The Purpose of Work

If you won $1 million, would you keep your job?

I lived about seven miles from a woman who did. Her name is Sarah Manchester. And she won it on Wheel of Fortune.

She was a middle school math teacher before she had $1 million. And she was a middle school math teacher after she had $1 million.

“I love my job,” Ms. Manchester told the reporters. “I love my students. I don’t know what it’s going to be like when I get back to school on Monday morning, but I’m certainly not going to make any significant lifestyle changes at this point.”

If you won $1 million, would you get back to school on Monday morning? Or would you drop your job like a hot potato and head to Rio?

A lot of us might be in Camp Rio. Which breaks the heart a bit. Because we spend more time at our jobs than we do anywhere else.

Could all that time – all that time of our invaluable lives – be bought just like that?

I saw Junot Diaz speak one rainy afternoon. The crowd had thinned down to loyalists. The author said many things to the soggy few. But the words I wrote down were these:

“The true sign of maturation is when you stop living other people’s dreams and start living your own.”

We can fall into hot potato jobs when we outsource our dreams to others. Our parents. Our friends. Our society’s expectations.

And the possible fallout?

We do work that’s just-good-enough. We live for the weekends. We won’t get back to school on Monday after we win $1 million.

That’s more than a bit tragic. Your value is more than $1 million. Way more.

So, the question becomes: Do you do work you value?

Work you value can’t be bought. And work you value outlives you.

When CNN asked Stevie Wonder if he’d ever stop working, the man from Saginaw, Michigan who’d been performing for 50 years, responded:

“For as long as there’s life, for as long as we have things happening in the world, for as long as people haven’t been able to work it out, for as long as people are not trying to work it out, for as long as there’s crime and destruction and hate, bigotry, for as long as there is a spirit that does not have love in it, I will always have something to say.”

We each have something to say. We each have work to do.

Perhaps we are already doing it. Perhaps we are finding it. Perhaps we are just getting started.

Wherever we are, we can’t stop. We’re too valuable for anything less.

Facebook     ~     Twitter     ~     Get the Newsletter 

The Lightning Notes is funded solely by kind donors. If something here strikes you, I’d be grateful if you’d consider donating. Click to Donate!