Today, over on Facebook, we’re talking about Aaron Hurst’s piece in The New York Times called, ‘Being Good Isn’t the Only Way to Go.’ Work Stew reader Matthew Taylor is not a fan of the piece. In the comments section, he wrote, “You can’t just re-imagine that your job has purpose. That is being out of touch with reality. Sure, we could wander around with a fantasy of purpose in our heads, but if it is not real, then we’re just deluding ourselves.”
I disagree. Here’s my response to Matthew: “Hi Matthew Taylor, thanks for weighing in. I agree with you that not all of his (Hurst’s) specific suggestions are strong but his main premise—that meaning *can* be found in the for-profit world and that non-profit jobs do not *always* provide for fulfilling work—is one that I have really come to believe.
For me, the meaning in any role I perform is a function of three things: what I call (talking to myself usually, but I’m happy to talk to you, too): ‘Connection, Flow, and Wonder.’
Connection has do to with the interactions I have with other people: am I being myself and is my effect on other people (at least largely) positive?
Flow has to do with the tasks themselves: do I enjoy at least some of them to the point of being really absorbed by my work?
Wonder is perhaps the most complicated of my requirements to explain, but it has to do with preserving a sense of wonder about life and about the world. In jobs that have beaten me down for whatever reason, my sense of Wonder is shot, and I realize I have to leave. In jobs that I’ve enjoyed, my sense of Wonder stays intact, and—in the best jobs I’ve ever had—I’ve felt like I’m working side by side with people who “get” the whole Wonder thing, who understand that we work for many reasons: to make a living, for the intrinsic value of labor, and also, ideally, to support a life of Wonder—in my case, a chance to raise children, to see a bit of the world, to try new things.
What I’m *not* saying is that these elements are easy to find in the workplace. In fact, I think workplaces that support all three are incredibly rare. What I *do* feel is that these elements can be found in the for-profit world as much as in the not-for-profit world…so that’s the part of this article that really resonated with me.”
What about you? Where do you come out on Hurst’s piece? Please chime in. I’d love to have your voice in the mix.
Stewing on Stage: A Brief Story Slam Round-Up
I love swapping stories here at Work Stew. I think of it as a virtual water cooler where someone is always around with a tale to tell.
But there’s also something to be said for telling a story live—on stage, with no notes, to a crowd of people whose faces you can see.
I’ve done that three times now, at the Bainbridge Island Story Slam, and it’s really, really fun. If your community is currently slam-free, perhaps you should get one going? Feel free to reach out via Facebook or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll explain the logistics, which are gloriously simple.
In the meantime, for a taste of the tales you might hear at such an event, here’s my latest from last month. The theme was ‘Dating: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’—but, as you’ll see, my story has a small connection to work as well.
My other slam tales, which focused more centrally on work, were about the summer job I had at Yellowstone National Park and my most memorable night shift.
The Stew in the News
“Random Acts of Business,” the essay I wrote to launch Work Stew back in 2011, was recently re-published in The Huffington Post. It’s located in a section called ‘The Third Metric,’ which focuses on “redefining success beyond money and power.”
Also, Ashley Gross of KPLU (Seattle’s NPR station) talked to me about why I started the site, why I keep at it, and what I’ve learned.
Many Work Stew contributors came along for the ride: photographer Meg Heimovics Kumin and flight attendant-turned-gorilla caretaker John Safkow were featured in the radio version of the story (click the blue ‘listen’ button to hear it).
Devo founder Gerald Casale, python hunter Ruben Ramirez, high-rise window washer David Schmidt, lice remover Lisa Weisberg, former corporate lawyer Kevin McHargue, and carpenter Samantha Cole all made appearances in the accompanying print piece.
Work Stew went to the woods: I was honored to present at Islandwood’s tenth annual Circle of Friends event, where Cheryl Strayed, best-selling author of WILD and TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS, served as the keynote speaker.
My session, which wrapped up a weekend-long retreat, focused on writing as a tool for personal development. In my talk, I got to highlight the essays of several Work Stew contributors. Thank you, as always, for letting me share your stories.