Why Do You Do The Work You Do?


Saturday, 8.54pm

Sheffield, U.K

Profits, like sausages… are esteemed most by those who know least about what goes into them. – Alvin Toffler

Every so often do you ever wonder what’s the point of it all – why is it you do what you do?

It’s easy to feel disenchanted with whatever job you have – even if it’s one of the “good ones” – the ones that protect people or help them or make a difference.

It’s generally accepted that money is a bad reason to do anything – but that doesn’t stop us from using it to rationalise quite a lot of things.

For example, you might sometimes hear that what all businesses are trying to do is put more on the bottom line – profit is what drives us to work and produce.

That always seemed an empty approach to me – it lacked any sense of purpose.

So, what other options might we have?

These questions have clearly been tackled before and the first few pages of Alexander Mackendrick’s book, On Film-Making, gives us an insight into how this looks for people in a field with which many of us have little familiarity.

The problems they face, however, are much the same – I guess because they are human ones.

Before you can really have the space and time to think about purpose you need a basic level of income security – enough to eat and cover your responsibilities.

Clearly you need less when you’re young and more later.

But when you have that you can start to wonder whether you’re an artist or a professional.

An artist is driven to create – to work on something that is individual and original – but most importantly they don’t have to answer to anyone else.

As an artist, you’re in control of what you do – there’s just one circle and it’s all yours.

An artist, ideally, is independent.

Getting paid for their art is a hoped for bonus.

A professional, on the other hand, is interdependent.

As a professional you create work and work with others to create a product that is of value to a paying customer.

This is really what you hope to have when you work in a company – a community of colleagues with different levels of ability and achievement but brought together with a common purpose to create and deliver value to a customer.

Lots of individual circles that come together, and from which emerges a larger pattern.

The place where many people imagine they want to be is the position of being the boss or ideally, being a rentier – someone who gets the profits without the work.

The kind of people who want passive income.

These people, if they take that role too seriously, put themselves outside the box where all the work happens.

They have money but little creative work – and so one assumes they spend their time trying to amuse themselves.

Good luck to them.

Assuming, however, that you are the kind of person that wants to do work that has some kind of purpose, how do you go about being creative?

That is answered in a paragraph that is worth quoting in its entirety:

‘Creativity’ will always look after itself if you are prolific in production, which means starting off by turning out masses of work that is relatively unoriginal, derivative and imitative. When productivity has become second nature, you will find you have acquired a freedom in which your particular and personal individuality emerges of its own accord.”

That philosophy is the reason why I try and write a blog post every day – because the process matters.

In a few short pages the introduction also reminds us that the basics matter.

Structure is important – it underpins everything you do.

You learn only by doing, not by reading or thinking.

“Work”, it says, “is the only real training.”

And when you learn, or when you train your colleagues, train them “so that they can cope with anything that might happen.”

A point with echoes of systems theory.

You may have no interest in film-making.

But if you get a chance read and re-read the introduction because it may help you think about why you do what you do.


Karthik Suresh

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