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Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Business, Culture, Engagement, Featured, Inspirational, Leadership | 4 comments

Work is a Four-Letter Word


I can hear the jokes already and most of them are not politically correct. As we get ready to enter a holiday proclaimed as LABOR Day, we should look at work. Let me throw out a word that we often don’t attach to work. I think it is a word of redemption, of contribution, of achievement, of community, and ultimately, of legacy.

The word: LOVE.

Kahil Gibran proclaimed, “Work is love made visible”. I would further clarify his position by insisting that a job is what you do for a paycheck. Work is what you do for a life. It is that energizing, all-encompassing activity that allows you to bring skills to bear in ways that are satisfying beyond a pay period.

It is that activity that saves you from being a faceless number in a mechanistic wheel—hence it holds redemptive powers.

It is that activity which makes a contribution to a larger world order.

It is that activity from which you sense a measure of accomplishment and achievement. It excites you. It gives you joy. It binds you to a community of people who are stakeholders in what you do. Ultimately, it has a ripple effect and the potency of a legacy for those who follow.

“Ah come on!,” you insist. “How about a garbage collector? A waiter? A store clerk? Who is going to love those jobs?”

Great question. And at face value, it seems that not every employment opportunity has such grand potential. Just take the money, leave it as soon as you can for greener pastures. Screw those miserable bosses. Thumb your nose at the customer.

And tomorrow you die.

That’s it. Plain and simple. While you are looking for the dream vocation, the better work environment, the nicer boss, reality can step in and your one moment on the Planet is gone forever. It’s a reality made even more real by current events.

There’s an uneasy shift that has taken us by storm and rattled our plod-along workaday world. Many are paralyzed by the insecurity of the times. The terror of 9-11 and the subsequent global aggressiveness pushed us over the edge. With a wobbly U.S. economy, unsettled change continues to bombard us. Mega-mergers boggle the mind with the endless zeros streaming behind a behemoth’s financial size.

We gasp at the number of employees who are cast off from a consolidated giant. We see plant closures and layoffs in everything from clothing manufacturing to banking. Overnight web companies turn almost under-age youth into millionaires and executives at age 40 are left scratching their heads. Then, Wall Street meltdown, corporate greed, and icon-like presidents who crash as fallen idols make daily headlines.

Overnight web companies turn almost under-age youth into millionaires and executives at age 40 are left scratching their heads.

Statistics point out a bleak picture and there’s pain and inaccuracy behind these cold numbers. We are working more but feeling as if we’re earning less and living in time poverty. Affluenza is an all too common word.

The consistent notion that work should be a 24/7 event with fear of job loss hanging as a shadow is being challenged by a rising number of strident voice. And with those voices comes a cry for the most urgent answer to sustainable success: finding meaningful work that makes an impact and lets us live in the bargain. Answer that plea and we’ll unleash a productive and creative power akin to a tsunami.

In short we want to LOVE what we do, who we do it for and who we do it with AND love the life we create outside that work. That’s the essence- the Holy Grail—the mysterious work/life balance piece. Finding that Holy Grail is done by parallel processing, working on two tracks. The first track is to make work “work” for you in your current situation.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to transform wherever you find yourself—even while continuing to search—so that if and when you leave, there’s a faint footprint of achievement, community, contribution and yes, even the memory of a beneficial interaction. Such a transformation allows you to love yourself in the process. It keeps bridges from burning and strengthens a network of relationships that one day you might call upon.

The critical question becomes: how do you turn a “job’ into a “work”—into something that gives you more than a paycheck? No, you might not be able to alter the corporate strategic plan, paint the garbage truck peppermint pink or change a boss from a toad to a prince. But, there are specific action items you can take within your sphere of influence. Too often, we expect management to lead us in career directions, to provide us with recognition, to make “it” a better place. It’s like a marriage: there is responsibility on both sides.

1. Ask for what you want. You don’t ask- you don’t get.
2. Do you KNOW what value you bring to your job? If you don’t, ask.
3. Think creatively. How could you add an interest, a talent somewhere in your job? If writing is your forte, ask for a writing assignment. Create a blog post for your department. You get the idea.
4. Give yourself a learning assignment that would energize you.
5. Get this book by Bev Kaye and Sharon Jordan Evans in Love It, Don’t Leave It. You’ll find a literal alphabet soup of specific action steps to help you take ownership for your life at work.

We want to LOVE what we do, who we do it for and who we do it with AND love the life we create outside that work.

Don’t wait. Time is too precious to squander. You CAN fall in love again.


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Copyright: hermione13 / 123RF Stock Photo

Eileen McDargh

Eileen McDargh

Since founding McDargh Communications & The Resiliency Group Eileen McDargh has helped organizations and individuals transform the life of their business and the business of their life through conversations that matter and connections that count. Her programs are content rich, interactive, provocative and playful—even downright hilarious. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. She is the author of five books, including Gifts from the Mountain: Simple Truths for Life's Complexities ,a Benjamin Franklin Gold Award winner. A training film based on this book was awarded the Silver Telly, the highest award for commercial productions. Her latest book was written to help everyone who is stretched too thin by competing demands My Get Up & Go Got Up & Went. As a business author and commentator, she’s appeared on network news, on radio programs and in business journals and in major metropolitan newspapers.

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  • Brigitte Kobi

    Hello Eileen
    You might be right that waitress is not a promising job to begin with. But maybe owning a good restaurant is and waitress is just the first step to go there. If this is the case waitress is a very attractive thing to do. She definitely turns a job into a work.

    As a project manager I had to deal with some admin I really didn’t like because I think it is boring but not all admin can be delegated to an assistant. Since it was part of “my” successful project I happily did it.

    Have a great week.

    • mcdargh

      Thanks, Brigitte. So right–there are parts of our “work” that feel like a job. So goes life. The truth is not to miss our “work” complaining about the “job”

  • Bill Jensen

    Eileen: As always…Great thoughts!
    Love on so many levels: Love of self (stop wasting so much of one’s life on stupid stuff!); Love of others (really caring, really listening, really being present); Love of making a difference (making the time to do more that really matters), etc etc.
    Great stuff!

    • mcdargh

      Thanks, Bill. I know YOU get what great–and simple–work is all about. Your books all carry that truth!