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Home > Blog > Working for a Life
Out of Our Minds
Sunday, April 11, 2004 10:14 PM
Working for a Life
Kevin Salwen on Passionate Work

Halley's post below jokes about something that we do a boatload of thinking about here at Worthwhile -- the divide between one's worklife and one's lifelife. And I was going to simply file a comment on her item, but thought this might make for a great chance to explain a bit of what Worthwhile stands for. So here goes:

First of all, people can no longer (if they ever could) separate out their work and their 'life.' Work is such a central part of who we are -- and consumes so much of our energy, spirit, time -- that it IS our life. But so are entertainment and family and sleep and anything else we can factor in. Simply put, it's all just our life, and things ebb and flow with importance through the course of the day.


It's the reason we're doing eBay at 2 p.m. on the office computer and answering emails at 9:30 on a Sunday night. It's our life. And it's OK, really, that it all gets thrown into the big blender and mixed together. We talk about movies at work and we talk about the frustrating sales call over dinner with friends.\n\nAnd when you see it through that prism, you start to realize why loving what you do for work is so critical. It's more than just something you do for 40 or 50 or 60 hours a week -- it's half of your waking hours. Half of the time you're connecting with others. More importantly, it's a major part of who you are. How many times have you heard the question, 'What do you do?,' and immediately answered 'I'm in marketing,' as opposed to 'I go to movies?' That's because work defines us, makes others think about us in certain ways.\n\nSo, find something you love to do -- and figure out a way to do it. Maybe it's in your company, maybe it's not. But start defining your own self by what you love. You'll end up loving yourself -- and your life -- a lot more.\n


10 comments

Human Growth Hormone - 2/24/2005 1:40:30 PM
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Curt Rosengren - 4/12/2004 3:17:53 PM
VAL: Excellent point!

I've occasionally pondered exactly that in my own work. Looking at all the people who are really struggling, my own focus on helping people find passion-filled careers sometimes seems a little frivolous and self-indulgent. I find myself asking if it really is making an important difference.

The answer I inevitably come up with is, 'Yes!' And I think the reasons I come up with that answer are similar to the reasons that Worthwhile is so...well, worthwhile, even if it isn't focused directly on those who are struggling to make it work.

1. The Ripple Effect: I really believe that this has the potential to impact far more than just the 'privileged few.' The more people whose careers are truly in synch with who they are, the more alive they feel in their work, and the more of a positive impact it will have on the people around them.

Those ripples could be the result of how both their professional and personal relationships unfold, the way they interact with the people they meet, even in the philosophies underlying any businesses they might start.

The kinds of things Worthwhile is talking about will inevitably touch many people in a positive way, not just the privileged few.

2. Planting Seeds: Nobody's career is static. It is a moving, fluid thing. Just because someone is struggling to make it work today, doesn't mean they will be next year. I see the value in Worthwhile's message not just in shining a light on what can be done today, but also in planting the seeds for a vision on how tomorrow could be.

It's really easy for people to get so up to their eyeballs in the muck and the mire that they lose sight of the possibilities. Sometimes the first step in creating change is to be aware that the change is even a possibility (see my response to Avi above for more thoughts on making that change).

3. Creating a Rising Tide: It's not just passion on the individual level that is coming into play here. It's also furthering the notion that businesses can create a culture of both profit and passion (and that it makes good bottom line sense to do so!). As more businesses move in that direction and see the positive results, there will be a rising tide that will lift more and more boats.

Simply put, the more companies bring passion into the picture, the more people are going to be able to discover it, regardless of whether they feel like they have the luxury of pursuing it as their primary focus.

It gets back to the ripple effect.

I'm sure I have more thoughts on this, but I really need to go pretend I'm productive for a while. ;)

Thanks for bringing it up!
Curt Rosengren - 4/12/2004 1:48:56 PM
AVI: Sometimes it's not so much having the courage to make a change as it is having the patience.

One of the things I'm constantly reminding people is that change doesn't have to happen overnight. I think that culturally we tend to have a very black and white view of things. Career change is no exception. We tend to think of it in immediate, big plunge terms. Friday night I'm this, Monday morning I'm that.

Unfortunately, for the majority of people I've talked to out there, that idea is paralyzing. They want to make the change, but it's just too scary, or it just plain isn't feasible.

What they don't realize is that the change could actually unfold over time. People tend to look at their careers, decide (for whatever reason) that they can't do it now, and that view becomes, 'I can't do it ever.' The reality is, they could, if they took a longer term view of it.

Let's say they identify New Career X, but they're just not ready to take the leap and make the change (say, their kids will be going to college soon, or maybe the idea of changing careers in a snap seems like jumping off a cliff).

With our cultural focus on, 'I want it now,' it doesn't occur to them that the career change could take place over several years. They could keep their job and make strides toward their new career on the side. Networking, learning, gaining experience, etc., etc. Then when the time comes, the change is more do-able.

Not to mention the fact that action begets action. Taking those steps on the side will put things in motion that could lead to opportunities that would never even have occurred to them.
val - 4/12/2004 1:12:34 PM
I love the passion and forward sightedness of this posting but get uncomfortable thinking that perhaps all this is an upper class existential crisis. I think about families I know and work with and many i read about who work two or more jobs just to make ends meet and I wonder how all this fits with their lifestyles? Many, especially in today's economy, are happy to have work, to be able to earn what they need to and do not have the luxury of contemplating that which is more fulfilling. This does not demean your focus or comments (I am one of your biggest fans after all) but I felt it important to add this perspective. Please keep writing and working to better the work-life lives of those who have this luxury. Let's just not forget to mention and work for the others among us.
Now get back to work ;-)
Halley - 4/12/2004 1:06:16 PM
Dave J = I think you hit on something important. A big transition from a 'regular job' and working more as a freelancer is getting a new community of people in your life to bitch and moan to, right? Just kidding about the bitch and moan part, but really, work does provide community and we all need it.
Halley - 4/12/2004 12:52:35 PM
Dave J = I think you hit on something important. A big transition from a 'regular job' and working more as a freelancer is getting a new community of people in your life to bitch and moan to, right? Just kidding about the bitch and moan part, but really, work does provide community and we all need it.
Dave J. - 4/12/2004 12:48:11 PM
Perhaps our dependance on work is a symptom of the reduction of true 'community' in our lives.

Watching Andy Griffith shows makes me see the hole in our lifestyles. Can you see what I mean?
David Weinberger - 4/12/2004 11:34:04 AM
I wasn't working over the weekend! I was writing!
Avi Solomon - 4/12/2004 6:33:56 AM
Yes it's true, but how many of us have the COURAGE to:
-take the time off to figure out what we really love doing
-once we do know the answer, actually make the transition to more fulfilling work, no matter how 'different' or 'uneconomic'?
By staying at work that one does not like, one IS paying a price-in health,relationships,inability to look oneself in the eye!
Halley - 4/11/2004 10:40:13 PM
Kevin = You're WORKING too on Sunday!?! Just kidding -- what you say here is right on.

Catch you tomorrow.

Best -- H

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