To love, or not to love one’s job
By : Saad Dosari
Even if I want to, it would be impossible to count the times I hear the phrase “employment is the new slavery.” It is repeatedly used, especially by self-proclaimed entrepreneurs and “get a better life” coaches; it is recited with such confidence resembling a talk about a scientifically proven fact, and audience are accepting it as if it is the ultimate truth of life.
This approach to work usually comes hand in hand with another popular advice “do what you love,” hinting that happiness and self fulfillment are impossible to achieve unless a person decided to do what he loves, as a profession.
Such argument begs a very basic question: Why do we have to work in the first place? There are a lot of theories and discussions trying to answer this question; the shortest answer is … necessity. A person needs to work because “it is necessary” for him to earn an income to support himself and his family, and one has to work to keep society functioning; “it is necessary” for the individuals living in that society to work and be productive. Whether an electrician, a CEO, a waiter, or an actor, you submit to the exact same force of necessity. Even if you present yourself as an entrepreneur who started from zero, at the end of the day, you should be providing something others need and they simply pay you for it; the very basic building block of modern economy.
Now, encompassing “the necessity to work” in such emotional format could be misleading. What does it mean to love your job anyway? You enjoy doing it, you might respond. In other words, believers in such mantra are saying that it is your “own pleasure” that should dictate the necessity of you to work, not the value you are adding, not the difference you are making in the society. Do not you think it is narcissistic tendency that deems a job likeable only due to the pleasant feeling it produces! Miya Tokumitsu in her article in the Jacobin Magazine, “In the name of love,” wrote, “While ‘do what you love’ sounds harmless and precious, it is ultimately self-focused to the point of narcissism.”
Having said that it is crucial to differentiate between the necessity of doing a job and the motivation to do it. They might start as the same; I am motivated to do this job because it is necessary for me to get an income, but later on, the enjoyment of doing the job is more related to motivation rather than to the love of the job itself. Love in itself has no value as a motivational force in a work setup. There is no scientific theory that I know of that has listed love as a job motivator! In the article “A Life Beyond ‘do What You Love’” by Gordon Marino in The New York Times, stressed that there is no relation between love and having to work. “My father didn’t do what he loved. He labored at a job he detested so that he could send his children to college. Was he just unenlightened and mistaken to put the well-being of others above his own personal interests? It might be argued that his idea of self-fulfillment was taking care of his family, but again, like so many other less than fortunate ones, he hated his work but gritted his teeth and did it well.”
All this does not mean that a person should not look for better opportunities, take risks, learn and try to find meaning in whatever he or she does. However, it means to eradicate such condescending concept from sneaking into our work culture. At the time its adaptors are using it as a motivator for others to follow suit and take risks, it causes more harm than good; people who pay attention to such speeches become less engaged in their jobs, less productive and less happy with their lives!
The irony is that most of these self proclaimed entrepreneurs defending “do what you love” and “employment is the new slavery” won’t hesitate to start hiring employees to help them grow their new ventures. Following their ill concept, they just moved from slaves, into slave masters, which is even worse!
The bottom line is that entrepreneurs, corporations and public work, etc. are all tangled to produce the fabric of a civilized, productive society. In whatever job you do, you are making a difference in your own life, in the lives of those you support, and in the whole society. Dream big, create chances, aim higher, and work hard, that does not mean you are better than anyone else, you are only giving back to the society in your own way!