I've been writing this series about Work for HuffPost Living for several months now. It felt like the right time to review what I'd learned. So I invited Me, the reporter, to interview Me, the indie writer/voice-over/creative freelancer, about what we've learned about Work thus far:
Q: Hey, there, Sharon. Thanks for agreeing to talk to me.
A: I'm happy to, Sharon.
Q: We could have done this last week when I first came up with idea, by the way. Not that I'm complaining.
A: Yeah, sorry about that. It was just one of those weeks. I'd worn so many hats - teacher, voice-over, humorist - that my brain felt totally befrazzled. And the idea of another deadline made me feel kinda, you know, dead, you know?
Q: Do I hear someone being work-wimpy?
A: No, what you hear is someone being work-wise.
As we learned from career coach Deb Robins earlier in this series, there's a difference between doing work that matters and doing things because you should.
But, as futurist Andrew Zolli pointed out, some impassioned workers - folks working on Big Issues, in particular - can fall into the 'Warrior" trap. That means, trying to do It All, NOW! Because it we don't, who will? The Warrior mindset can be a recipe for exhaustion. But it's not the smartest way to get things done. Which is to say: working your butt off doesn't always work.
Q: You mean you've changed your way of working by writing these posts?
A: You betcha! And one of the big things I've learned is that working in a way that works for me is the way to go.
Look at the couple who started the Cupcake Bakery/T-shirt store. Or the Kinky Sex-pert with the 401K. They're working hard (no pun intended). And they're loving it. Because they're working in their own way.
Q: But those are dream scenarios - exceptions that prove the rule, right?
A: Wrong-o! But work that works for us is not a game for the reactive. You need to harness what entrepreneur Glenn Llopsis calls "The Immigrant Mindset." Assume no one will make your dream job happen - or should. And then get out there, identify what it is - and make it happen.
Q: But how?
A: Let's start with the first post in this series, remember? Philosopher Tom V. Morris identified personal investment and satisfaction as key elements of modern work - and our discontent with anything less-than-satisfying. It's part of his modern take on classic wisdom.
The individuals who shared their stories in this series offer a range of examples of how to combine purpose and passion - along with some truly unique bursts of work creativity. I mean, Post-Apocalyptic dog-walking? Who wudda thunk it?
And the idea isn't limited to one-of-a-kind jobs, either.
Andrew Zolli and his team are looking at ways to help aid workers help others while staying healthy, well-paid and emotionally balanced while they clean up the world's water, reduce HIV and TB infection rates and improve health-care-at-large.
James P. Othmer revamped his idea of a work by toggling between working in advertising and writing about it - he's learned to embrace the uncertainty of being an artist as a natural part of being a creative person as opposed to beating himself up about it.
Q: That really is one of the big changes in the New Work Order - losing our negative inner voices.
A: You betcha! Songwriter Darrell Scott put it brilliantly. The process of creation - and it doesn't matter if you're creating lyrics or a new life plan - depends on our ability to lose what he calls "our inner negative editors."
Q: I love his idea of the "Robe Day," too.
A: It is pretty damn genius - when Scott has a non-travel, non-studio day, he puts on his robe and does what looks like nothing.
Q:Looks like nothing?
A: Okay! You got me. He really does do nothing - or, more precisely, he does what he wants, with no "Because it will lead to..." in mind. And in doing so, he clears his mind, which can help him find inspiration in other places.
Come to think of it, I just shared that idea with a bunch of students from Boulder Digital Works in a way last week. I was teaching them about "Presenting with Humor."
Part of preparing for a presentation should involve reading and listening to stuff that has no direct relationship to their topic, I said. It's a great way to "approach a left-brain project in a right-brain way."
Q: Hold on a sec. Teaching? You? You weren't teaching when you started this series.
A: And you know what? I love it.
Teaching feels like writing these posts and combining them with the live storytelling I do - information + connection = helpfulness. So, yes. I'm hoping to travel to more schools, orgs and corporations and lead workshops on communicating in a warm-hearted way.
Q: What else has changed for you since you started looking at Work that works?
A: I've realized a huge dream - to create pieces about science for non-science audiences. I've been working with a super-cool government-supported agency here to do some very fun short audio pieces that demystify Big Ideas about climate change.
We're gonna be rolling them out shortly. I'll keep you posted!
Q: And what about your pure-art side?
A: Well, my agent's read the first page of my novel and he loves it.
Q: One page?
A: He calls it the "Twitter" approach to manuscript reading. Which I find kind of adorable - especially if he likes the other pages.
Q: Any last thoughts on the Work Series for Living?
A: I started writing this series on Work because I heard so many people saying, "I'm working," when I asked them "What's up?" But I didn't see them smiling.
The thing I love about this series is that all of the stories is that they've put the smile back into what can be a really stressy subject.
Q: That does sound satisfying.
A: It is. And that makes me really happy.
Q: And that's all in a day's work, right?
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