I had a very strange insight today. There were two triggers:
- two conversations with respected colleagues in the past three days concerning how unsatisfying some recent projects have become for me
- a twitter post that led me to David Fuhriman’s 2011-08-25 Lifehacker article, “If You Wouldn’t Do Your Job For Free, then Quit.”
What I noticed is that, as a retiree, I now do for free things that I don’t need a job for. But some of the things I do for free I would never take a job to do. And I am doing too much of that for free. And I’m suffering about it. I’m doing work that you couldn’t pay me to do, and I’m doing it for free.
It is time I stopped obligating myself that way.
I’m going to use the two qualities that Fuhriman identifies as important: satisfaction and mastery.
I’ll do satisfying work that feeds my passion. I’ll do work that is part of a journey to mastery in my lifelong vocation.
I’ll do it that way because, as a retiree, I have the flexibility to do that. As it happens, my passions and vocation are not expensive. I have the tools I need already. (I find that very interesting.)
My passion is computing. It has been that way since the beginning of 1958 when I had my first experience at computer programming. It became my vocation and also my profession. I started at a time when many of us marveled that we could have this amazing work and people would pay us to do it.
There were times when my professional life was not satisfying and the work that was required, and the current state of affairs of the field, did not align with my passion. But I maintained my vocation and persevered through unfulfilling times. Now, continuing my vocation in ways that are satisfying and building mastery are completely up to me. I might even find that, on occasion, I am still rewarded by being paid for such effort.
Looking backward, I realize that I have managed my course through life in a way that kept my passion always in reach. I was fortunate to be able to arrange that. Now I will work around those involvements that have become unsatisfying, returning to fulfilling effort.
The comments on Fuhriman’s article are interesting. For many people there is confusion of duty (which can be satisfying and fulfilling) and unsatisfying work. There is also some confusion of job and employment. Fuhriman may have contributed to that. That folks may not be at choice concerning what they would do different than the job they’ve found is something to look at. But not by itself. The “job” may not be the job that matters in this invitation for introspection. There’s always room to look at what we are at work at and what we see as our job on the planet. If we see we are not doing that, we might need to look more closely, and also look at what there is within our means that would move us in that direction.