What does it mean to work?

I realize I haven’t posted in a while. That’s mostly because there haven’t been any exciting developments in the But Until Then household–dog is still an adorable hairy rug that pees a thousand times a day, bathroom renovation is still not complete (c’est la vie), and The Man is still as kind and funny and smart and handsome as ever.

Something exciting did happen this past week, though, and it’s taken me some time to think through it. As you may recall, I am relatively new to my current job having been a part of the team for fewer than six months. It’s been a great few months, but I didn’t really feel like an official part of the team until now. Why? Because I got to experience the crazy that is the annual user conference my team puts on every year.

Having spent the last seven days working 16 hour days, I started to think about what work means to me, why I do it, and comparing my understanding of work to that of other people. Purely based on these (admittedly) limited discussions, motivation to work comes down to two things: economic and emotional.

The economic portion is pretty obvious. We work to survive, to pay our bills and feed ourselves and enjoy fun activities in our free time. For those of us, like The Man, who see work as a primarily economic function, it is also a temporary arrangement. The Man has a clear plan to work intensely for the next number of years and save money aggressively, giving him the freedom to release himself from the economic commitment of working (at least for a while) before typical retirement age. This is a great plan and definitely smart thinking, and makes sense for The Man who very much values autonomy over his time.

That’s not how I view work, though. While I certainly see the economic value of work–I also like feeding myself and saving for the future, etc.–I don’t have the motivation to stop working sooner rather than later. I enjoy working and really don’t mind “losing” some of my schedule flexibility. I enjoy the process of being productive, working through problems with my team, and having the opportunity to contribute to something that moves on a grander scale than I, as one person, do.

To me, working is a net gain. I learn, I find meaningful community, I contribute. Working provides a sense of community and structure that I need to thrive and function, and I don’t mind doing so at the “expense” of my time. Even if I don’t like what I’m doing that particular day, or maybe I just don’t feel very good and could really have used an extra few hours of sleep, working is a great opportunity to learn how we, as people, have built our culture and communities.

Right now, retiring seems like a real drag. But ask me again in 20 years and we’ll see how I feel.

Do you enjoy working? Why/why not?


Spiritual enlightenment through…networking?

I feel so energized tonight. I spent the evening watching people connect with each other, and it was exactly the spiritual pick-me-up I needed to get through the rest of the week.

For context, I had a networking event after work today. Networking events are typically not my idea of a fun night…but tonight I could see the connection between people. The professional connection between my colleague with an author; the ideological connection myself and a young woman leading a separate meet up group; the creative connection between a hopeful zine publisher and a new artist she’s hoping to feature in an upcoming edition.

Common ground was found. Chakras were awakened. Minds were melded. And all because everyone there, in a relatively short period of time, honestly expressed their deepest hopes. And because everyone else received those hopes, acknowledged them, and encouraged them.

There was so much possibility for relationships to begin and dreams to be reached. The way the universe somehow brought together all of those people in the same geographic space by what feels like chance…I am not a religious person; I do not worship a god, nor do I have any interest in doing so. I know the universe is out there working some magic, though. And it’s awesome.

Google Trends is both fascinating and soul-crushing

I’ve been using Google Trends at work recently to help refine some search terms for a book on personal and professional success. If you’re not familiar with the tool, Google Trends is Google’s way of sharing basic information they gather including search terms and location.

I’m sure they have much more sophisticated analytics at Google HQ, but the peek into their data is fascinating, often funny, and sometimes disheartening. Here are some interesting finds:

The search term “how to be successful” is most searched by users from Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria. The US cities of Houston and San Diego appear in the top 10 cities on the list. I like to think those are cities full of people with the biggest dreams instead of the most soul-crushing unhappiness.
Interestingly, if you spell the same search term incorrectly, typing in “how to be succesful“…we’re back to the US. I can’t decide if this is because the US is stupid (we don’t know how to spell “successful”) or lazy (because Google will correct our spelling for us).
The search term “prayer heal” (and all other iterations of the term I could come up with) returns results ONLY from the United States and has risen steadily for the past few years. Some food for thought.
On a related note, there isn’t sufficient search volume to show any results for “can prayer heal” or “does prayer heal.” Our nation is not one of skeptics.
Presidential hopeful “Ben Carson” is a hit in Africa…
…while “Bernie Sanders” is more interesting to countries with a higher GDP and recorded level of happiness.
I love data. What interesting tidbits can you find in Google Trends?