Browsed by
Tag: Adam Poswolsky

WORK AND MEANING

WORK AND MEANING

“Meaningful Work” is the new Grail, it seems.  Every time you turn around there’s somebody or other admonishing and exhorting you to get out there and “find” the work that gives meaning to your life.  It’s the key to happiness, joy and self-fulfillment, they say.

WHAT MAKES WORK MEANINGFUL?

Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky, in his book THE QUARTER-LIFE BREAKTHROUGH, has a clear and succinct description of the shape this “work with meaning” is supposed to take.  He says this sort of work has these four qualities:

  • It reflects who you are and what your interests are.
  • It allows you to show your gifts to help others.
  • It provides a community of believers that will support your dream.
  • It is financially viable, given your desired lifestyle.

This is the kind of work that has all the bennies and the good stuff that you like, so I suppose it does makes sense that if you actually had a job like that it’s likely you would be blissed.

Lifestyle and career coaches and fire-starters all seem to agree:  If nobody will hand over that Meaningful Work treasure to you, then, by golly, you can just get out there and make your own bread for your own self!  (Go, you!)

daily-bread
Daily Bread by M. Dreibelbis via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

“MEANINGFUL” CAN BE HARD TO FIND…OR IS IT?

In the real world, it seems to me, a majority of the people who must work for a living often have a limited number of options.  For one thing, they do have to accept whatever available jobs there are that they are qualified to get.  (They hope these jobs will pay enough to support them and their families.)

servant-girl
Servant Girl by University of Hawaii at Manoa (Hawaii Digital Newspaper Project) via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
If not, they may choose to take on a couple more similar gigs or invent side-gigs that take up the slack.  Often they may work really hard on acquiring or expanding skill-sets that will make them more attractive to assorted employers.

Some of them may even make the effort to develop skills that will allow them to build a framework for work that is uniquely their own.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a press release issued in March, 2015, tells us that the four most common occupations in America at the time were retail salesperson, cashier, food preparer and server, and office clerk.

All of these jobs are basically low-paying positions that are mostly done by rote.  If you tried to fit them into the “meaningful-work” template the life-coaches tout, these jobs probably would flunk a bunch of “meaningful-work” tests.

The thing is, these jobs are still a necessary part of keeping the world around us functioning smoothly and well.  If you take away all the salespeople and cashiers, all the food service people and all of the assorted office minions and functionaries, would we be able to live life as we know it?

Probably not.

WHERE DID ALL THE MEANING GO?

In this YouTube video featuring a TEDx talk given at Azusa Pacific University, Ryan T. Hartwig explores how Meaning went Missing-In-Action from the still-useful post-modern jobs we do.

Hartwig’s point in the video is this:  “There is no meaningful job unless someone brings meaning to it.

It’s not a new idea.  For what was perhaps his best-known book, WORKING, which was published in 1997, American journalist and radio broadcaster Louis “Studs” Terkel talked to over 100 people – from gravediggers to movie studio heads — about their jobs and how they felt about them.

He came away with the thought that “Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread.”

A couple of stories from the book THE POWER OF MEANING:  Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith, illustrate this point quite handily.

In the first story, John F. Kennedy ran into a janitor at NASA in 1962.  When the president asked the cleaner what he was doing, the janitor said he was “helping put a man on the moon.”

first-man-on-the-moon
First Man on the Moon by John Flannery via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
The second story is about a road-worker directing the flow of traffic near a repair site on a stretch of Colorado highway.  The guy stood in the hot sun and periodically he would turn  a sign that read “Stop” on one side and “Slow” on the other.  He kept doing that diligently, over and over again.

A driver in the line of cars waiting for their turn to get past the repair site asked the road-worker how he could stand such boring work.  The road-worker replied, “I keep people safe.  I care about these guys behind me and I keep them safe.  I also keep you safe, and everyone else in all those cars behind you.”

As Smith points out, “The ability to find purpose in the day-to-day tasks of living and working goes a long way to building meaning.”

 THE SERVICE AGE

Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant did a survey of two million individuals across over 50 jobs.  Those who reported finding the most meaning in their careers included clergy, English teachers, surgeons, directors of activities at religious organizations, elementary and secondary school administrators, radiation therapists, chiropractors and psychologists.

These people all felt that the world was a better place and other people were better off because they were there doing their work.  Grant found it telling that every one of these satisfied workers provided needed services to other people.

We’ve been told that we have moved out of a “manufacturing economy” into a “knowledge economy.”  However, as Grant points out in a 2015 Huffington Post article, “Three Lies about Meaningful Work,” we are actually living in a “service economy.”

In the United States, nearly three out of every ten employees are knowledge workers, Grant says in the article.  They are outnumbered by the service workers who represent eight out of every ten American employees.

