Life Lessons from The Office

I don’t know if any of you have ever watched the television series The Office. It is a “mockumentary” sitcom that follows the everyday lives of a group of employees at a small American paper company called Dunder Mifflin.

Now, if you have never watched The Office, I highly recommend that you do. It’s really funny – especially if you work in an actual office environment. Then the jokes just take on another level of hilarity!

But I didn’t bring up The Office just to tell you how funny it is, nor did I bring it up because I want to talk about business courses or becoming an office manager (although you can click on those links if you want more info on that).

No, the reason I brought up this show is because, at this very moment, I’m staring at a quote that I have posted up above my desk at work. It’s from one of the characters in The Office and it reads:

“There is nothing on my horizon except everything. Everything is on my horizon.”

–          Dwight K. Schrute

Dwight K. Schrute (author of this quote) is one my favourite characters in the series. A salesman with wide-set eyes and a large forehead, Dwight is also an eccentric beet farmer, volunteer County sheriff, karate expert, bed and breakfast proprietor, and an aspiring freelance bodyguard.

Dwight from The Office

Dwight is also, as his boss Michael Scott puts it, “an idiot”. He has no social skills, and says and does the weirdest things imaginable. Bringing a goose for lunch, which he had just hit with his car, is only one example.

“Before I do anything, I ask myself: ‘Would an idiot do that?’ And if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing.”

–          Dwight K. Schrute

Everything that comes out of Dwight’s mouth is either completely misinformed, off-topic, inappropriate, or totally and absolutely absurd (which is, in the end, what makes him so funny). Here, for example, is what he has to say about dolphins:

“Dolphins get a lot of good publicity for the drowning swimmers they push back to shore, but what you don’t hear about, is the many people they push farther out to sea! Dolphins aren’t smart. They just like pushing things.”

–          Dwight K. Schrute

Or what about this:

I have no vampire experience, but I have hunted werewolves. I shot one once, but by the time I got there, it had turned back into my neighbour’s dog.”

–          Dwight K. Schrute

Dwight from The Office

But despite his (comedic) shortcomings, Dwight is – surprise, surprise – the top salesperson at Dunder Mifflin! But how can such an idiot, be such a success?

Dwight from The Office

Dwight is the company’s top salesperson because of the things he says. Well, maybe not directly because of that… But behind all his verbal idiocy and idiosyncrasies, there lies something very compelling about Dwight K. Schrute: a complete and overwhelming commitment to everything he does, ever.

He approaches his average job at a midrange paper company with the same level of intensity, belief, and commitment as he would anything else in life. The result of this is not only professional success, but also a sense of professional and personal fulfilment.

At one point, Dwight signs up for Second Life, an online game where you can create a virtual version of yourself – the way you would like to be in an ideal world. This is what Dwight had to say about his Second Life:

“I signed up for Second Life about a year ago. Back then, my life was so great that I literally wanted a second one. Absolutely everything was the same… except I could fly.”

–          Dwight K. Schrute

Dwight from The Office

The joke is, of course, that even in his wildest fantasy, he is still just a simple salesman at a paper company (okay, with the ability to fly as well). And this is why I love that quote above my desk. Dwight shows that even someone with an average office job like me can be completely passionate about what he or she is doing, and feel that their professional potential in that job is limitless.

When we fantasise about our ideal circumstances (our ‘Second Lives’), it is always directed away from our present positions. I want better, more, different. And in thinking this, we convince ourselves that in our present situation, “nothing is on our horizon”.

But that is not how you get ahead; that is not how you succeed.

You succeed by believing – whatever job you are doing, and wherever you are in your life – that “nothing is on your horizon, except everything!”

Whatever career choice you make – whether you become a bookkeeper, an IT technician, or an office manager, whether you are working or studying, whether you are a low-level employee or working part-time – if you approach your job like Dwight would, you’ll inevitably reach the top.

So take ownership of what you are doing. Carry out your everyday work with passion, commitment, and Dwight-like devotion, and you will find that the world will suddenly open up to you, and there will be nothing on your horizon, except everything. Everything will be on your horizon.