I’m fortunate to have found my calling in life. I don’t dread Mondays. Returning to my desk after lunch isn’t a chore. I welcome the challenge of pleasing several bosses (aka “clients”).
But I’m still human. I look forward to weekends. I fake “sick days” and play hooky. And I daydream of dorking around, even when working with people I like on projects I’m passionate about.
I was reminded of this last Wednesday while on assignment for Google, writing a fun but challenging story for them. Once late afternoon hit, however, all I wanted to do was paddleboard or cut home movies.
In my moment of doubt, I turned to my wife and asked in vain, “If I can’t stay focused on work I enjoy, what chance do people have that don’t like their job?” The answer, of course, is “not much.”
The reason for this is best summed up by Mark Twain. “Tom discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it,” Twain writes, after the titular Tom Sawyer dupes his contemporaries into painting a fence for him. “In order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If [Tom] had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
I was obligated to write that story for Google just like I’m obliged to others that pay me to write. That’s what makes my job “work.”
So you see, the phrase, “Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life,” is clever but only half true. I love my job and never resent it. That much is true.
But I’d rather play than work sometimes, even when engaged in work I find meaningful.