(I want people to seek and do what they love.)
This weekend we get a freebie from the government, an extra day to spend away from work. I suppose part of the idea of Labor Day is to reflect on the work that we do, though I'm not sure that's really what most people do. Instead, we're focused on enjoying time with our friends and family -- as we should be. I wonder though, at large how often do people reflect on their work? For many, the short answer is not enough.
In my unscientific set of conversations with people in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco over the past few years, I've noticed a pattern that will be of little surprise to you. A lot of people don't really like what they do. This is not breaking news (e.g. see the recent Conference Board study that suggests fewer than half of Americans are satisfied with their job). In fact it's so common, some call it a fact of life. There is a population of people who, if they made the time to reflect this weekend, might conclude they are living out Thoreau's "lives of quiet desperation". They, for their own reasons, fell into a series of jobs, perhaps that began as early as when they graduated from college, that pay the bills but do not offer much additional satisfaction or growth.
Work of course is not life, but simply a part of it. Many would argue why look to work for so much when growth and satisfaction can be found in family, community and so many other non-work places. I agree; we should not demand work be the sole source of fulfillment. However, with work commanding well over half of our waking hours for 40 years, isn't it natural, if not practical, to expect more from work?
All of this is well-trodden territory.What's different is I want people -- you -- to want more from work. The first American Dream was to seek and find success based on one's talents and contributions, unencumbered by class, wealth or race: market meritocracy. The US has created conditions so favorable for the initial American dream that in the 20th century a new one emerged to supplement it -- that each generation would be financially better off than the preceding one. As a corollary to the first, this second dream has not only been possible but on average fulfilled.
I'd like to add a new stretch goal to the American Dream. I want people to seek and do what they love. I want people to find the intersection of their talents and their interests, and make a living from it. I don't want people to settle for a job simply because they're competent at it. The first dreams are still in play -- let's reward results irrespective of privilege or status and set the target of each generation to achieve more than its parents. Yet let's go further, let's help people do a better job at finding their personal power alley. I want people to take the American Dream and remix it to their own tastes, or as Thoreau continues in Walden, "let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
What if even an incremental 10% of your co-workers were truly into their jobs? It's easier said than done. Helping to get it done is what I'm going to be experimenting with over the next few months. I hope to share more soon.