Your True Work is Rarely Your Job

June 1, 2024 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

A man is never out of work if he gives a damn. It’s just that sometimes he doesn’t get paid… A man’s work is what he is supposed to do.” William Least Heat Moon

I came across a few quotes from William Least Heat Moon in Belden C. Lane’s brilliant book The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. Least Heat Moon’s understanding on the difference between one’s work and one’s job resonated with my occupations as a retired man.

Built to Do, Not Have to Do

After nearly three quarter of a century, I no longer have to do anything. Any work I do is because I choose to do it—not for money or for ego or for acquiring possessions—I do it only because it is what I am supposed to do. I am supposed to love, by means of expressing influence and inspiration and just a tidbit of wisdom. Such is the role of the Elder in society, a role either abandoned or forgotten, probably a bit of both. And at 75, I approach elderhood.

However, and this is an important “however,” one does not have to get old to do one’s work or what you are supposed to do. You only have to do it and sometimes your job (or what you get paid to do) either is what you are supposed to do or at least contains aspects of it. Least Heat Moon describes the difference…

A job is what you force yourself to pay attention to for money. With work, you don’t have to force yourself.”

When Your Work and Our Job Converge

In truth, the two work hand in glove. Like our sage, Least Heat Moon, says, “… the work and the job are inseparable, two oars to be pulled in concert.” You need a job for obvious reasons (deep mercies on those that can’t find one) but you must also have the work you are gifted to do, passionate about, and in line with your core values and concerns. Both are essential and both are meaningful.

As the great majority of us have been taught, your job has too often become the primary definition of who you are as a person. When someone asks you about yourself, isn’t the typical response to tell them about your job or career or past career or career ambitions?

Your Work is Best Described as How Your Serve

I know the problem here. Since we are so unaccustomed to even thinking about work as this day’s purpose we don’t even know how to think in those terms. We get befuddled and confused. And that is a whole ‘nother essay.

But I can tell you this: Your work will ALWAYS involve serving someone else with your special giftednesses of love and kindness and actions addressing acute human need. It is then you will know Your Work as That which you are supposed to do… even if you don’t get paid to do it. 

Your Work Energizes

A Job Often Depletes It 

Photo courtesy of gorodenkoff at istockphoto

2 thoughts on “Your True Work is Rarely Your Job”

  1. Definitions of Job and work are good. I have been blessed that my job and work blended the two and now my work of service continues. Work are the passions that keep you motived and young at heart.

    1. Thanks Joe. Obviously, I so agree. Tell me: What are the services you are doing that strike your passions today?

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