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A Meaningful Life Means Having Meaningful Work

July 19, 2013 by  
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Last week I started talking about the importance of that one thing we all love to complain about but need so badly as well—Work! We don’t need it just for the money either!

In the book I brought up last week, “When All You Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough “, Harold Kushner lists  the many super benefits to working. He notes “that we work for meaning as much as for money. We work so that our days will not be empty of meaning … but the key to our happiness, to our being able to find pleasure in our work, is the sense that we are using our abilities, not wasting them, and that we are being appreciated for it. Whatever it is in your power to do, do it with all your might.”

Wow … there is real wisdom and truth in what he is saying and of course that’s a big reason we all should be involved in the kind of work that we have a real passion for, even if that kind of work doesn’t pay much. Kushner says “If we are lucky, we will find ourselves at a place in life where we can derive pleasure from our work. Some of us, if we are lucky, will see ourselves launched on new careers in mid-life which will give us that elusive feeling of pleasure”.

Kushner is a Rabbi and he loves what he does, even when the work he has to do involves a sad event. “In a strange way, I feel good when I am officiating at a funeral,” he says. “For years, I couldn’t understand that feeling. I thought there might be something perverse about me, to enjoy such moments. But I understand it now. At times like that, I feel alive and engaged. I know that I am not merely present but that I am making a difference.”

Harold Kushner, paraphrasing lines in Ecclesiastes in the bible, says “If you are not going to win a Nobel Prize for your work, if it is not going to make you rich and famous, it still can give meaning to your life if you take it seriously and do it with all your might”.

I am absolutely convinced that work is a powerful and wonderful thing for our lives and makes us feel so much better about everything. As the novelist Wallace Stegner said “More people than would probably admit it find in work the scaffolding that holds up their adult lives.”

So yes, after learning–or I should say re-learning–all this about work, I have begun to re-dedicate and re-motivate my life to the work I love to do. Of course, we all need a break and so I will keep playing and traveling but these will be part time activities, because let’s face it, you can’t realistically play tennis, work out, hike in the mountains, watch movies or even have sex for 8 to 10 hours a day but you can work that long! You can dump all of your boredom and find great fulfillment in your accomplishments with hard work. You can also meet more fascinating people, contribute to humanity and, as an added bonus, even make a bit more money along the way. That’s a win-win-win from every angle!

 

The Answer to Boredom: Work

July 12, 2013 by  
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Yesterday day I had lunch with a very good, longtime friend. He had recently retired from working at the business he owned and we talked a lot about that transition from being a full time worker into a retiree. We talked about some of the big challenges a person faces when they hit retirement. It’s something that most people look forward to their entire working lives, but it’s a huge trap or at least it can be and not a very nice one.

The bottom line of our conversation was summed up in my friend’s comment “I am bored out of my mind!” And believe me, I know exactly what he is feeling! Been there, done that–twice. The first time was when I had made quite a few million dollars and just turned 40 and thought “Wow, I don’t have to work anymore. I think I will retire.” So I did but quickly discovered that I was, yes, bored out of my mind! I found I craved that meaningful purpose that having an occupation gave me so I jumped right back into work and what a relief that was! I instantly felt so much better.

My second retirement was just about 2 years ago when I turned my company over to my kids and decided to play more tennis and travel more. That was great for the first 2 or 3 months but then I started feeling unfulfilled and constantly found myself wandering around the house and driving my wife crazy. I knew something was wrong and my brain kept saying “Ok … you are no longer an entrepreneurial business type guy and as you’re not doing much writing any more you aren’t much of an author, so just what the hell are you?”

I tried to busy myself with more tennis, workouts, mountain hikes and travel and, yes, that helped but it just wasn’t enough. Then quite suddenly something motivated me to pick up an old book that I had read a couple of times before. I did this as part of my philosophy learned from my late great mentor, Paul J Meyer, that philosophy being that you should pick a few dozen or even a hundred of the very best books you’ve ever read then read them multiple times. Since we all forget so much of what we’ve read and learned at any one time, rereading is necessary.

I began reading Harold Kushner’s wonderful book “When All You Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough: The Search for a Life That Matters” It was while reading this that the key to solving my struggles with retirement and boredom hit me full in the face. What was it that Kushner said in his book that was such a breakthrough for me? It was simply uttering that good ole four letter word “WORK”!

Don’t laugh. This really is the answer to boredom and does give one a major power lift to the soul, the mind, and the body as well as a big time enhancement to self-worth. And yet that was the very thing we think we want to leave behind. But that thinking is wrong. We need work. And for more than just a paycheck!

Next week we’ll talk more about this concept of work being so very important to us and why. But for now, whether you are still working or retired, realize that having a purpose each day is what makes life fulfilling and that the idea of retirement should be an opportunity to work as you like, not to stop working altogether.