When I was a little girl I have many fond memories of my mother in the kitchen, she was and is a phenomenal cook and took great pleasure in making everything from a batch of brownies to a 4 course meal. Susan, who also blogs — about food no less — owned a well loved cookbook called The Joy of Cooking. I remember puzzling over this book as I grew older because — even though I was raised in a house where the kitchen was central — I despised cooking and couldn’t imagine how it could bring so many people such “joy”.
Today I understand my mother’s plight. Saddled with an ungrateful child who would eat her good food but turn her nose up at the idea of slaving over a meal for hours. I enjoyed the fruits, but didn’t respect the labor involved.
I now find myself in a similar situation with what I call The Joy of Working. We live in a world where people consume more than ever — services, products, experiences — but rail about “work life balance” and turn their nose up at people who live to work, versus working to live.
People are always asking me “well… what do you do besides work” and the question never fails to catch me off guard. I have to think about and usually mumble something like “Well I like to read, and write and I really enjoy a glass of wine… or four“.
I often get those “you poor thing” glances, but in reality the joke is on everyone else because I guarantee you I derive more pleasure from my work than most people do from their fun. I work on the weekends, I work at night, I lay in bed thinking about Zirtual and I always include my business and employees in my prayers. I have the same relationship to our company as many people have to their children and I don’t think it’s one bit unhealthy.
Work gives purpose
There are many things in our lives that give us purpose, family, love, building a legacy, making a difference, creating something out of nothing. In my mind the only kind of work worth doing is work that gives purpose.
For me I started out down the path to entrepreneurship because I didn’t want to be poor and I hated working for other people — freedom was and is something I hold very dear. Then I started to warm to the idea of going from not being poor, to becoming rich, and this seemed like the answer to all of my problems — because I assumed that if I was rich I’d be able to afford the freedom that lots of money buys and thus find happiness.
Now, after going from one person working out of a coffee shop to 25 people, a real office and a legitimate business I’ve realized that the thing that gives me the most fulfillment is creating jobs for others (our Zirtual Assistants) and helping busy people save their precious time. Money is much less of a motivator than it was when I wrote this blog post almost a year to the date. It’s not that I don’t believe that Zirtual will become a very large, very financially successful company — instead it’s that the getting rich side of things is now a cherry on the top of my goal, not the main purpose.
Provide purposeful employment
Over the last few years there has been a lot of talk about our faltering economy, the stagnant job market and the blanket of depression that it has cloaked my the globe in. People want purposeful employment, when they’re downsized, fired or can’t find work that gives them meaning it really messes with their psyches. I firmly believe that human beings are built to work towards goals, to endeavor in meaningful work and to gather a sense of community from their jobs.
So if you’re considering starting a business, consider building something that provides meaningful employment to those around you — not another photo-sharing app. I can tell you from first hand experience there are few things as rewarding in life. Knowing the people you work with not only enjoy their job, but it helps them live the life they want to, is pretty much the coolest feeling ever.
“Meaningful work is one of the most important things we can impart to children. Meaningful work is work that is autonomous. Work that is complex, that occupies your mind. And work where there is a relationship between effort and reward — for everything you put in, you get something out…
If you are convinced that the work you are doing is meaningful, then curiosity, there’s no cost to it. If you think there’s always got to be a connection between what you put in and what you get out, then of course you’ll run off with a great excitement after an idea that catches your idea.” - Malcom Gladwell