There are two primary ways to think about work. Your job is either a source of meaning or the source of funds for meaning you create elsewhere. One or the other.
You find meaning in your job or you fund meaning with your job. Find or fund. Either or.
Have you heard the latest round of nonsense from career advisors? They say that if you don’t have passion for a job, you can’t do it well. If you look closely, you’ll find that they are all people who find meaning in their jobs. They love to work and think that the only way to do things is by loving your work.
If you find meaning in your work, you give the job everything you have. You work until there is no more meaning to be gotten. You work longer hours because meaning comes from work.
If you fund your meaning by working, you give the job everything you have. You work until the work is done. Then you go find your meaning elsewhere.
Not all things that generate meaning are able to generate adequate compensation as well. Many people work to finance their recreation, their religion, or raison d’être. They deliver excellence and then do something else.
Two perfectly legitimate approaches to the same thing.
There’s really only a problem if you want your job to be a blend of both. Successfully finding meaning in your work while funding other meaning elsewhere requires an extraordinary amount of self-discipline and time management. While it can be done, there are very, very few examples of success.
For most of us, trying to do both means a fast trip to mediocrity junction and short-term obsolescence. The zombies Jeff Hunter talks about are people who want it both ways. Watching the clock and skating by, they find work to be drudgery. They never get either prize, the discovery of meaning or the opportunity to create it elsewhere.
The only path to workplace success is to either find your meaning there or use the job to fund it elsewhere. The choice is yours. Part 2 of ‘dreaming your job’ is about deciding which it will be.