American mythologist and scholar Joseph Campbell said, "I think the person who takes a job in order to live -- that is to say, for the money -- has turned himself into a slave." I always like the message of a quote like this, probably because I am not one of these slaves -- I've always "followed my bliss," as Campbell liked to say. But the reason why I like this quote is because I need it. At a time right now, when I'm building a new business and filled with all kinds of uncertainty, a quote like this can cheer me on.
But I also feel for another reality of those of us who have taken jobs more for the money than for deep meaning or fulfillment. Some of us have needed it, some of us have started on that path and are now stuck there, not sure how to get out of it, and let's face it -- we live in an increasingly expensive and materialistic world. It's tough to "follow your bliss." As someone who has chosen to -- actually, it's more that I'm wired to -- do work I really like and care about, I feel for both stuggles.
The struggles to do work you don't like in order to provide for a family; and the struggles to do the work you love while dealing with uncertainty, isolation, doubt and fear. And then there are the places in between these two extremes.
I've worked for companies and on my own over the years and I've liked both experiences for different reasons. I like the community and collaboration of a company job; I like the regular pay check, the insurance and generally the sense of being taken cared of.
But it doesn't take long for me to start feeling bored and restless in the routine, with the politics and the same-ol, same-ol.
I got my first clue when I was 23, working at my first job in NYC, an advertising job, when after a very unsatisfying first year of working in circles I started asking my team members, "Why do you do this? Do you like this work?" My answers were all along the lines of, "What else is there to do?" I found those answers totally unacceptable.
Have I had a better life leaving this so-called "prison" and doing work I like, that has meaning and diversity and creativity? Who knows, but I don't think I am better off or a better person or enjoying my life any more.
I've struggled and been broke, unemployed, lonely and despairing while others have marched to their daily jobs, building their 401ks and getting on in life. However --
It's the right life, with the right successes and challenges for me. And I don't have a big history of jobs I hated or jobs I've been bored at and the changes along the way have also fit my temperament and personality.
I believe we have the life that works best for us, at least when we're making intentional decisions.
At some point in life we get an opportunity to take all those breadcrumbs and patterns and sign posts and start to consider a new way of working, living -- and committing to that. It might be a tiny shift, like working 40 hours a week instead of 60. It might be quitting your job to do that thing you've always wanted to do (which recessions can be good for; many people who lose their jobs are often freed up to follow a new path).
Either way, creating a good working life can be a struggle -- but a beautiful one, filled with surprising encounters, self-discovery, connections and euphoric buzzes of purpose and meaning that go beyond one's wildest expectations. Even a sense of peace.
A friend recently responded to my biz building efforts with, "That sounds hard." Yes, sorta. But what's harder for me is going to a job day in day out that I don't like.
I care about having a fulfilling working live, and I care about other peoples' working lives. I've been at enough companies where I've witnessed people just not having a great time at work. Some of it is their own choice (we all know those chronic bitchers). But still, what a sad situation, that so many of us go off to our jobs with rounded shoulders and tired souls.
This is one reason why I want to coach professionals. I want to do what I can to help people have more fun at work, feel more fulfilled, use their innate imagination and creativity to manifest a better work-life experience.
Because when you're happier and I'm happier and he's happier and she's happier ... it affects all of us. What a beautiful world it would be if more people even liked their work more than they already do.
So, whether you're a job slave or bliss follower, or somewhere in between, what do you think of Campbell's quote?
What are you doing right now to have a life-work experience that brings you some kind of joy, fulfillment and sense of purpose?
Here's to all of you hard workers!