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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Buddy the Elf vs. The Manager?

In a 2015 Atlantic interview ("'Do What You Love' Is Pernicious Advice") about work and wellness, Atlantic editor Bourree Lam and Miya Tokumitsu, author of the book Do What You Love And Other Lies About Success and Happiness, talk about why we work, and what passion has to do with it. 
Lam: Why do you think people need an excuse to work? Why can’t we just go to work to make money?
Tokumitsu: I have wondered that. And one of the things I want to do is celebrate the job that just pays the rent. I feel like that is so maligned in our present culture.
In a 2016 Fast Company essay (reposted on Medium as "Why Quitting Your Job to Chase Your Dream is a Terrible Idea"), Jeff Goins, author of The Art of Work, advises against leaping for love of work.
"I took the leap." This is the phrase we love to repeat when talking about big success. It's a table of of risk and reward, one we hear constantly from the mouths of wealthy entrepreneurs, big-name movie stars, and successful artists. But it's a lie."

I recently left a job I held for 15 years, often doing what I loved (with excellence, progress, and success) alongside what I didn't like so much. It was one of those mythical "more than a job" jobs. A genuine, murky, motivating vocation tapestry, interweaving business with unmeasurable relationship. (We market Education as such.) Trickling through the journey from entry level to middle management was an undercurrent of Something Else: I wished I had more time and energy to practice what I taught and go along where I lead.

(It happens, not entirely coincidentally, that a few of my friends-who-happened-to-be-colleagues and couple of good friends-outside-of-work are in new chapters of New Job/Life now, too. For each, it's also been the trek of career and work/life shift: new professional occupations demand new education, new kidcare, new geography, new thinking about vocation and paying the rent. If Freelance Empathizers garnered paychecks...)

"Work" is almost always the fulcrum in the balancing act of the circus of life. 

 We know that the platitude "if you love what you're doing, it's not work!" is balderdash, not least because we skim all those "____ is not a talent, it's a skill" and "You have to put in the work to achieve the ___" headlines. But such "work" means effort, not necessarily employment. 

A few months now into my chosen work/life shift, I have no platitudes, and for sure no 17 Steps to Make Work Your New Favorite and Make Your New Favorite Work. I know it's not as simple as Goins' word to go slowly and build a bridge (don't take a leap) to Your Dream Work, nor as Tokumitsu's exercise:
I’ve tried this little experiment when I meet people in non-work situations and try to see how long I can talk to them without asking about their work or have them ask me about my work. It's actually really hard to last longer than four minutes.
(Although, and how!, that one resonates right now.)

I can say that while I work on what I want to do alongside what I don't want so much to do, I also want to do and be well and I know at least one thing: I work most days to build a bridge from my leap to my work and a part of my job right now (which doesn't pay the rent) is to think about what profession means as both avowal and avocation.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll share some of what I'm learning (Learning's my favorite! I just like learning!) about what works in my job of working toward new work.

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