are we destined to be forever defined by our job?
Updated: Jan 4
“Hello Tim, really nice to meet you at last. Want a beer? Here you go. Sooooo…….what do you do?”
And there you have it. Tim is about to be defined by his work. As the booze flows, there’ll be cries of “Hey, it’s Tim the accountant!” across the room.
Definition complete. Nothing more to your life. Is there?
It used to baffle me why this was the second question I was asked by strangers so bloody often.
When I sussed out why, it started to irritate me because I knew that I was being judged by my answer. You work in a bank? Yes but I’m not a banker. Irrelevant, already judged. Next please.
Life defined by the job I did. Anyone who knows me has said I wasn’t the run of the mill finance dude.
I realised that the reason I was getting irritated was because I was doing a bit of self-loathing: being judged for doing something that I really didn’t want to do and doing nothing about it.
My work has taken up a lot of my time over the years, but it has never been the core of me, nor will it ever be.
Perhaps the root of the obsession with knowing what others do to make money is something to do with our relationship with the Puritan Work Ethic. (To be clear, I don’t buy Max Weber’s view that this concept - in particular sacrifice and hard work - gave birth to capitalism, although I do think that it helped to advance capitalist popularity.)
These conversations are often superficial and achieve nothing, other than grow an obsession with what job we and others do.
This is self-punishing.
We obsess in our spare time about what others do and then compare our status and role to them.
These are some of the core human wants that take a bitter twist down the shadowy money lane.
I don’t think we are taught to effectively use critical thinking or to ask deeper questions about life. We end up unwilling to either ask or reveal.
I love my life
Wouldn’t it be a whole lot more enjoyable if we started talking about what’s really great about our lives, how great the last Spike Lee movie was, what do we think of Ed Sheeran’s tattoos (ok, maybe that’s pushing the definition of enjoyment…)?
Work is a part of our life. Sure, it’s important. Looking at our work and career in isolation will not help us achieve a true vision of success.
By the way, the Puritans burned “witches” at the stake and massacred Native American women and kids. Time for new influencers, anyone?
What's the buzz?
- Look at your life with a new lens
- Treat it as an experiment
- Take on a “What if ….?” mindset
- Love your life