Thursday, October 05, 2006

Reprise

I have been thinking about the comments I got from my personality posts I have to admit that I did not understand at first what Jason meant when he said:

"The trick, for me at least, is to find reasons to love whatever job you have. I've enjoyed forklift operating, fruit picking, yard work, construction, mail sorting and inventory control. None were exciting, none were interesting, and none made any real difference in the world. But I learned to love the work"

My initial reaction was to disagree with the idea that few people get to make a difference through their employment. After stewing on the comments I had received, I found the flaw in my thinking. I had been wanting to have meaning in every aspect of my life. I wanted to have meaning in my work, my family, my religion, my community, and any hobbies I might choose. When I said I have no personality it is because I had allowed those parts of my life that were not fraught with meaning to sap the meaning from the other areas of my life. I had abandoned hobbies unnecessarily and shut my eyes to other meaningful aspects of my life.

With renewed perspective I now recognize that I need to have meaning to my life as a whole and allow that purpose and drive, those goals that I am pursuing, to invigorate me and infuse meaning into the more mundane things which are necessary whether or not I find intrinsic value in them. That is what I understand Jason to have meant when he said he learned to love the work he had rather than moaning that he was not doing the work he might have chosen for its own value.

2 comments:

Jason said...

This is what I love about interaction with people - no matter what someone intends to communicate, it can influence people in various ways.

David, your interpretation is as legitimate and valid as any I could have envisioned. I can't however, honestly say that it's what I meant.

What I actually thought when I wrote it - though I didn't make it clear - has three parts.

First, that work in general can be made to be interesting, meaningful, impacting, enjoyable, etc. simply by finding the small pleasures available to us. For example, when I worked in a small, stinky office for a fire-brick company, I was able to enjoy the great view of the mountains from my window while I worked. When I went out to load trucks with the forklift in our warehouse (the floor of which was littered with bat droppings) I was able to find a strange pleasure just watching the bats circling above my head while I worked (I never got "dropped on", to my knowledge). When I worked as a mail sorter, I found interest in the great variety in penmanship and funny city names. These are very small things, but they were a source of increased job-satisfaction.

My second thought in writing what I did - and this is, in my mind, the most important of the three - was the enjoyment I get from interaction with other people. I love people. I like being around others. I find that the most mundane and meaningless tasks are made pleasurable by the mere presence of others around me, and increased all the more if I get to hold regular conversations while working. This may not be the case for everyone, but it has been the source of greatest satisfaction in every endeavor. Again, an example: When working in the fire-brick sales office and warehouse, most of my work was boring and unsatisfying. However, when my boss was in the office, we had interesting conversations about every topic imaginable, and I was able to learn from his humor, wit, cleverness and good example. After one of these conversations I could continue working on the boring tasks at hand feeling lighter and often found myself smiling in spite of the drudgery.

I imagine that this may be a part of the reason for your "lack of personality", as you put it. You have been, as I imagine it, buried deep in a basement office with little direct interaction with co-workers. Some people like, even prefer that kind of working condition. I can't tolerate it, at least not for extended periods. When I've been in solitary confinement-ish working situations I search for human interaction elsewhere. My family, of course, is important here. But I also actively seek out opportunities to be with other people - service in the church, invite others to my home for dinner or a game night (or just for conversation), involvement with a volunteer or neighborhood organization, etc. I've even taken a leaf from my little sister's book and taken free time to visit with some elderly friends. That's a particularly satisfying activity, as most seniors I've met with love to talk!

My third feeling is closely related to the second. Meaning, value, etc. can be found in work not necessarily in the work itself (though again, I think any honest work has great intrinsic value), but because of the influence we can and should wield for others with whom we work. We can set an example, smile in stressful times to lift others' moods, etc. I know this isn't usually possible when you work alone. However, contact is still inevitable, even if by phone calls and e-mails. I often find that someone else's happy tone of voice on the phone can be a huge pick-me-up. I can do the same for others, and have often had people remark that a happy tone of the phone and even in e-mail messages has built them up. Even when doing terribly uninteresting and unimportant work, this is another opportunity to make a difference.

Sorry for yet another long winded post.

David said...

I agree, I can learn something you didn't intend to teach, and if I share what I learn you can then teach me what you meant to teach. I get to learn twice because of collaboration and imperfect communication.