Einstein was wrong. We can control time. Ask any person occupying a job they hate or stuck working for a manager they despise, and they will tell you that time has reduced to a crawl, turning hours and days into something that feels like a slow, unrelenting, continuous dripping of a leaky faucet.
The slow drip of the faucet of time when you’re miserable in your work is torturous.
While I believe to my core humans can find reward in almost every role, that’s the Zen side of me looking for the beauty and meaning hand scraping used coal mill parts while sitting on an upside-down five-gallon pail—a summer job I held years ago. Days moved at the pace of a freight train at a railroad crossing when you’re in a hurry.
And yes, while the transformation of these incredibly dirty, gunky hunks of metal into gleaming, freshly painted parts ready for redeployment offered some quick gratification, let’s face it, the job still sucked.
Chances are you don’t scrape parts for a living, however, whatever your analog is, if some aspect of the work does not exhilarate you, it’s time to plan a reset.
Seeking Purpose and Cause in Pursuit of Exhilaration
I don’t believe in the mantra of following your passion, although, when you can identify work that hits the sweet spot at the convergence of passion, ability, and marketability, you’re on to something. Anything less, and you’ve got an expensive hobby. Most of us need a vocation.
I do believe we all have a core sense of our core purpose often buried deep beneath layers of life’s challenges and worldly distractions. I thought mine was to run and grow tech businesses, but it turns out, it’s to help individuals achieve more than they thought possible in their careers. While running and growing a software firm is one way to manifest that cause, there are more direct ways that I’ve opted to pursue.
If you uncover this purpose and find avenues (causes) to pursue it, the odds of being exhilarated in your work rise tremendously. Easy words. (See my article: Reinventing Your Career: Finding Purpose and Cause)
Tuning in to your purpose and living it or delivering upon it in some form makes the grind enjoyable and the events or moments in time when it all comes together exhilarating.
Think of organizational leaders who are at their best helping others solve problems and develop in their careers.
Or, healthcare professionals focused on treating the entire person, not just the transactional issues. (Almost every nurse I’ve encountered is living purpose and cause in their work. How else could they navigate this tough job otherwise?)
Contrary to popular belief, some consultants care tremendously about leaving their clients better off and more prosperous than they found them. They find exhilaration in helping these clients solve complex problems and identifying new paths to growth.
I know customer support professionals who are at their best when the client is at their worst.
And contractors who are driven by the joy of creating or building something for someone.
While few of those individuals run around talking about purpose and cause, internally, they all recognize they are doing work that aligns with who they are. They work at the intersection of passion, ability, and marketability, and as a result, they thrive on the grind and live for the big moments when it comes together.
What about you?
The Bottom-Line for Now:
If you’re not one of those people who finds occasional moments of exhilaration in your work, you might want to develop a plan for a reset. The work of exploring options to uncover passion, ability, and marketability will make your time spent scraping coal mill parts bearable if not just a bit satisfying in a “gee the lawn looks great after I cut it” kind of way. However, without finding your purpose and a viable cause, it’s just a slow, painful dripping of the faucet of time.