7 — Some Thoughts on Work and Jobs

Work, jobs and debt are all on my mind this morning (for a lot of different reasons). Work and jobs are related, but they’re not necessarily related to debt, so let’s explore these this morning and leave debt for a later blog. As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas on any or all of these topics. How do you view each of them? How have your views made them more or less enjoyable? Did you change your views? If so, how did you do that? Feel free to join the discussion!

What is work and what are jobs, and how are they related? …  I view a job as work that you are compensated for in some fashion. It has an element of obligation in it: you’re obligated to do the work and someone (your company, a client, a customer) is obligated to compensate you for it. So, there are two elements here we want to explore: 1) What is work actually? and 2) The mutual exchange of value as it relates to compensation.

So, what is work? The simplest definition is, “effort expended, whether or not toward a goal.” But there’s another, more subtle aspect to work, and that is your beliefs and consequent feelings toward the work you’re doing—the emotions your work evokes. Work, in and of itself, is neutral; your beliefs about and feelings toward the work you’re doing is what gives that work its flavor.

These beliefs and feelings come from some of the decisions, beliefs, and postulates you’ve made at some point in the past (see my previous blog post on this: 6 — Who Are You? Who Am I?, and on some suggestions as to how to deal with these).

So, these underlying, subconscious influences color or flavor how you view the effort you expend. You may view your work as drudgery, or as something that interests you, or as something that challenges you. Or you may be so fortunate as to do work that is in direct alignment with your passion. Your feelings about the work you do in each of these situations ranges from boredom or anguish to involvement to excitement to being in absolute love with what you do.

As you begin to clear the underlying, subconscious influences in your life, and as the real you begins to emerge—the you that wants to present itself to the world, that creates true value in the world, that is the source of your true passion—what you do will no longer appear to be work, but rather will become play. And the time you spend doing it will pass with little awareness of time or effort expended—what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow.

There’s an excellent book that explores this topic in much more depth than I can go into here. It’s The Enlightenment of Work by Steve Nobel. I’ll be reviewing it at a later time, but if you’ve already read it and would like to send us your review, please do so.

A job, by my definition, is work for which you receive compensation of some sort. What is important here is that the value of the compensation be equal to the value of the work you do. Ideally, the value of the compensation should be exactly equal to the value of the work you do.

What if it’s not? What if you receive less than what you perceive to be the value of the work you do? This situation establishes a negative dynamic between you and the one compensating you—be they employer, client, or customer—that becomes increasingly unhealthy. In your case, you become resentful of the other, and this resentment continues to grow if the situation isn’t brought back into balance. As your resentment grows, the work you do tends to be done with less care, which ultimately becomes noticeable by the compensator.

At the same time, the compensator can begin to lose respect for you and/or for your work. He/she may develop conscious or subconscious ego feelings of superiority over you in power or intellect or shrewdness or some other negative ego quality. At a deeper, subconscious level the compensator sees that he/she is behaving without inner integrity (a blog topic for a later time), and this can result in other compensating behaviors, such as withdrawal or unexplained anger or some other negative emotion or behavior.

If you are compensated for more than what you perceive to be the value of the work you do, the conditions described above become essentially reversed. The compensator now becomes resentful that she/he paid too much, and you may develop the conscious or subconscious ego feelings of superiority. Again, a negative dynamic is established between the two of you that must be brought back into balance if your relationship is to flourish sustainably.

What else results from a mutual exchange of value? Self respect and self appreciation, respect and appreciation for the other and his/her work, and a genuine satisfaction for both of you.

The bottom line: For your “job,” find your passion and build your living around that passion, and insist that you be compensated no more nor no less than the true value of what you do for that living. If you enjoy the output of someone else’s passion, compensate them equitably—it will contribute immeasurably to a more sustainable relationship between the two of you, and a deep satisfaction within yourself.