “you know mom, whenever I complete a level in my video game, I move on to the next level.” and he walked away.

    I thought to myself, how profound, and he was absolutely right. My then, 12 year old son, gave me the most palpable advice I’d received regarding my future. I’m forcing myself to stay on this level because it’s the level most comfortable to me – the level I know. But, in order for me to grow – I have to move on to the next level. And Alan, your article sums it all up as confirmation – once the thrill has evaporated into anger and painful redundancy, it’s time to move on.

    Thanks again for always keeping it real on the HR front. These are the types of articles that make us invaluable to our business partners. The truth will ALWAYS prevail.

  12. Jessica Says:

    Hi Alan. Love this! A friend in HR shared it. It works the same for teachers. In 1997, I was on a bed with tubes in and out. I have never thought of life the same way since. I wish you all the best!

  13. Kevin Panet Says:

    Funny, during the past 1o months I assumed the position of HR Manager for my current employer, I’ve been working on the assumption that I will be dead in 3 years. I’ve given myself a 3-year dead line to reduce their workers comp claims by over 50% (currently reduced by 66%), to implement a new HRIS (4 of 6 modules now implemented), reduce time-to-hire by 50% (down by 33% so far), reduce turnover by 25%, and the list goes on. And you’re right… If I didn’t work as if I was going to die, there would not be the great fire underneath me that I myself have lit. As a result, I’m having a great time, I’m learning new things every day, and my CEO appears to be very happy with my results so far. In the past, I’ve worked for far too many managers in HR that said, “relax, don’t worry, it will all still be her tomorrow.” My goal is to reduce stuff today so I can do even more cool things for the organization and it’s employees tomorrow. Thanks again for the inspiration.

  14. Sharlonda Says:

    Great nuggets of HR wisdom as always….this one was my wake up call; been thinking this issue more the past couple months now.

  15. Gaurav Kapil Says:

    Rightly put…

  16. Mike Says:

    I took an HR job 5 years ago just to have a job and be able to take care of my family. I knew that I would hate working here but figured that I’d be able to find my ideal job soon enough. That was 5 hears ago and I’ve been applying and interviewing as though my life depended on in and still haven’t gotten another job. So what do you say to people like us who are stuck in a terrible job and for whatever reason can’t get another offer? I’ve found lots of jobs that I find to be great opportunities, but keep being told, whether it’s after the first or second interview, that I’m not the best candidate. I’ve tried to take on projects and challenges to make me a better candidate – but my current position is so limited that I’m stuck. I’m either too qualified or not qualified enough.

  17. Md. Abu Saleh Says:

    Death is universal truth and every pain and pleasure before it is an exam to test whether we remember the God- with fear and hope. The lesson you have drawn and shared from a pain of your life is very TRUE and teaches us to be all time serious about what we intend, and opt to do, be it our general day to day life or the HR worklife. Warm Regards

  18. Ghazi Turkistani Says:

    Dear Alan,

    I really appreciate your efforts in spreading the practical experience through your special touch. I love it!

    Kind Regards,


  19. Yolande Says:

    Awesome. I needed to read this so I could get off my butt and jumpstart my consulting business.

    Much thanks!

  20. Deborah H Says:

    Alan, I want to thank you for writing this piece. Once in a while we all need to stop and remember that someday, there won’t be a “tomorrow” for each of us.
    The important part of a tombstone is not the “year to year” digits inscribed upon it, it is the – between the years, that “-” is where we live. It’s good to have a reminder that we don’t know when that time is coming.
    Thank you again.

  21. Varad Nayak Says:

    Hi Alan

    This reality of death one day is apt not only for those who need to be moved into some action, be it in HR domain or anyother, but also for those who are riding the waves of success over the years…be it in HR or other domain.

