Reasons to Work

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Seth Godin wrote a blog post called Reasons to Work, and as usual, he talked about the softer side of work that applies to intellectuals, knowledge workers who don’t exist, and imaginary CEOs of profitable software companies.

I know Seth knows better, but he wrote a list of reasonswhy people work’ and suggested that money isn’t as important as some of the other reasons on his list.

That’s great — but one of the problems with America is that we now read in lists instead of paragraphs.

The other problem? We’ve been sold a bill a goods. We gave up cash compensation in favor of health benefits and a retirement account — but companies can’t meet those obligations. Now they’re now selling us a bill of goods about passion and meaning at work.

You are responsible for your emotional and physical well-being. Stop looking externally. Get paid in cash for your services and go find meaning on your own terms. If that’s at work, great. If not, don’t worry about it. Go cash your paycheck and kiss your wife.

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I hate how easy it is to forget that adults work. That’s what we do. It’s not an intellectual exercise. We need to earn money to honor our obligations in life and to meet the needs of our children (or cats). Yes, adults need to overcome challenges, engage in fun activities, follow our calling, make an impact, improve our reputations, solve problems, and improve our communities — but a job is worthless if you don’t make enough money to pay your bills.

A lot of effort and no money? That’s called charity.

And just because you’re following your passion doesn’t mean you will make any money. The woman who does my nails is Vietnamese. She is in her mid 20s and has been in this country since she was two. She recently dropped out of college because math, science, and business classes don’t interest her.

She said, “I don’t want to spend all that time doing something I’m not passionate about.”

And I suspect that her parents, who immigrated to this country after witnessing the horrors of war, are heartbroken.

I asked her, “Don’t you feel like you’re wasting your time doing nails?”

She said, no, she likes to sing and do karaoke. Doing nails gives her time to hang out with her friends. Then she recommended I try the OPI gel polish (in black cherry chutney) because it lasts longer.

And I bit my tongue.

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So if you find yourself in a job that lacks meaning, get to work with the other 16 hours in the day and find value somewhere else in life. Get a second job. Get involved in your church or community. Volunteer. Tutor. Mentor. Pay attention to your children.

Seth’s list is lovely and sweet, but it’s built on a naive mindset that is ruining this country.

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