Loving the Work You Hate
Do you love your work?
Loving your job is not always an option, particularly if the work you do isn’t what you imagined it would be or like. Finding ways to build meaning into your work can be challenging when you are engaged in “work” that you don’t particularly enjoy.
Entrepreneur gurus like Seth Godin, Michael Hyatt, Steven Pressfield encourage you to “follow your dreams” and “do your work.” They fill hundreds of pages of books encouraging you to work, be creative, do your art, write, create, or grow your business. And you should listen to what they have to say. Because most of what they say is fundamentally true.
They have tapped into something that is fundamentally basic to all of humanity. We were made to work, to be creative. But sometimes that’s hard to do and even imagine when the job you are in seems like a dead-end, no creative output nightmare.
Godin argues in several of his books that the problem can be traced to the dehumanizing effect factories have had on the human spirit. In some ways, I think he is correct. Factories or repetitive work devoid of creative and personal interest can be sources of great frustration. I know. I’ve had plenty of those jobs.
However, part of our problem I think, rests in our culture’s preoccupation with life on “easy street.” Let’s face it. Americans are infatuated with “making it big” and living the easy life. In fact, we have become so preoccupied with achieving success and accumulating stuff, that we in fact, have worked ourselves to death.
Then we look at people who appeared to have “made it” and we compare our present circumstances with theirs. We often, however, overlook the sacrifices and challenges people have endured in order to arrive where they are.
Your Work Matters to Someone
But what if we took our work and looked at it through a different lens. What if “your work” had a far deeper impact than you think?
Right now I’m in the middle of renovating a house. My plan was to do some major renovations and then move into it. But my plans were derailed when the drywall mud didn’t dry quick enough, throwing my entire schedule off. In order to get it back on schedule, I had to hire an additional drywall crew to help.
As I watched those men quickly spring into action, I realized just how much I take dry wall for granted. When the dry wall wasn’t finished, I was incredibly frustrated because I could not more forward with the project. At that moment, those dry wall workers were the most important guys to me. Their work mattered. It mattered in a very big way.
The same can be true for your work. Whether you answer customer service complaints, file paperwork all day, or do some other kind of “meaningless activity,” your work matters to someone (or you wouldn’t be compensated). Just because you don’t find immediate self-expression in your work, doesn’t mean your work doesn’t matter.
Here’s a tip. If you want to see if you work doesn’t matter, try showing up late, doing sloppy work, and leaving early. Pretty soon you will find out just how important that meaningless labor really means to someone.
Realize your work matters when it creates value for someone else. Every file you file, every person you serve, or every complaint you encounter is an opportunity to serve, to create value that serves someone else.