Very few words make me laugh as much as “permanent.”

There’s no such thing! The best you can do is “indefinite,” meaning “this will absolutely end, but I have no idea when.” I like that word better because it’s honest. If someone offers you a “permanent solution” to your problem, or a “permanent role with our company,” or some such – you’re thrilled! Woo hoo, my days of ever having to worry about this thing are over!


Imagine instead, someone was honest about offering you an “indefinite role with our company.” That sounds… bad. It sounds like they’re saying that the job could end literally at any moment, and you’d be back to searching for your next opportunity.

Yes. Yes, that is exactly what they’re saying. They’re just, intentionally or not, lying through their teeth about it by saying “permanent.”

Personally, I’d rather know when something is going to end. In fact, I plan for it even if the other party doesn’t. I feel more secure in a two-year contract than in a “permanent” role because at least I have a pretty reasonable assumption that some thought went into the “two-year” part. If you’re in a permanent role, imagine cornering your boss and saying: “Are you 100% certain that I’ll still be working here in 50 years?”

In between sweating bullets, they’ll probably hedge a little – but the hedging will be honest. They’ll say things like “it depends on your performance, how the business is doing, on industry trends as a whole, on your continued desire to even work here, and a thousand other factors we can’t predict. But as long as those conditions continue to be favorable, then yes, you’ll still work here.”

But that was always true. That’s true for everything, all the time! If you own your house, it’s your permanent home… as long as you decide you still want to live there, and it doesn’t burn down, and you don’t lose your job and stop being able to afford the mortgage, taxes, etc. It’s permanent, until it isn’t.

So be honest with yourself, even if no one else is. Say: “This thing is indefinite. Here’s what could cause it to end. Here’s how long I’ll plan to stay, and then I’ll check in again. I will never let myself assume that it’s safe. That doesn’t mean I have to panic and worry all the time, but it means I will always be honest with myself about what it takes to maintain it, and want to maintain it, and what the alternatives might be.”

Nothing causes as much pain, strife, stress, and damage as when a “permanent” thing goes away. Don’t let the world trick you, and don’t trade away things you care deeply about for “permanence.”

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