March 24, 2009

Play Not Work!

Posted in Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:13 am by lindaslongview

Last week at a volunteer event, an acquaintance remarked that she sees me regularly at the gym and that I work harder than anyone else she knows. I responded that I play intensely, but that I consider time in the gym effortless because it brings me such joy. Her remark made me recognize how important perspective and being selective is in our lives.

In early 2007, I found a new mentor after she gave a talk at a Women’s Leadership Conference on the subject of Finding Meaning in Your Work. She told the audience that her grandmother had often said that “she never worked a day in her life because work was not a chore – there was real meaning.” Her advice was simple: find a place where there is equal give and take to get joy. Reassess your situation frequently: Does it still work for you? Is it a collaborative environment? Are there sufficient ethics for you? And lastly, create a personal legacy.

Her remarks made me realize how important it is to choose a career that that is interesting, joyful, and provides occasional exhilaration. Fortunately, I have found all those attributes in my career in technology development. If I had not made key selections along the way, it perhaps could have been quite different. In high school, I thought I would eventually have a career in law (I loved debate and all debaters think they will become attorneys). I studied chemical engineering because I liked math/science, it was the “family business” (I am a 3rd generation chemical engineer), and I had to study something before law. When it came time to apply for law school, my advisors urged me to consider graduate chemical engineering – they encouraged me because they saw my enthusiasm and talent. Although it was a hard choice at the time (yet not too hard when I recalled my boredom in a legal writing course), over the long view I am very grateful for the redirection – my career has been so much fun! I have worked on and solved interesting problems, learned from other technologists who are much more knowledgeable than myself, and shared in the success of technology commercialization.  Oh, and I met my husband too! 😉

Although there is always some drudgery, I have found that maintaining a happy disposition throughout allows for the exhilarating parts to far outweigh any recollection of drudgery and that creating a personal legacy allows the exhilaration to persist. Perspective and selectivity are key.  Life is too short to be miserable.

Have you found meaning in your work?

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