Meaningful work

Have you heard the expression:  “Do what you love and the money will follow”?  Sounds inviting.  But this particular folk wisdom calls for some serious rethinking. Perhaps what you love is so specialized or so ahead of its time, that no one knows what it is, let alone why they should pay you for it.  Many such passionate obsessions, worthy enough in themselves, have led to poverty not prosperity, leaving empty pockets and disappointed dreams.  How then can you get the “money to follow” without forgetting what you love?

Perhaps we could orient ourselves better in the “world of work” if the signposts were put in proper relation to each other.  Among these signposts are concepts such as: labor, employment, training, occupation, career, entrepreneur, education, profession and work.

  • Labour refers to effort in all kinds of activity from personal to professional.
  • Employment is about finding someone to pay you for your labour.
  • Training applies practice to acquiring skills inside or outside of employment.
  • Occupation defines what occupies your time  in paid or volunteer labour.
  • Careers combine training, occupation, employment, and a positive reputation.
  • As an “entre-preneur” you fill the gap and “carry between” supply and demand
  • Education expands your mind, world and life whether related to work or not.
  • Professionals “profess” values of quality and responsibility for their services.

So where does that leave “work”?  Is the right question the one about “work life” as in how to find a work/ life balance?  This sounds more like an occupation/ personal life balance.  Whereas “work” on its own evokes the idea of creativity as in “a work of art”.  If work is actually creative, then the right question is not about your “work life” but rather about your “life’s work” as in “What will be my life’s work?”  This is where your deepest curiosity, commitment and dedication come in.  Your true work occurs when you invest yourself in advancing the state of something from the way it is when you find it, to the way you think is better. Your life’s work is so important to you that you will gladly give yourself to it day after day, for days at a time, and maybe even all the days of your life.

So to love what you love, and still get the money to follow you, will require that you develop a double vision to engage BOTH the world as you find it and the world as you want it to be.   For the world as you find it, choose a career field that enables you to keep adapting to the changing needs of your society and economy.  For the world as you want it to be, hold to your work in the cause that attracts your heart.  Study it, practice it, promote it, find allies who care about it as you do, and balance your employment with the creative life’s work that you totally love.

As Picasso is reported to have said:  “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it.”

    • Elaine Kathryn
      Elaine Kathryn says:

      Thanks Cam. On one hand, I’ve offered a very elementary way of defining these concepts. On the other hand, they tend to get conflated in people’s minds, especially in North America, where you are urged to find fame, fortune, and satisfaction all in the same place.


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