    As while riding the wave of success, one tends to become linear and typically process driven, not realising that there is one string which he can never control….i.e. the string or leash of his life… In the process of being driven to achieve the milestones of. success, he tends to forget or neglect most importantly two aspects of his life i.e. his family /relationship close to him and the latent passion area within him which he nurtures but does not work on. If we acknowledge this reality of death and share our time accordingly among the three goals of family, success at work and our passion….then we would live longer to enjoy life. Regards varad

  22. Benefit jack Says:

    great advice … What do you recommend for those age 40 or 50 plus with family and debt commitments. … As one wise man said to me and tens of thousands of others who saw the film, “plan to live because death will take care of itself.”.

    We’re not kidding ourselves respecting death… We’ve made our decisions, our commitments, our plans… And as the sunset admirer, we’ve decided on .. Our future

  23. Karen Sheeler Says:

    Wow. This is something I wish I had read a year ago. I did “die”, and resurrecting has been extremely difficult so far. What a painful lesson learned. Go with your guts, folks. They are rarely wrong!!

  24. Mike Umphres Says:

    Allen, I agree whole heartedly with your article. My wife and I just completed our 40th aniversary with me working in a variety of HR positions over that time. When asked by our daughter what we would do differently, we both said take more family trips/vacations.
    I thought it was more important for me to work than take an etra day with the family. Now I wish I had taken those days to create lasting memories.

  25. Alan Says:

    Very well said, Mike.
    Congrats on your 40th! Wow!
    Thanks for sharing your experience.


  26. A.J. Bush Says:

    Fantastic article! Regardless of how one attains that “ah ha” moment, it is worth its weight and then some, which your article nicely concluded. I truly enjoy sharing your efforts, this piece in particular!

  27. Paula Scott Says:

    Just to let you know, there are HR people that love their job, and love being in HR. I think Fridays come too quickly. Great article. I know so many people who would be happier in other professions. Life is too short to work at something you hate.

  28. Sylvia Perez Says:

    Nice article, Alan. I, too had Cataract surgery a couple of years ago and I remember the fear I felt. I thought I was too young, but the doctor told me it was due to stress, which was aggravated/accelerated by my Diabetic condition. Having a serious condition, always makes you aware of your own mortality.

    This past weekend, the wife of one of my co-workers passed away at the age of 56 after a massive heart attack. She was a healthy woman with no previous heart issues, but I understand she worked in a high-stress environment.

    Why am I writing all of this? Because Alan is right – HR is a high-stress career. Learn to enjoy it. If you don’t have a passion for what you do, get out – before it’s too late…

    Life is too short!

  29. Kelley Says:

    I love reading your article’s.

  30. Joe J. Says:

    This actually brought tears to my eyes because of its relevance to my life right now. My sister had cornea surgery last week and it didn’t go well. She had a second surgery two days later to correct the first one and things went even worse–she has now lost the eyesight in one eye–three days after her 60th birthday.

    Only one month ago I completed a six-month chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I won’t even address how difficult this was because I’m sure most everyone knows either through personal experience or through a loved one’s experience. I am also an insulin-dependent diabetic. The bottom line is exactly what you say in your writing. We lie to ourselves. Life is short. Each breath we take could be our last. I’m learning more and more each day to value what I have because it know that life is fleeting. Thank you for sharing this article.

  31. Alan Says:

    Joe J,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience.
    Clearly you have other more important life priorities.
    My heart just aches for your and your sister.
    Please stay strong.


  32. Yvonne Says:

    Indeed this set me up and I started searching and putting my acts together..grateful for it

  33. Edward Baker Says:

    Your reflection of your experience is not just accurate for HR people it is true for many in all professions. Unfortunately many still set values based on position, earnings, title and fail to realize we can achieve great success if we were to apply our good solid values, commitment, dedication and support of our associates as drivers in our career. Titles will pass, money is fungible, level is a variable, yet having the respect from others because we truly valued them, involved them and recognized them really allows a person to reap far more then just having a job.

    All of us are on a journey and all of us will arrive at the same destination. It is not if but when. What is really important is what have we achieved and given to others during the time of that journey.

