“Our labour preserves us from three great evils — weariness, vice, and want.”
Work is an essential element of life in any society. In the western capitalistic societies where many of you probably live, the discussions around work generally focus on what we call ‘economic work’. Economic work or paid labour is work that is carried out (generally) outside of the home for material rewards. While it is usually not stated so blatantly, these definitions carry with them an assumed position that paid work is somehow real work compared to unpaid work. That a person is successful if and only if they achieve material rewards from their work.
These assumptions inform the arguments around the gender pay gap and the well-meaning though misguided attempts to promote women’s statuses in society through encouraging participation in the world of economic work. These harmful views tell women and men that they are ‘less than’ simply because they choose to work as a parent or carer or do other unpaid work. That they are failures because they work in non-prestigious fields. The mistake the proponents of these views make is that they mistake the end of work for work itself. This mistake is apparent when we hear them talk about the dignity of work, the value of a career, etc.
Purpose of Work
Work’s value is predicated only by one thing, its contribution to the achievement of the Purpose. Work of all kinds is always only a means to an end, not an end itself. Work’s value is judged by its contribution to the achievement of the Purpose, not by its economic utility, its prestige, or any other feature. In this way, we can genuinely say that the job of being a parent is as important as that of the prime minister, president, doctor, or any other job you may do.
Parenthood is as valuable as any of these more prestigious roles due to the unique nature of parenting, which is inseparable from the Individual Purpose achievement. When you work as a parent, you are directly contributing to the accomplishment of your IP through the education, protection, and guidance of your children. However, this is not to devalue economic work. Unless you are independently wealthy, then economic work is an absolute necessity if you are to survive, let alone achieve your IP. We who aim for our families’ and communities’ welfare should seek to refocus the discussion on work to focus more on the outcomes for the community and its constituent families compared to its purely economic outcomes.
In this way, we as a society would recognise and value non-economic work in the same way as we value economic work based on its outcome on our collective welfare. We could, by recognising the value all work, celebrate and ennoble parents’ and caregivers’ vital roles just as we do to doctors and business leaders. Re-dignifying the role of a parent would be to all of our advantages and end the social stigma many full-time parents and carers face.
Focus on Excellence
No matter the type of work an individual chooses to do, the pursuit of the Purpose requires them to maintain their focus on excellence. This is because, as all work is aimed at facilitating the IP, it is valuable and purposeful in itself. There are more desirable jobs, and there are less desirable jobs. There are jobs that contribute more to the welfare of society and jobs that contribute less. However, in their essence, they serve to facilitate the achievement of the Individual Purpose and provide benefit to the community.
If you are a cleaner or a rubbish collector, does your work not have value? Does the income you earn not provide for your family’s welfare? Does the service you provide not assist those in your community to achieve their IPs? Of course, it does. This makes it valuable and important and hence worth doing well. It is by recognising the value of all work from the most important to the least glamourous task that requires us to seek excellence in everything we do.
If you build houses, seek ways to do the work better, quicker, cheaper, or to a higher quality. If you are a manager, seek ways to help your team do their work better, seek out and implement ideas to enhance your workers’ productivity and welfare. If you are a doctor, seek new methods to protect your patients’ health or encourage them to adopt healthier habits. Recognise the power you possess to influence positive change.
Imagine how quickly the world would improve if we all asked ourselves how we could make things better every day in our small spheres of influence. What if we were all focused on the pursuit of excellence in every way? What if every parent was looking for ways to help their children be better? What if every employee was focused on how to be more productive and simultaneously make work more enjoyable? What if every employer cared about their team’s welfare and was always looking to help their people enhance their productivity and enjoy their work more? Do you not think that this world would be a happier, richer, and more productive one?
Just think of those people you have worked with that love their work. Are they not happier and more productive than their disengaged co-workers? Is it not they who seem to always come up with the ideas that make the work easier? I warrant that it is the sense of purpose that these people get from their work that propels them forward. It is their realisation that their work matters that differentiates them from the unhappy mass of workers. Fortunately, this happiness is within reach of us all. Just as soon as we recognise the truth that our work, whatever that may be, is infused with value through its contribution to the achievement of our IP, we too can join those happy few for who work is an enjoyable part of life, not a struggle to get through.
This is not to suggest that we should settle for any job—quite the opposite. Just as we should recognise each job’s importance and value and pursue excellence in each task, so too should we seek excellence in ourselves. Each one of us has much to contribute. Each one of us can do more than we are. Give 100% where you are, make the work better, but also work on yourself. Self-improvement is an integral part of your work as a person.
Self-improvement is not merely a catchphrase. It is imperative for each of us. To ensure the achievement of our Individual Purpose is a constant task. It is not enough to do the minimum, we should be striving to do better, to know more, improve everything, including ourselves. If you are a doctor, then be a great doctor, become a specialist, learn the violin, learn to surf. Whatever you do, don’t just settle for what you are, seek to be more every day. If you are a cleaner, then be a great cleaner. If you have the ability and desire to do more, then, pursue that. There is no shame in any work, only in not seeking excellence.
These proposals indicate the type of community that is likely to best support its members in achieving their Individual Purpose. It is now time to move again from the general to the specific. In the next book, we will finish our discussion with a series of short daily exercises, which will help us implement the lessons we have learned if pursued.