Wed Oct 21 2009

On work, pleasure, and occasionally contributing to the world at large

I haven’t lived that long (I’m on the verge of turning 27) to be 100% sure about this, but I believe there are times in one’s life when asking the question “should I be doing what I am doing today?” is a healthy, perhaps essential proposition. A couple of days ago, I was doing a particularly long drive and it occurred to me that not a lot of people ask themselves this question in particular or questions of this nature in general.

Interestingly, I just came across this six year old post by Adam Greenfield (through his feed which is - mind you - a collection of great reads) where he hints at the subject of work versus pleasure and contributing to the world. I’d like to highlight a couple of parts of the post (which you should read entirely if this subject interests you) that particularly resonate with my opinion and recent thoughts:>The difference is more than merely the one between business class and flying coach. There’s a whole set of values, attitudes and behaviors which go along with working that simply do not flow quite as naturally from the state of “not” working. (I keep putting these things in quotes because I’ve worked my ass off while unemployed, literally two or three times as hard as I ever did as a salaryman.)

And here’s my calculus: not only am I personally almost infinitely better off (emotionally, physically, psychically) not working, but I feel, and believe the results will bear me out, as if I have contributed far more to the world I live in while not formally employed.

The reason why I’m quoting these two paragraphs is because they are completely in sync with what I feel today. I don’t regret any of the work I’ve done in the past (from the old days at Techcrunch, to my past consulting jobs or the work we collectively do at WBS) but there’s definitely a feeling of burn-out from working on projects that don’t necessarily contribute to the world at large.

Work for particular organizations and individuals is unquestionably something I love to do (I’ve always been passionate about people with great ideas). However, I often feel like I need to balance it with projects where the world - not just a sliver of it - is the audience. Or maybe those where there is no particular audience. Or even those who have no audience at all.

How much of your work is pleasurable, and how much of it contributes to the world at large? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you’re looking for something else on this topic, go check my last post on Sagmeister’s time off.