Work is a four-letter word!

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Steve Jobs

While these are words to live by, I can’t deny that there is a vantage point where these words came from. I don’t disagree with the genius or sagacity of Steve Jobs but he did run capitalist organizations that supported money making, productivity-based models.

Unfortunately, those are our everyday models but they don’t work for us as efficiently as they do for tycoons and Wall Street investment bankers.

I have a job that I love. Being a physician is my calling or one of my several callings. But the same could be said by software engineers, lawyers, corporate bigwigs, financial advisors and so on. They probably find their calling in their work also.

However, it is also undeniable that work isn’t the same for everyone. Many of us work jobs that aren’t necessarily worthy of us. While employers will frequently reward you for professionalism, punctuality, teamwork, astuteness and being good, these aren’t accolades that are worth much when the job isn’t doing much for us.

No job that pays well is an all-around happy job. You can argue that but that’s the basis of capitalism. We are supposed to work hard and then harder to beat our own selves. We compete with our own productivity in corporate models. The business of medicine is also based in corporate models. So is the business of law, science, art and entertainment.

When I graduated as a starry-eyed 23 year old from medical school, I had tall ideals of working for non-profits and not taking money out for a 401-K. I told my dad that I was different from him.

“I don’t believe in insurance policies and retirement plans”, I said.

“I didn’t believe in them either ”, he laughed, “You’ll be singing a different tune when you are married with kids”.

Decades down, I have a retirement plan, several insurances and life policies and a brokerage account. Corporate business got me. My dad would’ve laughed again. But he can’t. Between paying for policies and saving for his children’s future, he died when he was in his early fifties. When he passed away I realized that money I could’ve lived without. My dad took my breath with him. But now I live the same life that he did. Constant drudgery at the feet of capitalism and depositing exceedingly large amounts of cash in my bank account to secure a future that isn’t even guaranteed.

A few years ago I did have a minor epiphany that induced an insignificant change. I was working too hard and this was undeniable. I was paying most of it in taxes. Someone advised that I should earn less to pay less taxes. It made sense. I scaled back my hours. It helped me feel a little in control. Someone whooped inside me at beating life at something.

But think about it because I do and this is an accountability that should keep more of us awake!

Where does the money go that we make by working longer and harder? We make it and then we spend it in hopes of having something to show for it.

We end up having zero receipts for what that money brought us.

My partners with time shares in Disney visit Disney just one more time a year than I do. They pay a huge amount to have that time share. I don’t and yet, Disney treats me the same.

It’s the same theory whereby work will treat us. Investing more time or more energy into making more isn’t working. Work, the very work that we call our calling sometimes, is meant to be spiritual. Callings weren’t supposed to be defined by corporate giants. These people did nothing but sully the good name of a calling. A calling is a spiritual experience that can certainly come from a productivity model but has to do something for us that isn’t purely about how much and how many.

A calling is what helps you sleep at night when you have attended to it during the day. I find my calling as a physician the most when I visit a patient in the middle of the night as she is hyperventilating from anxiety. Talking to her, prescribing something to take the edge off, arranging for family to speak with her, circling back and watching her then sleeping peacefully is my real calling. Sometimes, all the money I make at work doesn’t register like the soul registers that moment. The moment I made a difference!

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