Sept. 08–Some jobs are diamonds. Some are coal. Most are somewhere in between.
Those lines almost sound like lyrics to a mournful country song.
Everyone — with the exception of a few lucky souls — works in order to survive. Residents of the planet’s undeveloped regions scrabble to wrest life’s essentials from the land. They work with crops, livestock or minerals just as humans have since we first walked upright. Residents of developed regions typically work instead for money — with which they can then purchase life’s essentials. They work with hammers or ham, images or insurance, plumbing or pixels.
There always have been people who loved farming or hunting. Those folks could find personal satisfaction at work no matter if they they lived 10 years ago or 1,000 years ago. Today’s workers can choose from a smorgasbord of career choices.
Some are lucky enough to slide into a job so personally fulfilling that they feel as if they’re being paid to enjoy themselves.
I’ve recently met a variety of folks who like their work so much they almost consider it a hardship to go home at shift’s end.
I spoke with a shoe shop owner who has loved selling shoes since her first experience with a customer decades ago. She grew up in her parents’ shop. She looked forward to after-school chores. Perhaps she inherited the love of work from her father. Even in his 80s he still comes back to the shop to work at least once a week.
I met a fast food worker who couldn’t stop chatting about how excited he was to have a job where he could create sandwiches and meet people and get paid for it. His grin as he assembled my lunch told me more about his enthusiastic attitude toward work than his words. He absolutely loved this job.
I crossed paths with a couple who have been in business together for decades. They have adjacent offices in their building in a local industrial park. Their different skills have helped grow their business into a stable entity. Their offices are decorated completely differently, but the walls show that both are proud of their individual achievements. Their work spaces have become, in effect, extensions of their living room — they are visible displays of their love for their work.
It’s not always easy to tell if someone is working for love or for money. The question rarely pops into my head. I assume most people — unless they are in truly desperate financial straits — must like their job at least a little. Otherwise they’d look for something better. But sometimes it is obvious when an individual loves or hates the job at hand.
A few weeks ago I took a walk downtown to check out the daily crop of tourists. Street musicians lined the sidewalks.
An older man sat behind an open guitar case. His mumbled singing made it hard to tell, but I think he was crooning about either unrequited love or bad-tasting soup. He accompanied himself with two chords on a battered old guitar. E minor and C major are the first two chords everyone learns when first picking up a six-string. I was uncertain if the guy had been performing for years or had just decided to take up singing and strumming that morning. I hoped it was the latter. But it was obvious from his facial expression that, to him, the quality of his performance didn’t matter. He was in heaven — he loved performing in front of an audience, even if that audience was strolling past without even looking at him.
I rounded a corner and spied a sullen young man leaning against the side of a building, a guitar slung across his chest, his eyes downcast. I walked into his field of vision. His hands jerked up to position on the strings and he hastily dove into a clumsy rendition of the Beatles’ tune “Nowhere Man.” His entire persona reeked of boredom. He was not enjoying himself. Nor was his nonexistent audience.
Street musicians can be successful at their business if they project an attitude of enthusiasm for their art. Naked disdain for both music and audience leads to certain business failure.
Not every musician — or every American — is lucky enough to find employment he or she loves. In an ideal world we all could spend our days doing something we at least liked. Our world is not ideal. Some jobs just pay the rent and put food on the table.
Contact Business Editor Dan Nielsen at 231-933-1467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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