Not only that, but it was estimated that in 2016 almost two-thirds of the world’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was produced in the service industries.

ANOTHER ANSWER

In this YouTube video of a 2012 “Capture Your Flag” interview, author and public speaker Simon Sinek answers the question, “What makes your work meaningful?”

Capture Your Flag” is executive producer Erik Michielsen’s educational media company which has been creating online video content and helping to develop material for online and educational publishers since 2009.

In the series of videos Michielsen continues to produce, he interviews what he calls “rising leaders” and “near peers” (people a step or two ahead of the viewers of the video) who have faced and resolved familiar business and career situations and problems.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND A TAKE-AWAY

If the only meaning in work is what you, the worker, brings to it, then it seems to me that it would be a good thing to think on the counterintuitive advice Professor Hartwig gives at the end of his TEDx talk:

  • Focus on the good you do in your work. How you help others and the value of the work you do are important building blocks for finding meaning in your work.
  • See and act beyond the bottom line. Profit is an important thing, but it is not the only thing of value for your bottom line.  Building relationships, connections and community transcends and adds to your bottom   line.
  • Never say, “I’m just a ________” (Fill in the blank) You are more than just a job title.  Remember that.

Hartwig also encourages managers and administrators to develop a work environment that will help to foster this way of thinking by allowing and encouraging workers to make their work more meaningful and allowing them to use all of their human qualities to do it.

Here is a poem I wrote about what being a property manager means to me and the lessons it has taught me.  [Kuleana is Hawaiian for “responsibility.”]


THE GATEKEEPER SPEAKS

Ya know, I’ve been thinkin’,

I get to walk through Other People’s worlds –

All of them valid, all of them real.

The people living in these worlds

Are who they are,

Are what they are,

And they have to be Real with me.

 

Because I am the gatekeeper –

The foo-dog holding the key that

Unlocks the theater back door.

In order to use that stage that is my kuleana,

These people must get by me,

So I become a tourist in their lives.

 

They show me its shape –

All the good parts, polished up and spiffy-nice.

(It’s only later that I get to see

The darknesses and broken crockery.)

 

This all helps me understand a fundamental thing:

These others walk wrapped in a bubble-world

Of particular hopes and dreams.

They come to me lugging a load

Of issues, the consequences of past mistakes.

 

It has nothing to do with me

When some dream blows up in their faces,

Or some hope dies a lingering, agonizing death.

It has nothing to do with me.

Their moves then are predicated on

The prevailing climate in their own world-bubbles.

 

Sometimes I get caught in the crossfire of conflicting other-people needs.

Sometimes I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time –

The quintessential bystander

(Not always innocent)

Who gets the random fist in the nose.

 

It has nothing to do with me.

But, DANG!  It hurts!

Since I don’t see it coming,

A face-block’s the only move left to me.  Ouch!

The blows a reminder-tap.

It says, “Pay attention!”

 

It surely is a liberating thing to know:

People are doing what they do,

And very often,

It has nothing to do with me.

I do not have to take what they do personally.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  The Grail by Carlos Garcia via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....
REVIEW: THE QUARTER-LIFE BREAKTHROUGH

REVIEW: THE QUARTER-LIFE BREAKTHROUGH

BOOK:  THE QUARTER-LIFE BREAKTHROUGH:  Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work and Build  a Life That Matters

AUTHOR:  Adam Smiley Poswolsky

PUBLISHER:  Tarcher/Perigee (Penguin Random House imprint) [2016]


It has always confused me, the propensity of the media and other folks to pour hate on the generation of youngsters born in the two decades before the century turned.  The Millennials (born around 1980 to 2000) have been called, “the lazy generation,” “the entitled generation,” and “the me-me-me generation.”

For real, it sounds a lot like sour grapes to me.  Gee, wow!  What expectations have we older ones put on this group of youngsters that they must be made to feel like they have disappointed us so badly?

It’s been said that this generation is doomed.  Shackled by huge personal debt, shaken and pounded by the falling debris of the tectonic-plate shifts of recessions and other economic “adjustments,” and haunted by a real lack of single-job options that can actually cover their costs of living, this supposedly techno-addicted crowd of privileged, me-centered youngsters with the attention spans of gnats are going to sink into mediocrity and gloom, eking out their dismal existence in their parents’ basements…it says here.

Micah Tyler sings an a capella song. “You’ve Gotta Love Millenials,” that is bouncy, cheerful and teasing about the very real problem this generation (and the rest of us) face.

IT AIN’T SO

The doom-and-gloom predictions and all that bugaloo-ing “awfulness” story-telling just does not jibe with the young people I know.  As far as I can see, the young ones of my acquaintance do not match the much-bugled stereotypes.  The labels plastered all over their cohort group by the assorted haters are lies.

