Monday, September 05, 2016

Labor Day Wishes: May you enjoy what you do ...

My lines on this topic are variations of "my work is my hobby, and my hobby is my work" or "I would do exactly this even if they didn't pay me."  I know I am one lucky guy, at least when it comes to this aspect of life, which, is perhaps, an important facet of our lives.

We have had to figure out what exactly we want to do with our lives, ever since humans got away from their hunting/gathering existence and invented agriculture, which Jared Diamond thinks is an awful idea that led to all the problems humans and, thereby, all the rest of the species face.  Seeking an answer to this fundamental, existential question more often than not begins with trying to figure out what we would like to do, the proceeds from which we can then barter for anything else we would like to own or do, or even to find a mate.

The "work" we do kind of serves as an identity mark, as much as the moles on my lower forearms are.  (Oddly, I have nearly identical placements of a mole each in my right and left arms!)  To most people, unfortunately, this critically important part of their identity is also one of the most unpleasant parts of their lives and, thus, day dreaming about winning the lottery so that they can shove that job aside is, I suppose, an universal story. 

I did live that unpleasant life, more than once.

Even before getting into the engineering program, I worried that I wouldn't enjoy it.  Four years in the program certainly confirmed that.

Working in India upon graduation erased even the tiniest doubts I might have had.  I hated waking up in the morning and heading to work.  I barely survived ten weeks in my first job, and then it was a quite a few months before I took up my second one, in which I didn't even last a month.  After a couple more months of "unproductive" existence, which perhaps triggered quite a few heartburn episodes in my parents' lives, I took up another job in which I served the longest--six months!

And then it was off to the US for graduate schooling.

The "work" after graduate school was not one that I had planned on, and I certainly felt ill at ease there, while it certainly paid immensely more than what I currently earn.  But, I was no longer in my early twenties, and being older meant that I had to be more "responsbile."  So, I faked my way through those nearly six years.

Lucky breaks I got.

I do not even pretend to my students, however, that they can always get to do whatever they want to do.  To those who engage me on this topic, I remind them that very, very rarely in life are we able to do whatever we truly enjoy doing, and that they ought to be mentally prepared to simply suck it up and get going.

But, the key is to always keep that dream and passion alive within.

After all, if those humans way back then hadn't dreamt of a life and a world outside the African Savannah, I wouldn't even be blogging this, and you wouldn't be here either reading this post.

So, to those of you enjoying your work, consider yourselves extremely lucky. To those who don't care for whatever you do that gets you your daily bread, hang in there and keep smiling:

A job will never satisfy you all by itself, but it will afford you security and the chance to pursue an exciting and fulfilling life outside of your work. A calling is an activity you find so compelling that you wind up organizing your entire self around it -- often to the detriment of your life outside of it.     There’s no shame in either. Each has costs and benefits. There is no reason to make a fetish of your career. There are activities other than work in which to find meaning and pleasure and even a sense of self-importance -- you just need to learn how to look.     ...
So which is it: job or calling? You can answer the question directly, or allow time to answer it for you. Either way, I think you’d be happier if you stopped thinking of what the world had to offer you, and started thinking a bit more about what you had to offer the world. Real excitement isn’t just in whatever you happen to be doing, but in what you bring to it.


Ramesh said...

From where are the last two paragraphs taken from ? I resonate with it completely and would like to read the rest of the piece. I have argued before that the dream job that is also a passion is an unrealistic mirage and that we could be better off taking fulfillment and joy in how we do any job. All jobs have a huge amount of grunt work that we dislike. Despite your loud proclamations that you would do your job for free, I can't imagine you loving to read and grade term papers.

I am fascinated to see you being a fan of John Oliver - the quintessential Brit, who has unfortunately fouled his language pandering to your audience. Methinks the good Prof is a closet admirer of Her Majesty :)

Sriram Khé said...

It is from an old column by Michael Lewis. Yes, your finance man. That same guy.
It was a piece for Bloomberg, but that site doesn't have it anymore. However, thanks to the web freely copying/pasting all over (hehehe) here it is at another site:

There is a difference between my grudges over reading and grading papers versus the complaints most have in their jobs. When most think about their work, they cannot wait for the weekend, they cannot wait for their vacation days, they might even call in sick with a fake cough, and they dream of the day when they tell their boss "shove this up your ... because I am outta here."
I look forward to my work, which has continued all through this off-contract summer too. The papers are awful sometimes because those students do not really want to be in college--the system forces them to. These students are like those going to work that they hate!

The professor is a fan of John Oliver, and couldn't care about her royal lowness who lives off taxpayer money and whose only job is to make sure there is royal fornication to continue to suck taxpayers dry!

Anne in Salem said...

Given my brief stint at a life-sucking job two years ago, I appreciate my job so much more. My kids didn't understand why I dreaded going to work. My role sounded ideal to them - get paid to do some work, check email, IM my daughter, and contribute absolutely nothing. It was remarkably draining. Even with the difficult summer of this year, I'd rather be here than there doing nothing. I am very blessed that I found this job five years ago and that my boss wanted me back two years ago. One of the lucky few, for sure. But I wouldn't do this job for free, and certainly not after this summer.

Sriram Khé said...

One "life-sucking job" is all it takes, right, for us to appreciate and enjoy a job that we love doing?
Good for you that you are not there anymore, but are at a place that energizes you--even though it takes up a lot of your time.

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