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Volume 6 Number 8   |   August 2016

What is work?

Most of us "work." It's a verb and a noun. You work. You go to work. It is usually considered to be mental or physical activity around the accomplishment of tasks, usually for pay, but not always. (I have to work at my tennis serve. I have to work on my hobby.) It's usually antipodal from "play" in the vernacular (work and play) although many people work at their play, as well. (What work getting our vacation planned.)

I'm weary to the point of aggression of people asking me when I'm going to retire from work. Or they ask, "Are you still working?"

My response these days is that I don't work at all, haven't for at least 30 years. I simply lead the life I love and both make money and have fun doing it. Why would I ever retire ("to leave one's job and cease to work") from that arrangement? Besides, I have no "work" from which to retire.

Why do we care?

This is a concern because most people are in "prison" (working for someone else) or in self-inflicted agony (making wrong choices in a business they own). Both of these conditions are, of course, remedial. Normally we sell or trash things we don't like any more or which fail to work, or we exchange them, or we learn how to properly apply them.

Not so much with our careers, though, because our ego is involved.

I'm aghast at corporate executives and small business owners who seem to think they're running some kind of employment agency with the real metric being never to lose a body, never to lay anyone off, never to fire anyone, and always to reward well despite performance. (I once got into tremendous arguments at a theater board of trustees when I pointed out our charter wasn't to find vehicles to keep the acting troop employed, but rather to find material and actors who would fill the seats. I resigned all my board positions when I realized they were work.)

Solo practitioners and boutique firm owners too often listen to well-intentioned but otherwise totally clueless family members about their business. Or they walk on eggshells to avoid disturbing basically non-productive employees.

They build their own prisons, with themselves on the inside.

What to do?

Get your ego out of the way. No one considers the less of you if you admit your business model is wrong. (I turn down coaching clients immediately when they tell me their business model is not on the table for discussion, like telling me they want their car to run better but we can't discuss the flat tires.)

Stop feeling sorry for your employees. You're taking the risks, you're paying them. Getting fired was a wondrous breakthrough for me (and for many of you)-treat them to the same epiphany.

Turn off family counsel. Someone you love may be able to tell you what outfit you look best in or suggest a good movie, but if they didn't help found and run the business they are lousy sources of advice. Why? Because they consider you their spouse/partner/relation, and not a business executive. And since when are they business consultants in any case?

Stop "working" and start living. If not now, when?

© Alan Weiss 2016


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