Why Do We Work?

Why do we work? To put food on the table for our wives and children. To pay down our debt. To treat our families to an unforgettable vacation once or twice a year. All of those reasons certainly hold true. But I just can’t shake the feeling that there’s a deeper explanation for why we work. It’s hard to articulate. Allow me to share my own story as I venture an answer to the question. For years, I put in my time at some of the most competitive, dog-eat-dog tech companies in the world. I climbed the rungs of the corporate ladder, diligently working to achieve the rank I knew I deserved. Eventually, I worked my way to top. Don’t get me wrong: it was one of the best feelings in the world to finally reap the real, material rewards of years of tireless labor. My bank account had never been bigger, my life had never been more comfortable, my family had never been happier. I had attained that which most men spend their entire lives merely hoping to achieve. But then a strange thing started to happen. Gradually, the fervor and intensity with which I had always worked began to fade away. I had achieved my goals, risen to the top - I had finally made it. But I no longer had the energy to work in the way that I used to. I grew complacent. Long afternoons spent doing almost nothing in my corner office quickly turned into weeks, months. I was wasting my years. I woke up one morning and took a long, hard look at myself in the bathroom mirror. I broke down in tears. It was right around then that I began to make art. I had gone as far as I possibly could in my professional career, and I was ready to start something new. To begin again. To work again. I quit my job. At that point I had saved up enough money that I was able to continuing providing for my family while pouring all of my waking time and energy into my new art career. I rented a studio downtown and went there everyday from dawn until dusk. I was working simultaneously in multiple mediums and juggling multiple projects with multiple collaborators. At times, it was chaotic and tiring, but I hadn’t felt that invigorated in years. Not everyone is ready to take the risk of making art. I’ll be honest, I often felt confused, conflicted. Scared. But I was finally doing work that felt meaningful, and that was all that mattered. Sure, I was hungry to receive recognition for my achievements. And with time, people did start to take note of my art - to appreciate and honor my work. Even so, I’ll be the first to admit that I still haven’t made it to the absolute top of the art world. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. But to be honest (and here’s the big secret)… it doesn’t really matter. At least not to me. I’m working, and I’ve never been happier. That’s what really matters. My work feels important. My work fills me up with energy. My work gives meaning to my life. It’s as simple as that.

Why do you work? Let me know in the comments section below.

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