They are bright, these young ones.  Some of them are even brilliant.

They are eager to get their hustle on.  Some of them work 18-hour days to make ends meet as they master some discipline, trade, or profession.  Often they take on side-gigs that expand their skill-sets or they invest in their own continuing education.

Some of them have taken off on adventures that expand their view of the world, tasting life in other places, looking for a place to land or trying to clarify some vision they are pursuing.  Others delve into their roots, looking for wisdom in the ways of the ancients.

Some of my young friends band together to make some grand scheme fly, cobbling together constructs that often fall short of their aims.  Their failures do not keep them from trying again.

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS

These young friends of mine are a rowdy and boisterous crew.  They are the freedom-runners.  They have abandoned “career ladders,” choosing instead to forge new trails through the uncertainties of a world that does not hold still, a world that seems to be falling apart….the very same falling-apart world that every generation before us all have lived in.

The Millennials I know are often unsure of where they are going, but they try to keep running on with hearts held high.  They are filled with confusion and doubt about their direction.  They are almost never sure how to answer the inevitable questions about where they think they are headed.  Many of them are looking for a direction that makes sense to them, one that has meaning for them.

Others of my young friends (as well as many older ones) who followed more conventional road maps now feel trapped by their earlier choices.  They may want to make a change, but are reluctant to chuck out the good things they have already built.

Often they have taken on obligations and responsibilities that hold their feet to the fire.

They, too, are looking for a way to move in a direction that makes sense to them towards a life with more meaning and mana.

YET ANOTHER TRAVEL GUIDE

Comes now a book, THE QUARTER-LIFE BREAKTHROUGH, written by a fellow Millennial.  The author, Adam Poslowsky (who prefers to be called “Smiley”) is a young professional who paid attention as he worked through the daunting process of re-inventing himself.

Smiley learned to ask the Big Questions that helped him find his own meaning and mana as he re-made himself from a professional administrator/facilitator at the Peace Corp headquarters in Washington, DC into a writer, public speaker and career-change couch living in San Francisco.

In the book, Smiley focuses on the process of finding work that aligns with your own life-purposes.  The goal, he says, is to “find a job or opportunity based on your purpose now,” that pays the rent and allows you to:

  • Share your gifts
  • Make a positive impact on your world
  • Surround yourself with believer
  • Live your desired quality of life

The book is packed with real-life stories of people who are succeeding in making the transition to more personally fulfilling lives and work choices.  Smiley also draws on his own experiences to point out new ways of looking for paths to reach the over-riding goal.

He does not hand out the easy, clichéd advice that says you have to quit your job and go chasing after your “passion.”  He points out that passions change.  He points out that while you are making the shift, you do still have to eat and keep a roof over your head.

What Smiley does in this book is hand you a tool box of questions and exercises and head-games as well as a dollop of resources to tap as you figure out who you are and what moves your heart now, the gifts you hold, and the impact you want to make on the world.

From there he helps you take a look at your available options and suggests ways to beta-test your ideas and your potential directions without blowing up your world.

After that, it’ll be up to you to make your moves.

Working Hands by aaron gilson via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Working Hands by aaron gilson via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
This book was a crowd-funded, self-published work that made good.  It was successful enough on its own (with a lot of hustle and thought put in by Smiley and his crew) to be picked up by a more traditional publisher.  The author includes that story in the book as well.

I found THE QUARTER-LIFE BREAKTHROUGH to be an extraordinarily honest, down-to-earth and heartful book.

If you work it, I am convinced that it can guide your own Inner Smarty-pants to find the Life Answers that can work for you…even if you are NOT a Millennial and have lived way past your own quarter-life mark.

Here’s a poem…


WEIGHT BUTTONS

Ya know….

I really thought it would be

DIFFERENT somehow.

I thought that as I got older

I’d develop…well, BOTTOM, I guess,

A sort of weight

That would let me float around

Without floating away…

Like…those little weight-buttons

Holding down supermarket helium-filled

Happy Face balloons.

 

That doesn’t seem to be happening.

Here I am, well-nigh unto being ancient

And STILL I feel like an airhead

Blowing around in a world of heavy winds.

 

Somehow, I thought that by now

I’d have found SOME sort of all-purpose Swiss-knife answers

That you could pull open and use to twiddle this

And twist that,

To break down all these head-scratching puzzlements

Into component parts of exceptional elegance and grace.

 

Ha!

Instead, here I am,

Still dragging around all these kluge-solutions

Cobbled together out of various bits and dribs and drabs

That happened to be sitting around at the time.

Hmmm….

Hmmm?

 

WHAT IF

All these kluges I’ve devised

Are actually the weight-buttons

Holding down BALLOON-ME?

Wouldn’t THAT be a kick in the head?

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  (book) via Amazon.com

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)