What Is Work?

There is an old saying: “If you love what you do, then you will never have to work a day in your life.” So it looks like there are two kinds of “work” that are being addressed in this saying. One kind of work (the kind that is being recommended) is: “pleasant self-exertion in an activity that also pays the bills.”

The other kind of work is what we usually think of when we talk about work. It is the sense of “voluntary self-exertion in an activity that produces a perception of suffering – in order to pay the bills.” Usually this is done in order to make money – but it could also be done in order to produce any of a number of desirable outcomes.

Work-1 and Work-2

So there are two kinds of “work.”  Lets call them Work-1 and Work-2.  Work-1 is pleasant self exertion in an activity that also pays the bills.  Work-2 is un-pleasant self-exertion in an activity that also pays the bills.

Its best to stay in touch with Work-2

There are two reasons that learning the skill/habit of “voluntary self-discipline in the face of suffering” (Work-2) is an important “life add-on” for a person who has become acclimated to a lifestyle that only requires the enjoyable, pleasant kind of work (Work-1.)  First, for the Work-1 acclimated fellow, if his environment suddenly changes in such a way that he must now engage in voluntary self-discipline and suffering (Work-2), then the period of adjustment to the necessary change can be a real shock to his system.  For some folks who go through this shock, it can even be fatal.

A second reason that it is worthwhile to get up-close and comfortable with the (Work-2) skill of voluntary self-discipline is that, many of the affirmatively positive benefits in life can only be gained by pushing oneself beyond the boundaries of the enjoyable & pleasant.  So, for the fellow who manages to “get by” with only doing the (Work-1) things that he likes to do – it will eventually become apparent that he is actually missing out on some of the best parts of life.

A new old saying?

Maybe we should re-write the original old saying? How does this version sound:

If you love what you do, then (possibly) you will never have to work a day in your life. But – if you only do what you love, then the likelihood is that you are going to sell yourself short by living too deeply within your comfort zone.  There is also a good chance that (by only doing what you love), that at some point in your life, you will be awakened by a rude shock that forces a change in your lifestyle.  When this shock hits you may find yourself being forced to do things that you 1) affirmatively dislike and 2) that you are especially un-suited to perform due to your accustomed lifestyle of ease.   (Because a lifestyle of ease and pleasure can, unintentionally, atrophy your ability and willingness to voluntarily embrace self-discipline and suffering when it becomes necessary to do so.)

But I wonder if that version would ever make it as an old saying?

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7 Responses to What Is Work?

  1. PAL says:

    Or maybe we should re-examine the whole idea behind the original old saying by asking ourselves what the word “love” means when we talk about “loving what you do?” In other words, if someone never pushes beyond their comfort zone, then, isn’t that a form of denying the adventurous inner-child who “loves” to explore? So, in that sense, maybe the original old saying was fine just the way it was written! 😀

  2. Dishwasher says:

    Most people hate their jobs. A smaller number of people are just “okay” with their jobs. And a very small number actually enjoy their jobs.

  3. Dishwasher says:

    Suffering and Wealth – do the wealthy suffer? Certainly they do not suffer in the same way that the poor suffer. But are the wealthy happier than the poor? Happiness, Suffering, Wealth and Poverty. The wealthy do suffer to the extent that they must contend with unfulfilled desires – even the riches man in the world cannot be in more than one place at a time, when he wants to do two things – then one of them must go unfulfilled.

  4. Dishwasher says:

    Six Days Shalt Thou Work

    Does that command instruct us to rest on the seventh day or to work on the first six days – or both? What does the Bible really say?

  5. Dishwasher says:

    The Many Forms of Suffering

    Suffering has many different forms. There is self-pity, self-mutilation and then reasonable self-discipline and then all of the externally inflicted, unavoidable forms of suffering (where the word “external” means external to the mind or will.). It’s interesting to see how suffering is an important component when we try to define work.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Finding Work Versus Finding Fullfillment – the dilemma of work that is beneath me. Low pay. Embarrassment. Exchanging energy with adapters. My personal value.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Focus group – only works for ppl who can focus! :-). The teacher said don’t tell ppl who healed you. Serenity prayer – courage to change.

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