Friday, March 19, 2010

How I Accidentally Stopped Hating Work

I've always heard two schools of thought on how to choose your line of work, if you're lucky enough to have the economic breathing room to choose:
  1. Do what you love.
  2. Do what gives you the income to do what you love in your free time.
The former always sounds appealing, but it has the tendency to turn your love for what-have-you sour.  This happens around the third time that you have a deadline, no inspiration or energy, and you'd really rather be reading a comic book.

The latter is the practical man's solution, and I have respect for that.  You have to put up with daily, nagging ambivalence, if not real hatred, but bills are paid and you continue to have that thing that makes you feel worthwhile.

I wonder though if there isn't a third option that doesn't get the attention it deserves:

Do what you can't stop yourself from doing anyway.

What I mean is that there is probably something that, when given the opportunity, you'll always be the one saying, "I'll get this."


Imagine yourself in a room of people sitting around a table.  On the table are pieces of paper that have tasks on them, just enough for each person in the room.  Everybody has to pick one of these up, and that will be their thing for the day; whoever picks it up first does it.  But if somebody sucks at doing what they picked up, it will go badly for all of you.

I wager there's something you can imagine on the table that will cause you think, "I better get that one because everybody else will just screw it up."  Hopefully there's some situation you've been in that's caused that reaction, because my advice is:  that's the thing that will get you through the day consistently with minimal self-hatred, a decent paycheck, and maybe better chances of advancement.

For me, I realized, it's figuring out how to go about engineering good things.  That sounds really ill defined, but it is definitely my thing.  If there's a need that can be solved by coming up with some logically engineered thing that will do what the intended user really wants to do, then I will fall over myself trying to architect the solution, every time.  Other people do this too where I work, but I think they do it for category-2 reasons -- for a paycheck.  Again, no disrespect for that.  But I walk out of the same meetings with a little engineer's adrenaline buzz because I got that bizness done.

I got lucky falling into a job where this comes up frequently, and where people let me do that thing I have to do.  Previously, I had bounced from job to job, not really understanding what I didn't like about each.  I can't say my days now are all thrilling excitement, but I have some pretty good ones.  Plus when I go home, I can play with photography (or not) and not have to care if it's any good.  Or I can just read a comic book.


Jayson said...

I honestly never thought of it that way.

John Callender said...

That was indeed pretty interesting.

sigh yse failure to utter that in Ishar

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