A Little Wisdom from Alan

On work, play, fulfillment, and selling out.

I find it hard to fathom that our parents and grandparents saw work as a duty. You punched a clock whether you like it or not, and in return you were granted pocket change and a small measure of job security. In contrast, I come from a new generation, one of the first to claim that work and play can be the same, and one that recognizes that lifelong employment is a rare exception.

Work is so much more than punching a clock. It’s a calling to do things I love and that make my own little corner of the world a better place. What am I made for? In the words of McNair Wilson, “What can I do better than anyone else I know?” When you’ve found a job that matches what you do best, you’re excited to be there. Most days, anyway. (The fit of a job can change over time, but that’s tangential to the topic at hand.)

Selling out is what happens when there’s a disconnect between what you believe and what you do, and that disconnect has been precipitated by a desire for financial security. You chase jobs for the salary offer, and not because they’re that perfect union of work and the core of your being. With the salary comes bling-bling, but I’d take job satisfaction any day.

Even worse than selling out is settling. With selling out you can make the arguement that you’re just doing it until you hit $yourFinancialGoal. Then you’ll drop out to live on a sailboat or something. Settling is different. Settling is when you stay in a mediocre situation because it’s familiar and reliable. Settling is “safe.” A place that starts off as a calling can turn into settling over time as your skills grow and the stetching and challenges decrease.

I think that the “work as play”/”work as calling” thing is, or at least seems, out of reach to most people in whatever generation. (I’d argue that the Boomers were probably the first to really want or expect that, but most of them got over it.)

It kinda hurt to read this post because despite a really good job situation right now, which has just substantially improved, I am totally not in that spot where I’m truly where I want to be, doing something that is totally awesome to me. I don’t know exactly what that spot would be. I am closer to it, I think, than I have been in a while but I’m not there.

Actually one of the people whose job/life situation I most envy doesn’t have a Super Creative Dream Job, he has a job that is sorta low on the totem pole, but secure, well within his abilities, he’s valued there, it’s a good environment, good people to work with, strictly 8 to 5, and then he can come home and have fun with his life. I’ve almost never heard him complain about that job. It does what it’s supposed to — makes him rent food and fun money and doesn’t aggravate him — and that’s enough. That ain’t a bad way to live. I’ve got a lot more people depending on me than he does so I can’t quite swing that but man, it seems like a good way to go to me.

I have this feeling that if I keep my eyes and ears and mind open I will be able to find something I truly groove on. I want to do this because I want to set an example for my kids of doing something you love and really care about.

Maybe it will be in computers, maybe it won’t be. Maybe it’ll be in illustration or maybe something I haven’t even figured out yet. But I’m keeping my eye on maximizing the grooviness of my work life. For my kids’ sake, I’m not gonna settle for something that just pays the bills for the kids’ sake. Not in the long term.

1 thought on “A Little Wisdom from Alan”

  1. Ugh, I feel like such a sell-out. But, as I’m on my lunch break from uh…selling out, I won’t go into a whole lot of detail. I will say, kudos to you–for the kids’ sake. I hope I don’t settle in the long term either, and that this is just another short break before I get back to “work.” Let’s wish each other luck.

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