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Are You Caught In The Wasp Trap? Am I?

November 6, 2013

Winter is coming to Utah. Fall is my favorite time of year. I’ve written here before about the beautiful fall foliage that the high mountain desert of Utah enjoys.


Saturday I was on the BYU campus. It was our last day of “Summer-like” fall. We had our first serious snow today. We’re now into “Winter-like” fall.

As I bought a gyro for lunch from a street vendor, I noticed this wasp catcher.


The concept is simple and effective. You place a small bit of bait into the trap and wasps, attracted by the scent climb into the trap, down the cone where they spend the rest of their lives very confused as to both where the food went and how to get out. What makes the trap effective is that it uses the natural instincts of the wasps against them. Once the wasp gets confused enough, it attempts to leave. Naturally, the wasp equates “up” with “out.” But, the top of the trap is a frustrating cap of plastic. The wasp actually has the ability to escape. All it would have to do is fly to the bottom of the center cone and climb back out the way it came in. But, that path doesn’t look like the way out. Who wants to go “down” and “in” to get out?

So, the wasp continues searching the top of the trap for an exit point until it dies.

How often have you seen people who’s career goals mirror the actions of the wasps? I’ve found myself in the wasp trap a few times. I went to work for a company with high hopes. But, I found myself stuck in a position that I was a terrible fit. The worse the job got, the more I tried to make it work. I was that wasp banging my head against the ceiling hoping that things were going to get better. That situation rarely turns out well. It didn’t in my case. Eventually, the company took action and I was out looking for work again.

In another case, I was so consumed with trying to move up within the organization that I found I really wasn’t enjoying my job. But, I thought, one more promotion and things will get better. If I simply put in another couple years and get enough seniority, my life will improve. Except it doesn’t. Again, I was pounding my head against the ceiling trying to move up.

It’s been rarer, but much more satisfying when I’ve taken that step back and assessed what it was I really wanted to do. At one point it was to go back to school. I only took an additional semester of classes, but it was exactly what I needed to get me excited again about learning. And because I was doing it for myself, I had a blast that semester. I slightly miscalculated my class load and ended up with 8 credits instead of 9. This still disappoints me since it was my only semester getting straight A’s. Had I taken that additional credit I would have been eligible for the dean’s list, something that my previous academic career never approached.

I’ve taken great inspiration over the years from my friend Howard Tayler. Howard draws the award winning comic Schlock Mercenary and has for 13 years. Five or six years ago, Howard walked away from a six figure job in the software industry to become a cartoonist fulltime. We’ve talked over the years about what that meant for his career, for his family and for him. It was back in January 2013 that I was part of layoffs from my last employer.

I had a big enough severance package that it gave me the freedom to figure out what I really wanted to do. It was during that period that I started seriously writing on this blog. A couple of weeks ago I talked about Running Away From The Writer. Choosing to pursue writing has been my attempt at getting out of the wasp trap. Instead of constantly looking up and out, I’ve started looking down and in. I have some great things planned for next year. I’ve already hinted at the first book that will be coming out in February. I’m also working on multiple other projects and writing that you’ll be hearing more about in the coming months.

In the past, I’ve always written as a sidelight. I’ve been a Support Engineer, who also wrote. I’ve been a Operations manager who also wrote. Getting out of the wasp trap is realizing that what I really want to do is be that writer. Maybe a writer who also does Project Management, or a writer who also works as an IT manager, but a writer.

Have you ever been stuck in a wasp trap? How did you escape?

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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One Comment
  1. Jeremy Farnsworth permalink

    Enjoyed your post. Maybe that’s why my head hurts!

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