Does your work make you a better human being?
The work we do and the stuff we accumulate are much like adding more zeros to life. There is no end to it and the sum total of all you accumulate is still zero.
Haven’t we all seen miserable millionaires and poor people (materially) who are blessed with contentment?
In a world where you can do almost anything you want to, our choice becomes ever more important. And it is the choice of doing the work that not only makes a bigger difference to the outer world but also enriches your inner world as a human being.
We see people doing menial mundane jobs with great joy and we see people in meaningful and deep work doing it with a feeling of drudgery.
Work itself means little, unless we assign a meaning to it. It is pretty much like a stone cutter who thinks he is busy building a cathedral. Stone cutting is mundane, building a cathedral is not.
It is this kind of work, and the meaning we assign to it, that adds a one before all the zeros. That which makes all the other zeros meaningful and valuable.
That is how we create value in life. Not by simply accumulating stuff and external validations. But by also doing the work that makes us a better human being.
We think of education very narrowly. Education is not just a means to find your vocation, education is an enabler in designing a good life.
As far as earning your daily bread is concerned, even uneducated people end up making big fortunes. At the least, they know how to survive.
But on the other end of the spectrum, we see many educated people (or lets say, people with impressive college degrees) in a dire state of affairs when it comes to living a good life. We see people around who have been handed over a good fortune that they squander. They have loving kids who they ignore in the busyness of work. They have caring parents around who they take for granted. They have a good career but their finances are messed up. Their relationships broken and they have a toxic view about life and others.
I feel that the real purpose of education should be recentered around living a good life and not simply have a good career. A good career is certainly an essential element of survival, but that’s cannot be the whole point of our life.
Where will we lead our society if we always place a premium only on vocational growth and position in the pecking order of society instead of celebrating people who are able to live a balanced good life?
A life built around the highest human virtues of love, compassion, contentment, relationships and generosity.
That’s what society needs today, more than ever before!
The sculpture of David, one of the most famous sculptures of all time, surrounds itself by as much myth as its maker himself. When the Pope saw Michelangelo’s work for the first time, he looked at it in awe, and asked the famous artist how he could possibly create a sculpture of such utter beauty and precision. Without hesitation, Michelangelo answered:
“It’s simple. I just removed everything that isn’t David.
– Via Negativa
Start from what is absolutely needed. Keep things simple. Eliminate the clutter of stuff and thoughts.
Elimination inspires focus. It provides clarity. Simplicity, they say, is the ultimate sophistication.
Gratitude is the prerequisite for generosity.
If you think what you have is not enough, how will you be able to share generously with others?
You will rarely see someone who is ungrateful and generous at the same time!
In the photo: A beautiful colored wooden house at Suomenlinna Island, Helsinki, Finland (2016)
“Where is the joy in writing, dancing, film-making, or any art or entrepreneurial venture? It’s not in the praise; it’s not in a paycheck. (Though there’s nothing wrong with praise or paychecks.) It’s in the work itself. The sweat of it and the grind of it and the happy moments when it gets rolling all by itself. Krishna said that’s all we have a right to, and he hit the nail on the head. The joy is private and silent.”
– Wise words from Steve Pressfield via his post “The Fruits of Our Labor”
In 1923, the German thinker Eugen Herrigel, hoping to master Zen philosophy, visited Japan and immersed himself in archery. He wrote in his classic study “Zen in the Art of Archery”: “Archery is not practiced solely for hitting the target; the swordsman does not wield the sword just for the sake of outdoing his opponent; the dancer does not dance just to perform certain rhythmical movements of the body.” The target may be hit, the opponent outdone, the dance technically perfect – but those outcomes will be merely the happy by-products of a deeper absorption with the activity itself. And that is best achieved, according to Herrigel, by avoiding prescriptive goals and techniques.
– Excerpt from “Are We Too Professional?” by Ed Smith More Intelligent Life