I am an entrepreneur fortunate to be in a line of work that I love and are passionate about. I do my work with purpose and meaning, or not at all. I am disciplined and can be ruthlessly focused.
However, I always keep one sentence in perspective – like a kill switch when it gets overly too intense. The sentence, “It’s a task, not the purpose.” Vision and purpose is one thing. The task of work just for the sake of working is another. While I love what I do and put my entire self into it, the accomplishment is neither my life nor supreme identity. While I cannot stay long around people who aren’t driven, I also do not thrive in an environment that obsessively exalts work over meaning. I have never met an old man that was fulfilled simply by work.
Naturally, in corporate life, I run into many people that work with barely a clear meaning for what they do. Some started out with meaning and then forgot all of it as activities intensified. Work became about gaining and keeping scores, overly personal, with an entire sense of identity and relevance tied to accomplishments. They’d die if they weren’t busy or have a list of tasks to check off. Busyness has become a sort of drug for short-lived happiness and ‘feeling’ of fulfilment, never mind if the fulfillment was actual. In addition, there are books and articles that encourage this shortsighted approach to work: the zippy behavior that indicates passion and success. As many now realize, this isn’t necessarily true.
Work is good, and being hardworking is great. I have written about the value of hard work here and here. Still, a life driven by work that has no clear meaning is a life led by discontent and insecurity – one that confuses progress with attainment. It is a life without a moment’s peace. Work is not productive for its own sake alone.