One of my favorite essays of all time is Dorothy Sayers' "Why Work?" Written during World War II, I'm amazed time and time again how applicable her words are even into the next century, even to someone who wasn't anywhere near alive during that time.
"The habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money is so ingrained in us that we can scarcely imagine what a revolutionary change it would be to think about it instead in terms of the work done. To do so would mean taking the attitude of mind we reserve for our unpaid work -- our hobbies, our leisure interests, the things we make and do for pleasure -- and making that the standard of all our judgments about things and people."
Sayers encourages her reader to view the task at hand similar to a hobby. And we've heard it before. "Do what you love."
A May 21 Wall Street Journal article doesn't necessarily agree with that statement. Instead of another success story of a young entrepreneur following his dream and cashing in big, this article focuses on other entrepreneurs left behind, whose dream company landed them only in monotonous company housekeeping that drained all of the love out of the original idea.
"The problem is that 'do what you love' is incomplete advice, and sometimes misleading," the article said.
But, then again, I don't think that Sayers believes in blind ambition either. I believe she asks a very valuable question about all work. What do we work for?
For some, the question is very simple: Money. We work for the end result, the palpable check that we can walk to the bank.
For others, the question is equally as simple: Success. We work for the notoriety, so that people will know our face and we won't leave this world as anonymously as we joined it.
Sayers is not suggesting that I take my hobby of crocheting and turn it into a scarf-selling enterprise. Instead, I should approach each task the way that I approach my crocheting: with anticipation and peace.
If we changed our attitude about the details of work, then eventually our attitude toward the work as a whole would change as well.
Can you imagine a world where people take pride in their work, not just in the end result but also in the process? I imagine that such a world would lead to a better quality of life, and a greater number of jobs well done.