Maybe you’ve been tracking along with this journey toward joy at work. You’ve noted the mismatch between what you had expected and your reality. You’ve admitted you may be at a turning point. You’ve acknowledged that chasing resumes or stuff or approval are dead ends. You’ve even entertained the possibility that being a contribution gives you a better shot at joy, and that it’s available to everyone from executives to hospital cleaners. Maybe even to someone like you. You may be saying, “Oh wow. I want that. I want to be that kind of person.”
And yet, like me, you may have a lingering ambivalence. A little voice may be saying, “Oh wow. That sounds like a lot of work to become that kind of person. Couldn’t I just get a job and have a little joy thrown in on the side?” Like an order of fries with your burger.
And you’re right. Being a contribution is not the normal approach to work. It does have a cost.
But if we’re assessing costs, we should also consider the cost of not becoming the kind of person who is Joy at work, who is a contribution. The cost of being normal.
I can’t put it better than Howard Thurman, the late theologian and civil rights pioneer, when he was speaking to the graduating class of Spelman College in 1980:
“There is something in every one of you that waits, listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. If you cannot hear it, you will never find whatever it is for which you are searching. If you hear it and then do not follow it, it was better that you had never been born…
“You are the only you that has ever lived; your idiom is the only idiom of its kind in all of existence and if you cannot hear the sound of the genuine in you, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls…”