Categorized | Life

The Way Work Will Work in the Future

Posted on 17 April 2009

Although we’ve all heard about corporate downsizing and the impact that’s had on the work force, far less has been written about the changes that are the result of individuals who are rejecting the old ideas about working for someone else. Writer Peter Mayle explains his own move into self-employment by saying, “I would rather live precariously in my own office than comfortably in someone else’s.”

It’s a notion that’s catching on with an estimated 40 million of us who have started home-based businesses. While the old image of the entrepreneur was often of someone who rented a space, put in an inventory and stood behind a counter selling things, the emerging entrepreneur today is far more unique and creative than in the past. Very often, the new version of self-employment is based on personal passion and a commitment to create work that is both satisfying to the business owner and makes a contribution to the world. The joyfully jobless, as I’ve dubbed them, really see themselves in the business of spreading joy through their work.

This growing attitude about self-employment is the result of a new thoughtfulness about what work means in the first place. Some of us have grown up watching our parents drag themselves off to jobs that they hate and have vowed that won’t happen to us. Others of us, fascinated by new technologies, are creating businesses that allow us to experiment and invent. Still others are dusting off dreams that were put on the shelf – often at the urging of elders who cautioned us about taking risks. Whatever the motivation, millions of us are quietly making the decision to create something on our own.

What’s happening here is closely aligned with what is really an old teaching in Eastern philosophies. The Buddhists call it Right Livelihood, while the Hindus talk about Dharma. Until recently, we in the West have
barely acknowledged its importance. Our conventional idea that work means getting a job and paying our bills has none of the noble intention that our Eastern counterparts talk about when they teach that each of us has the obligation to find for ourselves the work we were destined to do and to commit ourselves to doing it as well as possible.

An old Tuscan proverb warns, “Whoever does somebody else’s trade makes soup in a basket.” Practicing Right Livelihood demands that we operate on the assumption that we have a duty to discover our own trade and avoid those occupations which are better suited to someone else. “Your work,” Buddha told his followers, “is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” Each and every one of us deserves to find that work that love.

For more and more of us, that means leaving behind the old notions about working for someone else and striking out on our own. Trendspotter Faith Popcorn believes that a revolution is going on in the world of work because of an entirely different notion about why we work in the first place. Popcorn points out that in the new world of work satisfaction is going to be a higher priority than salary. Ironically, when doing work that we’re passionate about becomes important, we end up making more money.

Psychologist Srully Blotnick, who followed the lives of 1,057 men and women for over twenty years, writes extensively about the importance of doing work that you love in his book, Getting Rich Your Own Way. “The most widely shared impression we found was that great wealth can come to you only as a result of doing things you don’t want to do,” Blotnick writes. “Like so many other thoughts about how to get rich, it sounds reasonable and is flatly contradicted by the evidence. In fact, if you don’t like your work, you are losing money. Lots of it. Because, as it turns out, your work is more likely to make you wealthy than any bet or investment you will ever make.” In fact, the 83 subjects in Blotnick’s study who became millionaires were unanimously engaged in doing work that they were passionate about.

How can you be part of this revolution? By following this advice by Harold Thurman Whitman. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs,” he advises. “Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

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