Use the Self-Guided Work Ethic to Find a Meaningful Job in the Modern World
Imagine a world where work inspires us.
Imagine a future where you define your work ethic, your goals, your motivations. Imagine waking up in the morning ready to take on the world because you believe in what you’re doing.
Now stop imagining. The revolution of the self-guided work ethic is here.
Transformation of a Work Ethic
When your grandfather was in his prime, chances are he found meaning in his own frugality, dependability, and trustworthiness. The religious and social rationalizations of the Protestant work ethic have since eroded; in the modern world, people look for meaning in the accumulation of wealth.
The world is moving toward an egocentric form of expression (just look at blogs and forums), so it stands to reason that the work ethic of the new age will likewise be an extension of self.
I envision a networked global society with billions of human nodes, each broadcasting the best they have to offer into the collective market. I envision a system of trade bypassing big corporations, investing power in individuals.
The restless heart of today’s corporate drone is the catalyst of tomorrow’s self actualized economy.
Work and the Common Good
Work is a balancing act between the needs of society and the needs of workers. Society needs trash collectors, computer programmers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, tollbooth operators, nannies, and an endless array of other workers. But you, as an individual, may be suited for a small number of these jobs and find even fewer fulfilling. This conflict – between society and self – is at the heart of our struggle for meaningful work.
Focusing exclusively on the needs of the common good casts work as sacrifice, self as martyr. As human beings in a democracy, we do not stop with the question of whether our work is needed, but also ask ourselves whether our work is truly the best we have to offer.
We do our best work when we love our jobs. Since work is our primary means of contribution to society, one could argue we are obligated to maximize its impact by doing something we love.
And really, why should big corporations get to decide what society needs? Can’t you think of anything to offer on your own?
There are two kinds of fit between you and your job. The first is a fit
of skills – those required and those possessed. Mastering a trade requires this type of fit.
The second type of fit is one of identity. Until you reconcile the work you do with the person you are, professional satisfaction may remain fleeting. What is your personal message? What reality do you want to share with the world? These questions are relevant to any work ethic focused on the needs of self.
Yes, we must work to live. But the standard of our lives is negotiable, and we are free to choose our careers. If a part of you is crying out for meaningful work, look inward. Your answers are inside you.
To the Pessimists
Some people insist that work is unpleasant by nature; otherwise, it wouldn’t be called work. They scoff at the notion that work can be an expression of identity. Work, they insist, is as necessary as breathing and therefore beyond manipulation.
They dismiss discussions about the meaning of work as wastes of time in light of the pressing reality that tomorrow is another working day. Meaning must come from outside work. Work must be kept in its place.
But I say work cannot be kept in its place, since work is the predominant way of life.
And no matter what anyone says, work is not like gravity, an immutable law of the universe with its own set of non-negotiable rules. Despite the inescapable reality of work, you do have a choice about the type of work you do.
May 21, 2007 Monday at 11:37 pm