In Praise of Work

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D_R_lowfade
D_R_lowfade
1 year ago

very inspiring, Rusty.

Ampf
Ampf
1 year ago

“there is no substitute for spending time in what others consider to be an elite segment of your profession, preferably at an elite institution, and probably in a big city”

Oh, easy! They let anyone work there, right? Should I tell them in advance that I’m coming or should I just assume they are expecting me? : )

Melankomas
Melankomas
1 year ago

One of my greatest joys as a supervisor is connecting the employees and volunteers I supervise with the value and meaning of their work. Oftentimes they don’t have the perspective to see how the small actual work products they produce fit within the big picture. Often what seems of little significance is in fact very significant. One of the things I’ve noticed with millennials in particular is they want to jump straight to doing the big thing, often not recognizing the value and importance of the the little things.

Ashu Rao
Ashu Rao
1 year ago

A further point on the abstraction of work: The ability to tell if one has done “good work” based on an objective result. Like a carpenter seeing whether the door jamb is plumb or not. Or a surgeon seeing if his patient got better or not. These are objective measures of success.

The abstracted work of the knowledge economy is judged by the fickle opinion of others. The 360 job review. The page views. The retweets.
“Other people’s heads are too wretched a place for true happiness to have its seat.” ― Arthur Schopenhauer,

This phenomenon was well described in Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford.

I am not sure if it’s OK to post links, but this is the book:
https://www.amazon.com/Shop-Class-Soulcraft-Inquiry-Value/dp/0143117467

Victor K
Victor K
1 year ago
Reply to  Ashu Rao

Thumbs up! (Every minute is exactly the same percent of one’s life. Some minutes are more equal than others.)

Michael Madonna
Michael Madonna
1 year ago

Bravo! It seems that ‘workism’ is a narrative abstraction of one’s own work – where one’s task is not to accomplish some worthy goal, but to try to become their own mini-missionary in an attempt to weave and control their own office narrative, totally abstracted from the real work, to convince those above you to check the right boxes and move you up.

This piece immediately brought to mind Victor Frankl: “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task,”

“the self-tracendence of human experience denotes the fact that being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself – be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself,”

Michael
Michael
1 year ago

Absolutely. Everyone should read Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and of course this blog.

Suju Mahendrappa
1 year ago

Excellent post. Every white collar professional should probably read this, but especially those still at the early stages of careers. No pdf version of this available?

Hubert Horan
1 year ago

Why has workism spread so much in the last quarter century? One suggestion from my management consulting career, which started in 1976. Pay in these elite fields inflated much faster than any possible explanation based on demand or value added. Consulting had always paid better than other MBA based opportunities, but driven by Bain and BCG, they used higher and higher pay as a (very effective) marketing tool to convince outsiders that consultants were far more exceptional than anyone else. In the 70s and 80s consulting practices were narrowly industry focused and subject to the cyclical swings of those industries and the economy. But a high percentage of consulting projects addressed messy tangible problems faced by the EVP of Marketing and Operations, and consultants were much better at tackling many of the problems than company staff limited by day-to-day issues and internal politics. But the $300,000 project of 1985 was a $3,000,000 project in 1995. The only people willing to pay those fees were CEOs and major investors. Whose compensation had seen similarly outrageous inflation, but saw their higher pay as justified by the same self-serving narrative about extraordinary elite skills the consultants used to justify their pay. Hiring a major consultant was hiring someone from the same extraordinary club that you were a member of. In 1985 the consultants might have bridged modest cultural and communication gaps between the Board, senior executives and general staff. In 1995 those consultant fees could only be justified by defending the power of… Read more »

Mike S
Mike S
1 year ago

Instead of always trying to be right, we should understand the world as it is. We understand other people by projecting ourselves onto them. But we also understand ourselves by considering the way other people might see us. Those that lead us are blind, they are blind because they are true believers and they lack either the wit or compassion to imagine something different beyond more wealth extraction and violence of action of wasted opportunity.

“For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.” – Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

Ian VanReepinghen
Ian VanReepinghen
1 year ago

Thank you for this post! I’m reading this post at work, during lunch though, so it’s all good from an “optics” perspective! I’m in FP&A, and one of my business units is essentially a pet-project w/ big losses – from a nuts and bolts FP&A perspective, really bad for career; also it is radioactive, people leaving, poor revenue planning, no leadership, etc, etc, anyone who touches it, gets a rash. When I started, I spent a lot of time on it, was frustrating but I had the passion. Really screwed myself carrier wise though. Yet it’s promising and I would spend all my time on it if I could alas. I used to be in finance in another company where there was a lot of “process” and people complained about that. I didn’t know what the complaints were, at least with respect to the capital approval “process”, there was something tangible to learn and it was grounded in financial rigor; it was something that you could first get skilled at and then help refine, it was at least on the surface in service to making good decisions. It was clear on how to excel and do well. It was clearer what was politics and what wasn’t. You could plan your time accordingly too — we didn’t think that much about work-life balance, it was easy to adjust and understand and project how busy you’d be; it was a system and it worked well. There were politics like anywhere, decisions made… Read more »

Ian VanReepinghen
Ian VanReepinghen
1 year ago

Not sure if two comments from the same person is bad form, but following up here after taking this note to heart and implementing. This note really changed my mentality, I appreciate that very, very much. Got my ass in gear at work. Have been better able to manage my frustration. Really prioritizing developing my voice. Less rigidity. Thank you!

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