In 2013 I came across this video from British philosopher Alan Watts. He is best known for his writings and speaking on Zen Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. In what starts as such a simple question, ends up as an extremely thought-provoking reflection coming back to the ‘why’ of what we do. Conceptually, Alan Watts is right on the money – we live in a world doing things we may not like doing, in order to make a living, in order to keep going on doing the things we don’t like doing.
At first I struggled to take this from concept to practice as money, whether we like it or not or agree with it, is the catalyst that drives almost all of how we live. It wasn’t until Alan Watts revealed a valuable insight about becoming ‘masters’ in what we do, so much so that we can charge a handsome fee for doing so. This follows in the same vein as Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss…” quote.
What I do believe, however, is that this video’s message represents one window in which to look through. We don’t live in a world where we must choose one thing to do to enjoy or earn a living anymore. It is becoming more apparent, even common, for the last two generations entering the workforce (Gen Y & Z) to do multiple things to fulfill that implicit need for a sense of purpose.
A call centre worker by day is a share market enthusiast by night and volunteer on the weekends. A small business owner works from home at nights, is a parent by day, and manages to study at university by distance learning. Perhaps if you do feel you are lacking ‘enjoyment’ or ‘fulfillment’ where you currently find yourself, the answer may not lie in changing what you do, but expanding to what you do.
Some ideas here were first expressed by Patrick Caldwell, HR Business Partner at BHP Billiton. I’ve refined the idea using my own experience conducting seminars at elite private schools across South Africa.