Thursday, August 21, 2008

Loving Your Work

(heads up since this is a religious post)

Thinking about the value of work last week, I reflected on what I enjoy about working. The challenge and satisfaction of creating something...the process of brainstorming and generating ideas...the people I encounter and learn from...others I mentor or help...the excitement of bringing something to market...and so many other experiences I love about work.

I've been blessed to have a career during which I've cherished most of the experiences, respected many of the people I've worked with, and where I’ve been able to grow personally and professionally. Of course, there were situations I didn't enjoy — some I really hated. Working with unethical colleagues...compromising my principles...doing that I didn't want to undertake...and firing people. Still, overall, it has been my approach in life to never have regrets. Whether good or bad occurs, I choose to take stock and move on.

I acknowledge that not everyone has been blessed with work they enjoy. I have an acquaintance who became a doctor out of respect to his parents' wishes (Is it obvious he was Asian American? Maybe not...) but in his heart, what he really wanted was to become an attorney. I always wondered how he approached his work when his heart was somewhere else. I know others who have had bosses from hell, career paths that weren't as interesting as they anticipated, or toiled at dead-end jobs. What would my approach to work be if I was in these situations? Would I still be "happy Bernard" or have my "no regrets" view of life?

I hope I would be the same; but I don't know for sure. Frankly, I hope I never have to find out. I am trying to look at Jesus Christ and his view on life; trying to learn from him. Jesus said, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45 New International Version)

Jesus' statement can be applied to every segment of life. For work, if we take the perspective that we are working to serve others, it allows us to embrace even the most dreadful situation and turn it into something positive. Instead of focusing on ourselves, our goals and desires, it enables us to focus on doing our work well. Period. I suspect this approach wouldn't sit well with the "prosperity movement" since those who have a servant attitude don’t expect any reward.

Of course this doesn't mean we should be impractical or sit there like a log and let people abuse us and take advantage of us. Actually, Jesus does say those inconvenient things about turning the other cheek and going the second mile and loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us... But I don’t see any reason you can’t have a giving attitude while still being a top performer or servant leader.

Jesus was great leader and an incredibly strong person — it’s on every page of the gospels. And he didn't expect a reward; he didn’t come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Somehow, I think that sounds like a game-changer.

Originally posted at InsideWork

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