There’s all kinds of work out there. There are things people want to be, like being a firefighter or a nurse. There are things people want to be involved in, like investment banking or the mafia. There are still other things that people want to do, like fly airplanes or perform in front of an audience.
Nothing wrong with any of that (except, usually, the mafioso bit). Still, these are all pretty much what the person involved wants. I love my job, says one person, because I am doing what I want to do. You are alive and you are of working age, so you have to work, and it follows that you would ideally do what you want to do.
There’s another way of looking at work, and it flips the problem on its head. Instead of starting with a worker, it starts with what has to get done. Some work, of course, doesn’t really need to get done. But where there is demand, supply needs to be processed, needs to get done. The postman isn’t in shipping, nor does he get up in the morning to be a postman for a day, nor does he want to process stuff. He might passionately love his job and enjoy doing it, but in the grand scheme of things, the mail exists, and therefore, it has to be sorted and delivered. His job is to respond to what has to get done. The mail came first, not the postman.
When we think of “what has to get done,” we usually think of relatively boring jobs. But that’s not really accurate, is it? The birthday party clown doesn’t have a cubicle, and neither does the President, the Pope, or most of the people on TV, but all of them are doing stuff that has to get done, now that their forms of work have been established and are a part of society and life as we know it.
The work that has to get done, we kind of know already. To keep the world running, in a sense, it has to get done. Everyone doing this kind of work is really in the business of keeping the world running. Fundamentally, whatever their sense of purpose may be, they are teammates in keeping the world running.
We give a lot of lip service to pursuing what you want to do. The premise is that everyone is doing a lot of wanting. But maybe wanting isn’t the point. Maybe, by going into work on Monday morning, you’re part of keeping the world running. If the world was a machine, you’re at one of the maintenance stations, processing part of the process that has to get done. And if that station were not manned? It’s probably fitting that someone qualified is there to do it, and hopefully we can all be glad that person is you.
On the other hand, if you feel like the work is not important enough that someone else should do it, that is, if you feel that it doesn’t or shouldn’t have to get done, maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s better if you went off to do something that has to get done.