Empower yourself and realise the importance of contributing to the world by living your talent. Work on what you love. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you. ~Catharina Bruns
For the last several months I have been anxiously involved in trying to redefine my life. My work. The farther I have traveled into this uncharted landscape, the more I have realized (much to my delight and frustration) that a job is not the same thing as work. I don’t want a job. I want to work.
A job must be done. It’s an urgent necessity—an unexpected problem or dilemma. Jobs can be a part of our work, but they aren’t the work itself. A job is a distraction. A distraction from our actual work.
Work is more than mere necessity. Work is a manifestation of our deepest desires and our most important ambitions. Work is what we do when we aren’t fettered by our jobs.
Nobody thinks about their “life’s job.” But we all wonder about our life’s work.
Take bike racing. How many of us ride our bikes every (or nearly) day? Most of us. And yet, very few of us actually ride our bikes for money. It isn’t our job. But it’s absolutely something we work at. Racing a bike is challenging. But it’s also very rewarding. As professional amateurs, we aren’t compensated for this work with a paycheck, or vacation days. But we spend a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to stay fit and competitive because bike racing is a part of our life’s work. It is a part of who we are. The compensation is fitness, camaraderie, and a very real sense of accomplishment. Racing a bike has never felt like a job; there is too much inherent joy involved for it to ever feel like that. But it is work, work that we find great pleasure in doing.
Why should our jobs be any different?
There are certain things that I want to do everyday. Worthwhile things. Creative things. Things that will make the world a little bit better place to live in, and that I find tremendous satisfaction in doing. But my job gets in the way. And both suffer for it. My heart and my energy are in different places. Neither gets the attention it deserves, and I am left feeling impatient and irritated. I’m told by a lot of people—people that care about me, and that want me to succeed—that I should “work on those things on the side.” It’s well-meaning advice. But it’s advice that is remarkably insulting.
“Do it on the side” sounds practical enough. Indeed, it is practical advice. But it’s also a sanitized way of saying “the thing you want to do most isn’t worth your time or energy.” And yet, it’s the one (or two) thing that animates our entire lives. It’s what we want to do every day. It’s the thing that we are most happy doing. When that thing consumes all of our hearts and minds, it’s impossible to put part-time energy into it. Whatever that thing is—opening a restaurant, writing a book, starting a law firm—it demands our entire attention. It is who we are.
And that’s one of the reasons that so many people put on different faces at the office. Nobody (OK, not nobody, but nearly) wants to be at the office day in and day out. Nobody wants to spend their entire life shuffling papers, attending meetings, and looking at sales charts. Not when those tasks are helping other people accomplish their life’s work. And so we spend the day pretending to be someone else while doing artificial work. We spend the day doing a job. Life as a domestique can be tolerable, but not forever. Eventually we all need to race for ourselves. We each need to find out what these legs can do.
And that’s where I’m at. I know what I want to do. I know what I need to do.
Figuring that out has been easy. I know when I’m happy. I know when I’m excited. And I know when I’m doing my best work.
The hard part is up next. The doing. Doing what I love, and what I’m best at, without starving myself (which would be fine) and my family (not fine).
The doing might mean leaving behind the stoic predictability of a job. But it will also mean that for the first time in a long time, I’ll be doing my life’s work.
To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it. ~Kurt Vonnegut