I’ve long been interested in work-life balance and finding joy or at least satisfaction in work, perhaps because, as mentioned in the video below, conventional wisdom is no longer satisfied with jobs or, to a certain extent, no longer even satisfied with careers. No, it has to be a calling.
And when you read things about “ikigai” of just finding flow, it seems like a calling is not that far-fetched a goal. But it so clearly is, because we’re just not set up for a surplus of those types of jobs. In fact, perhaps we’re asking too much of our jobs. Take a look at the video and consider.
I was lucky enough to be able to go to the National Mall where they had a special presentation –including a projection onto the Washington Monument itself– celebrating the achievement.
I posted on social media then that no video or pictures could do it justice (and for people to try and make it to the later showings that night or the following night). However, for countless people not in the DC area, that just wasn’t a possibility, so I’m happy to share a video captured of the event:
After you’ve tackled that, there’s also some behind-the-scenes fun:
The link above is to the article, not the study itself and is worth the quick read, even if the conclusions don’t necessarily come as a shocker. For example, having more control over one’s schedule including to be able to accommodate the ups and downs of everyday life is a positive for workers. Being aware of the number of meetings a worker had also came into focus.
In many cases, this reminded me of Drive by Daniel Pink and Finding Flow, the less academic summation of some of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research. People like levels of autonomy and to develop mastery over much of what they do.
I don’t begrudge the study going over familiar ground, however. Given the propensity for organizations to ‘maximize synergistic innovations’ or opaque initiatives, it’s nice to add to the body of work that pushes them to think of their people.
Look over a score of “tortured artist” memes and you won’t have trouble seeing ones with writers. Writers are often portrayed as full of angst, indecision, indecision because of angst, angst because of indecision.
Basically, the archetypical writer is in need of a good therapist.
In case you’re not aware, Isaac Asimov wrote hundreds of books… and not just in science fiction, for which he’s perhaps best remembered. In fact, his books cover most of the categories covered by Dewey Decimal Classification.
Not only that, he seemed to love to write. He wrote voraciously like some people read (and, of course, being a voracious reader enabled that).
So take a look. From ongoing learning to getting out of being stuck, there’s some good takeaways.
Basically, one’s happiness often dips right about now –it’s not just a Gen X thing– and goes back up later in the 50s into the 60s.
The really interesting thing I found from the article was that this phenomenon has been observed across cultures and even in other species of great apes (apparently, we all don’t feel so great at the same point in our lifecycle).
The motivation part of it comes deeper in the article where it’s speculated that the subsequent upswing in happiness (thus making the U curve) comes from a re-calibration of what one values of life — which is comforting, though I understand if that feels more like comfort in the Vulcan logic kind of way.
America has long had a paradoxical status as a Calvinistic Babylon, to reference historian Michael Kammen. To follow along that allegorical thought, if all hobbies ought to be hustles, leisure time itself is suspect. Being unproductive is almost sinful (and I’ll bet a bunch of you just had “the devil makes work for idle hands” pop into your head just now).
Definitely read the article above if that’s the case (or even if not). Do you work to live or live to work… and what do you get out of it? There’s a bunch of great lines in the piece, but one stands out for me:
“Our jobs were never meant to shoulder the burdens of a faith, and they are buckling under the weight.”
Many of my gamer friends have various Warhammer and related armies and I know my efforts are not remotely in their league. They paint minis regularly. In fact, for several, it’s a bona fide hobby. One preditor friend (that’s producer-editor for the uninitiated) has taken to painting miniatures quite expertly since directing a feature where D&D plays a central role. All but a handful of the denizens in her miniature army are used in D&D games: it’s mainly about the painting. In other words, the journey, the act of painting, is the joy. And that’s what I found here. I mean, I’m really hopeful we have plenty of fun with the game, but just the painting was a lot of fun and relaxing — even as I obsessed about details (though as you can see from the picture, not too much).
I’ve also long suspected that a significant percentage of many people’s urges to turn hobbies into hustles is to feed the “must-keep-busy” monster. Speaking as someone whose thoughts have turned to that frequently, that monster is forever insatiable. As Molly Conway writes in an article last month, it’s a trap. Go on hikes without being a guide. Learn to be a better baker without selling your wares at a local farmer’s market. Better yet, don’t feel the need to have any wares if you don’t need to. The enjoyment you get from things that don’t bring money can filter into the the things that do.
Or you might just have to enjoy the leisure time without quantifying it. That works too.
A perfect example of simply making art is Inktober, an annual event to do an ink drawing every day during October. I did this with my son –and moms and dads reading this, that’s reason enough to give it a go. Because while I tried things with shading and perspective that were hit or miss, he developed recurring story elements in the scenes he drew throughout the month that was a delight to witness (and on a parental note, it was a good transition to bedtime).
So go ahead, get your art on, whatever way you want to. You don’t need to share it with anyone. Science has your back.