Work and service

I talk about doing the work often on this blog, but what I’m really talking about is service.

Service—not the things you do by the hour for money—no, I’m talking about the kind of acts you do that help bring people closer together.

Jonas Salk freely gave away his cure for polio (worth seven billion dollars today). Salk famously said, “Can you patent the sun?” In that moment, he’s no longer doing work but service.

Each of us can make that shift.

Work is something we have to do. Service, on the other hand, is something we get to do.

How responsibilities grow

Some of us respond to power.

While others by fear.

But how well do we respond to agency?

What’s frightening to think about is the amount of choices each of us have, and yet, we are so quick to pass them along, to let someone else make tough decisions.

Here’s the thing, until you learn how to use the agency you got, the opportunities for more responsibilities are left behind closed doors, untouched.

Responsibilities grow by growing with the responsibilities you got.

We’re all products of our time

600 years ago, Scribes were highly skilled and highly demanded until Gothenburg’s Printing Press made the profession obsolete. The Air Traffic Control Operator didn’t exist until the 1920’s. A Social Media Management degree wasn’t around ten years ago.

No one grew up wishing they could manage internet content six centuries ago. We’re all products of our own generation.

Today, everyone has a chance to be a writer or a producer or an artist.

The road is wide and vast but shrinking. It has never been easier to start your thing. (Tomorrow, may not be the same.)

And yet, with all this freedom, all these choices, all these resources (money, food, tools, supplies), it still isn’t enough.

We choose to be spectators instead of players.

Most scholars will define this generation for the internet but I worry we will become another version of the Lost Generation. Metaphorically, losing ourselves because of the fear of stepping up and standing out.

Learning curves

Skiing isn’t particularly fun the first time you try it. You spend half the day on your back, cold and wet.

And because of this some will say they hate the sport all together.

That maybe true, but for most, the problem is they didn’t stick it out long enough in order to be fun.

It’s not fun when you’re falling every ten feet. It’s fun when you’re skiing fresh powder on a blue bird day.

It’s the same for most adventure sports, jobs, books, new subjects…

The larger the learning the curve the longer it takes to enjoy something.

Echo chambers

After a few clicks, Facebook can remarkably cherry pick specific content that aligns with your worldview. All in a hope to keep you on the hook.

The problem is that it eventually creates an echo chamber. You begin to believe that your feed is a fair representation of what others believe.

The thing is, we all live in some sort of echo chamber.

We rely so heavily on our internal narrative—the story we tell ourselves and how we see the world—because we can’t possibly process it all. All the data, all the facts, all the places, people and things going at the same time.

It’s only natural to create shortcuts.

But after a while those shortcuts backfire. We think that others believe what we believe. We think others will do what we would do. And so, like Facebook, we cherry pick.

[What we choose to see is a reflection of our internal dialogue.]

Art knows no boundaries

The wonderful thing about children is that they have no problem drawing outside the lines.

They don’t know any better. (Which is good.) They haven’t succumbed to peer pressure to water down their work for the masses. They don’t hide from publishing it. And best of all, they don’t care what others think. (Proof is usually hanging on the fridge.)

Next time you see a child drawing outside the lines, resist the first impulse to correct the behavior.

We think of children as immature adults, the reality is adults are atrophied children.

Art knows no boundaries. Adults do.

Masks

We hear about the different hats that a CEO or a Project Manager might wear throughout the day. A far more accurate metaphorical description (that everyone wears) is a mask.

The mask we wear to hide from our emotions:

The disdain of a dead end job.

The drudgery of doing the same thing we did yesterday but faster and cheaper.

The frustration of a boss that doesn’t care.

Annoyance, anger, irritation, vexation…all hidden from those we work with.

Because no one grows up wishing they’ll be an accountant or a boss or in sales…

We’re born with promise, wishing we can defy gravity, change the world, do things that we can be proud of.

And along the way we lose that and hide these side effects behind a mask.