Monday, June 5, 2017

Work that makes you happy ...

I am trying to pen down the exact sentiment. What makes us happy at work?

The old saying goes: "If you love what you do, you will never have to work a day in your life."

So, exactly which variables determine why or why not we love what we do for a living?

Let's work backwards and ask a simple question.

What would give one a sense of reward and joy at work?

  • Money
  • Job profile
  • Level of accomplishment
  • Level of responsibility
  • Effort and Results
  • Nature of work
  • Amount of creativity involved
  • Lifestyle and Work-life Balance

It is not a simple answer. It is definitely a combination of factors, but some would weigh more in one's decision than others.

For me the last two factors are very important - the amount of creativity involved and work-life balance. I personally believe that these two are more important than the other variables when it comes to choosing any line of work.

Interesting thing though - and the focus of this post - is that both these factors are very closely interrelated. I believe you cannot be creative on demand and you need to feel inspired by your own work-life balance to be truly creative and in the right mood to churn out quality work.

There is a famous quotation:

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.
— Peter DeVries

While this is intended to be humor, there is good reason to believe that a writer lives the sort of life that, in the first place, gives him that sense of reward and satisfaction, which allows him to be inspired and creative. It is a joy to make a living doing what one loves - and so being able to write for a living - and living the life - must naturally inspire creativity.

And these factors only get more important with time. Think of the CXO who likes to be at golf while still doing his work from the phone or over e-mail, or the senior executive who chooses not to miss his children's lives just so he can toil away at the office. We want to live a certain kind of lifestyle - and really all the other variables are immaterial in comparison. Once we achieve that lifestyle and work-life balance, perhaps we find the happiness and joy to be creative and inspired.

This balance to me is more important than any other in determining whether or not we are happy at work.

Me? Most days I just like to work in my shorts or hoodies and believe that I am at my most creative if I am comfortable enough to think and daydream. Yes, it can be that simple.

Who says you can't have fun?

Mine is the generation (adolescents in the early '90s) that saw economic liberalization hit us squarely in the face and it impacted us in so many ways that are becoming fully apparent only now that I have turned 40.

With cable TV, FTV, e-mail and the Internet, and consumerism hitting us hard, we were deeply entrenched in the "rat-race" to get professionally qualified, go abroad, and land plum jobs. I realize now that in chasing the big picture of getting an MBA, and having a resume (the earlier generation simply called it a bio-data or CV), we lost out on a lot of the smaller things - which are really needed by the human psyche. We were even competitive with our cousins and friends - mom wanted you to have better qualifications than cousin X and friend Y. We were just madly pursuing a very random dream - adrift with whatever winds blew in. While aspirations were sky high, opportunities were limited - so you literally had to be among the select few to "make it". We bore the brunt of externalized socioeconomic forces, entirely beyond our control.

When I look back at the last twenty years - from twenty to forty - I feel like I have missed out on lots of the smaller things - like just sitting with friends and wasting time doing nothing - and laughing away for no particular reason. I have such memories only from the actual time I was doing the MBA. After that it became a mad struggle to get on with life. And to do what? To accumulate what?

Life is meant to be lived and experienced. Sure, it is important to be able to say, "I've been there, done that", especially when it comes to getting professionally qualified and having worked overseas and seen the "high life".

But what now?

It would be stupid to continue working on a dream that was at best alien - I mean even the Americans and the Europeans are no longer in some mad rush to make the mega bucks - all that changed with the economic dip of '08-'09. People came to their senses. Stock markets are no temples where the money just rolls in and not everyone wants to be an investment banker. How silly was our picture of the world, where streets were paved with gold and we just had to find our way to those streets? How immature were we?

What do I want now?

Now, quite simply, I just want to live and experience life itself. I want to pace myself better. I want to be able to say no to things and say yes to those I actually want to do. For example, I am looking forward to trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp in October this year. What's the point if I can't do what I want to with my time?

Where's the badge of merit in always being busy?

I want to live, not just survive or exist. I want to travel, I want to spend time with friends, and not just be some clumsy, unwilling force of the economy. It is called the "workforce" for a reason. I have done enough of that. I want to be able to love how I spend my time and feel productive on my own terms - not those of others.

Most of all, I want to be happy on any given day, living life on my own terms.

Who says you have to do things a certain way? 

I am going to do things my way, even if that means running against the wind.

Work that makes you happy ...

I am trying to pen down the exact sentiment. What makes us happy at work? The old saying goes: " If you love what you do, you will n...