What’s the relationship between your work and your happiness?
In How to Find Fulfilling Work, Roman Krznaric has spoon-fed us the ideas we’ve been too busy to seriously think about. We’ve brushed against the surface of these ideas enough for them to bring us stress but not enough to uncover that these aren’t just ideas but life choices, choices with far more options than we originally thought.
Work. The word itself has taken on a sense of wilting. For many of us the short word somehow drags like a dog leash across linoleum It’s the thing we do that tires us. It’s the clocking in early and the reason we need to just watch mindless movies now and again.
Contemporary education – be it within the family or the academic institution – is almost entirely geared towards work. I’ve been in high schools where art classes were kept simply because “they spark creativity and students will need this in the business world.” Two of the most important aspects of life – how to be happy and how to find fulfilling work – are entirely neglected. If links are drawn between the two, it’s that a good job will lead to happiness. There’s no true discussion of what a good job actually is. Why would there be when we’ve got the blinking neon lights of our consumer culture pointing the way?
And so it is that Krznaric has written easily the most rational “self-help” book I’ve ever read. There are stories from successful but miserable people, and from happy but struggling people. In the end, though, it’s Krznaric’s ability to break down ideas into their small and more easily managed parts that makes this a tremendous read. He guides you through how to embrace the “turbulent periods of uncertainty” that are bound to come and that so many of us simply make the easiest choice to get out of. He writes of the natural tensions arising from trying to make a difference while needing to make money. He not only mentions “career choice,” but he writes a mini-history of it that allows you to put yourself in the world of your ancestors. This is a book written by one of the world’s foremost thinkers on empathy about one of the most important aspects of our day-to-day existence. I expected good things and good things were delivered.
I’ll end on the quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky that opens the book:
“The thought once occurred to me that if one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment, one at which the most fearsome murderer would tremble, shrinking from it in advance, all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.”