Tag Archives: Meaningful Work

Eventually Everyone Will Show Up…..Make Sure it is to the Right Place

Just out of college, I used to work with teenagers.  I loved it.  They did all sorts of quirky things.  I was young enough, that some of the high school kids mistook me for a student and invited me to parties.  One even asked if he could spike my drink while I was sitting at Sonic.  Really?!? No, thanks.

My favorite age to work with were 7th and 8th grade.  I’m not sure why, I think it had something to do with the fact that around that age they had enough life under their belt they developed their own personalities.  Yet, they were still young enough that they liked to “play” and most of them were not too self conscious.  Those are the 9th graders….poor creatures.

There was one annoying thing I noticed with 8th graders.  Socially they were still a little off.  They watched older friends and siblings and even parents and they picked up on the social cue that it is not cool to be the only person show up at an event.  No big deal.  Right?  Everyone figures this out at some point.  The problem was week after week they showed up on Sunday mornings for church.  They would talk and several would say they were planning to be at youth activities that evening.  Then, the “cool kid” (I have no idea how this Alpha Dog was chosen, but there was always one) would indicate there was some off-chance that they would not be able to attend.  That night, “cool kid” would show up and no one would be there.  Week after week this Alpha Dog would wonder why no one was there after they said they would attend.  Finally, I would have to explain that everyone saw them as the leader and no one wanted to be there without the “cool kid”.  By the time they is figured this all out, it was time to move on to high school and I would get a fresh batch of eighth graders who did the same thing.

I feel like this is a bit what it is like to make a choice to do something when you know you might fail.  By the time we are adults, we are programmed to succeed.  We actively avoid any and all situations where we might fail and we warn those around us to do the same.  The problem is, just because you are willing to put yourself out there, there is no guarantee that someone else’s fear won’t keep you from your goal.  The trick is to keep after it.

Cultivate relationships and a reputation out of courage to try new things.  Think outside of the box.  Encourage others to do the same.  And, when they fall short, pick them up and move ahead.  Eventually everyone will show up at the same place at the same time.  Let that place be a place of courage and authenticity not a place of fear of failure.

What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

While I was in the mountains last week, I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  It is wonderful and I highly suggest it to any creative, free-spirited, want to make the most of  your life people out there.  She talks a lot about the fear that comes with putting yourself out there creatively.

I know this fear.  We are close.  

My life, like everyone else’s is made up of good times and bad times, ups and downs.  My dad likes to call those down times “little hiccups”.  He must have had one hell of a case of the hiccups in his past.

I have found a very safe place to hide my fear.  I hide it behind my success as a wife, a mother, a community member, a student, a young professional.  If I am really honest, I hide it behind my husband’s success as a professional.  I hide it well and I often think that I have enough and I don’t need to keep pushing for this meaningful work I dream I will find.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert bashes a question that I have disliked forever, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”  No one ever gets this guarantee.  She asks instead, “What would you do even if you know you might fail?”  I fear failure as much as the next person and public failure is terrifying to me.  I know it is confusing to many why I am putting myself out there looking for something that I can’t define any better than meaningful work, but if there is one thing that I am willing to do even if it fails it is “meaningful work.”

Meaningful Work

I feel a bit like I am entering into my fourth turning.  I was a full-time student, a full-time young professional, a full-time mom and now I am looking to combine a bit of each into full-time meaningful work.

I spent 2014 preparing myself through a lot of emotional healing and getting myself back into the physical shape I longed to be.

2015 has turned into a year of “yes”.  I knew I was ready to re-enter society in a way that impacted change, I just had no idea what that would look like.  Would it be full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid, with my family or with the community?…..I honestly had no idea.  I decided that I would say “yes” to every opportunity (unless I had already attempted said opportunity and knew that it was not the direction I wanted to go).

About a month ago I was finally inspired, yet it was still a bit general.  I want to find ‘meaningful work’.  Not necessarily the kind of work that is always a happy ending or gives you warm fuzzy feelings.  Work that brought meaning to my life, the life of my family and to my community. 

This realization was half the battle.  Now, I need to narrow in on what that will look like.  I have several irons in the fire.  All of which I am excited about and I believe will lead me to meaningful work because I threw out the rest.  Now, the wait.  Where will we end up?  I say we, because there is nothing that will be meaningful work for me at this phase in my life without in some way including my family.

I guess, if you look at the evidence on this, the thing people want most in a job is a sense of meaning and purpose. They want to know what they do matters. And that’s been true for literally generations across the American workforce. And you find similar things in other parts of the world. We want to contribute to others. That’s the biggest source of meaningfulness. And so it shouldn’t be a surprise that that’s something that I, and many others, find motivating. And yet we don’t have great narratives about — ‘I really love helping others, and that’s the reason that I work so hard.‘”

Adam Grant on On Being