Across the Editor's Desk: Mid-February 2009
Why work? My father, a farmer who lived to be 91 years old, would consider the very question to be silly. Work, after all, was something to do, not to ponder in deep thought.
Work was priority. The first words he'd say when, as a youth, I'd ask for playtime with a pal were, "Do your chores first." When he rousted my sisters or me out of bed in the morning and one of us said we didn't feel well, we knew what the response would be: "Do your chores first, then see how you feel."
My favorite English poet, A.E. Housman, questioned work a century ago in an untitled poem that begins, "Yonder see the morning blink. The sun is up, and up must I..."
It concludes, "Oh often have I washed and dressed. And what's to show for all my pain? Let me lie abed and rest. Ten thousand times I've done my best. And all's to do again."
I bet you've had a few mornings like that as well, even with all the success in your life.
So back to the question: Why work? About 30 of us men in my church were confronted with that question as part of a 16-week video and workbook session titled, "Winning at Work & Home." The content, by Robert Lewis, is available at www.mensfraternity.com.
Lewis says there are four key motivations behind a man's work that help answer the basic question: Why work?
- Paycheck driven.
When you finish your formal education and Mom and Dad are through paying your bills, you get a job. Work is required so you can meet your basic needs for living.
- Passion driven.
As you gain experience in your work and career, you desire to accomplish something meaningful. You also desire to do well in your work to reach a higher standard of living.
- Philanthropy driven.
As you succeed, you learn that you not only have money to meet your standard of living but also you can be more generous. The financial rewards of your work generate additional satisfaction as you can be helpful in serving others.
- Purpose driven.
This is fully understanding the greater significance of your work. Do you see your work as growing grain for a co-op check or as producing food for hungry kids? For Christians, Lewis says, it means that you have a full understanding of how you use all aspects of your work to glorify God and to spiritually impact people.
I found interesting the research shared by Lewis on what men say they most want from their work. See if the list matches your own desires and ideas about work. In ascending order (lowest to highest), this is how men ranked what they most wanted from their work: Balance; Community; Fair Compensation; The Right Fit; Recognition; and Success.
Fair compensation probably isn't why most farmers choose to be farmers. If that was your dominant desire, you'd be mostly unfulfilled except for occasional spike years.
The highest-ranked desire, success, is probably not surprising. I smile at the wisdom of young E.T. Meredith in naming his publication Successful Farming at its founding in 1902.