    Edward Baker

  34. Jeanne kerr Says:

    Thought provoking. A good reminder to keep what’s important in front of us and not get sucked in to the never ending urgencies

  35. Heather Nichols Says:

    One of my favorite quotes on this very topic comes from “The Shawshank Redemption”:

    “I figure you have two choices in this life—to get busy livin’, or get busy dyin'”

    Words to live by. Thank you, Stephen King.

  36. Kelly Says:

    Great article! I had been tossing around the idea of changing careers for about five years. It took a toxic boss to make me realize I was in the wrong field/company. Last year I left my job and I’m back in school getting my MA in HR Mgnt. Had I read this article sooner, I may have acted sooner. I guess I thought I’d live forever. It feels great to be pursuing my passion now.

  37. Alan Says:

    Way to go, Kelly!

  38. Khanh Tran Says:


    You’ve given a lot to others and me. I’d like to recommend Lifepak Nano supplement- since using it, my eyesight has improved. It’s just a supplement I use to ensure I get all the nutrition I need since we all have eating habits that are somehow deficient. I sound like I am promoting this product but it’s more that I believe you may find this helpful somehow.

    Thanks for sending us helpful HR info that, if applied,makes us better professionals!


  39. Wilbroad Says:

    How true! we aways forget that, that day shall come!

  40. jill Says:

    WOW What a wake up call this is. I have been feeling like I have been just collecting a paycheck when I know in my heart I could be in a better HR position. I also just read a sentence today that said “If you want to move – do it. You’re not a tree. Thanks for the wakeup call Life is really too short and I know in my heart that I had better get with it or regret it!!
    Thanks for this great article!!

  41. Latonya Says:

    Absolutely! And the minute you are gone, you will be erased, replaced, all but forgotten about and the business will most assuredly go on without you. Even bigger still is the precious time wasted that COULD HAVE been spent in better ways. People are precious and time is short.

  42. Stephanie Says:

    Thanks for this Alan. I have left a few dark alley jobs to walk in the light and its worth it every time! Thanks for sharing. And so pleased to hear your op was a success. Hurrah!

  43. Alan Says:

    Thanks Stephanie, keep walking towards that light!

  44. Requina Says:

    I really love the fact you keep it real and straight to the point. Earlier this year I finally got a wake up call and decided that I will start living each day with more purpose not only in my personal life but in my HR career. I know someday I will die and when I do, I don’t want to have any regrets or wishful thinking of what could have been or should have done.

  45. Bonnie nguyen Says:

    Alan once again you have taken a personal experience and used it to explain a fact of life – we will die and yes we waste a lot of time wasting time as if we will live forever. I loved it and will do a Toasymasters speech next week in a spin off from this-?

  46. Alisha Says:

    Hello Alan!
    Thank you for sharing. I have recently subscribed to your newsletter and I have to say that I’m glad I did. You are a source to my knowledge of learning more about HR. My aspiration of becoming a HR Manager here at my company is worth the time, commitment and efforts I exert everyday in many ways. Which makes me think of the expression “Time waits for no one” is true and fitting to this article. Furthermore, I love HR and everything it entails. Thank you again and please continue ministering to us. God bless.

  47. Ric R Says:

    Thanks for the reminder Alan! I love HR but my efforts to improve HR processes and employee benefit offerings are often stifled by leaders and are unappreciated by many employees. Something has to change and this may mean changing my environment.

  48. Mark A. Griffin Says:

    Spot on! Quit complaining and do something. We are responsible for our own careers and our progress. Take the steps to create your best life now.

  49. Vivi-Lillian Says:

    Thanks Allan, of all jobs I have done HR has been the toughest you give so much but very little appreciation between 2006 – 2013 I got grey hair and was very unhappy as colleagues did everything to make hell of my job ..we worked against each other instead of as a team

    I am happy dealing with animals they listen more and are more sensitive

  50. Ken Says:

    “I’d rather die while I’m living, than live while I’m dead.” – Jimmy Buffett