Having spent time as an itinerant, bouncing between shallow, unfulfilling jobs, and having now transitioned to doing work I love, I can tell you that good work gives a sense of completeness when it comes to your life purpose. Hard work is not a bad thing. But a distinction exists between two types of hard work. Working hard for something you are passionate about is not bad. That’s called good work. Working hard for something you hate is called bad work. Good work, even when requiring more energy, fulfills your life purpose, while passionless work drains you.
Working a passionless job arises out of fear, and leaves us in an uninspired environment. Those doing bad work are never quite happy with the work they do, and they often associate hard work as a tireless pursuit of a paycheck where they are defending their time against a boss that wants to milk them dry of their energy. If you are one of those people then I suggest you begin right now to change your career plans.
But, good work exists. Good, inspiring work usually checks at least two of the following boxes: honesty, serves a need, respects people and or the world, or contributes to furthering positivity and good vibes. In short, good work is meaningful, principled, and respectful. The reason so many people continue working jobs they don’t enjoy is because they check just enough boxes to find contentment but not enough to be driven in the work they do.
The important thing in finding good work lies in discovering work that connects to your values and passion. Like a relationship, a good partnership with work requires honesty and openness with yourself and the other party. You must be willing to let your work be an expression of your values, and be proud of that.
Finally, all good work should challenge you. You should have to up your game for your work. Your brain, and body, should sweat from the effort. Work like this will take the incremental momentum you build daily and turn your life into something where you cannot find enough hours in the day to work not because you are too busy jumping through hoops and placating bosses, but because you take such joy in your work that you wish you had the energy to always be working.
The other important thing with hard work, though; is balance. Good work is not painful. Even though you do not work every day with an expectant eye on Friday and a dread for Monday your work does consume a massive amount of time and energy. You will feel drained some days, and to prepare for this you need to answer the following question: what am I willing to forgo for my good work?
So, what are you willing to give up to discover work that energizes you? Impromptu post-work drinks with friends? Three beers and a night watching the Golden State game with the boys? Relationships or friendships? A lazy day at the beach? The fact is, you have lots of time available to pursue good work. What stops you from doing this is squandering your time on other things that you currently value more than hard work.
Hard work is not for everyone. I work a lot, probably more than I should. That’s not right. But is it right to squander all your time? So, find your own answer. What can you give up for your good work? Know, and be OK, with your limit.
But, diversify. When work becomes a passion we invest ourselves in what we do. Like investing in the stock market, we need to diversify to hedge against a downside. If your pet project or venture has a bad day you will have a bad day unless you are invested in other things. This doesn’t mean other business ventures, necessarily, but other positive things like your health, healthy relationships, and adventures. Find other ways of expressing your gratitude and appreciation for life, or you will burn yourself out and become unhappy.
So work hard and follow your passions. As a good friend says, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Stop living for your weekends and fearing your Mondays. In committing to live the best life possible agree to live in the best way possible. Whatever that means for you. Whoever that includes. Whatever work that requires. Do it now.
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