During the course of both my professional and academic careers, I’ve been either bemused by or amazed at the lack of enthusiasm…OR the tremendous enthusiasm…different people show for their chosen life’s work.
I remember so vividly a fellow I worked with for a summer job when I was a senior in high school. It was a factory in my hometown where woolen material was made, and this guy’s job was to run a machine that folded the cloth into containers that were then moved to other parts of the plant for further processing.
The final step in that job was, when the container was full, to cut the cloth, move the container away, and roll in another for filling.
When I asked, he told me he had been doing this same job for 29 years!
I (obviously) had a follow-on question: “Why?”
His response has stayed with me until today: “I have to be sure that the cloth is folded neatly so that, when it’s taken to the next stage, there won’t be any problems in the processing there.”
At first, I thought he was nuts. Then I thought some more.
I realized that he realized that this was not rocket science. This was a routine, by-the-numbers, non-challenging job.
So he made it a challenge by focusing on the quality of his product…the filled container.
Once in a while, at random times, the folding machine would get weird and would somehow twist the material…or there would be a giant wrinkle…or perhaps a grossly-noticeable imperfection.
He made it his mission to be on the alert for those glitches and to head them off at the pass.
I know this sounds to some like an “Oh, my God, just shoot me!” kind of job. And I’m pretty sure this fellow was fully aware of the general perception. So he decided early on to be proactive and to find a way to make it a challenge.
The lesson I took away that summer is that your job doesn’t have to be mindlessly routine.
What you have to do is find a way to make it interesting…to add a level of “excitement” to it. And when you accomplish that, you’ll find yourself becoming more engaged in it…looking forward to the next day’s challenges and opportunities.
“Life that dares send
A challenge to his end,
And when it comes, say, Welcome, friend!”
Richard Crashaw, “Wishes to His Supposed Mistress” (l. 85)