What is the meaning of work?
Will your resume be read at your funeral?
In the closing line of “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work”, author Alain De Botton describes the effect of work on the entirety of our lives:
“Our work will at least have distracted us, it will have provided a perfect bubble in which to invest our hopes for perfection, it will have focused our immeasurable anxieties on a few relatively small-scale and achievable goals […]. It will have kept us out of greater trouble.”
The Meaning of Work
In a simplistic sense, work is meant to put food on the table, pay rent, pay bills, and make a living. In a more modern sense, work provides a sense of fulfillment. An activity you have the ability to provide a positive impact on the lives of others.
I attended a particularly memorable funeral in High School. Someone I admired passed, and it was impressive the individuals that came to pay their respects.
This was not just people who were friends and family, but people who had been affected by the work of this individual. Although the individual’s resume was not read, the effect of the resume was clear. The individual’s work had touched many lives, and this is our desired result.
Your work and your resume are only a platform to provide an impact on the lives of others. Whether you make quota this quarter or not is irrelevant. What is relevant, is the client in which you grew their business, or made their business better.
That same client who you’ve had dinner with their family, and built a meaningful relationship over time. You have become their trusted business partner.
This is the client who will be at your funeral. They won’t care that you made quota 3 years in a row. They remember the positive impact you had on their business.
The Meaning of Work as Seen in Different Professions
Alain De Botton shows many professions, from artists to entrepreneurs and how they work. De Botton allows you to see how an artist spends a year focusing on painting a tree. Determining what angle and shading are best to portray the effect of light.
This attention to detail and level of mastery will effect whoever purchases this painting. The recipient of this painting will not remember the insane hours dedicated to the capturing of this tree. What this artist has done, through the painstaking mastery of their craft, is provide someone with a piece of meaningful art.
This level of impact is what matters at a funeral, not the hours spent and the sale price.
I don’t know if work is to pass time or keep us out of trouble. I like to think there is more to the meaning of work.
This definition seems to be a way to avoid boredom, which there are less stressful ways to fill this void. What I do think, is that it’s an opportunity to provide value to those you come in contact with.
It does seem that life and work are intertwined. In a synopsis on life, in a Native American’s last words, Crowfoot states:
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It’s the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
What flash of light will you be providing others?
Good luck and good selling!
I highly recommend “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” by Alain De Botton for a thought provoking read on the meaning of work.