Business and work Mindsets Writing

No distinction between work and play

We often draw a distinction between work and play, especially when it comes to doing “work” we are passionate about. It is pretty easy to reserve your passions for your after hours time. Working hours become the time when you do what you need to do to pay the bills.

Unless, of course, you find work that feels more like play because it is closely related to your passion.

I quoted Seth Godin recently in my post titled “Your calling and meaningful work”. One of the quotes really appealed to me:

It’s not that important where. It matters a lot how. With passion and care.

It resonated with me although I didn’t really explore the idea much further until I read this quote in a Brain Pickings article titled “Ray Bradbury on Failure, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors”:

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play,” the French writer Chateaubriand is credited with saying. “He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

I watched Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech at the University of the Arts this morning. One of the many insights he shared was this:

I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work.

What struck me when I read each of these pieces of advice (and others I don’t remember right now) is that a better way to approach work is not to see “work” as the necessity to earn money to pay for “passion” and/or “play”. Instead, work should be another opportunity to refine and enrich your passion.

To paraphrase Chateaubriand, pursue your vision of excellence in whatever you do. Sometimes that happens during working hours and sometimes after work. Ideally you have an opportunity to do this during more of those hours than not or those hours are wasted. As Ray Bradbury observed:

I can only suggest that we often indulge in made work, in false business, to keep from being bored. Or worse still we conceive the idea of working for money. The money becomes the object, the target, the end-all and be-all. Thus work, being important only as a means to that end, degenerates into boredom. Can we wonder then that we hate it so?

My day job is to write marketing copy. It is easy to see that work as divergent from the writing I’d rather being doing. The more I think about it, though, even that writing is an opportunity to become a better writer. The more I write and the better I write, well, I become a better writer. Whether I do that during working hours or after hours shouldn’t really matter, as long as I am pursuing my vision of excellence in my writing.

Business and work Events and Life Mindsets

On work and the person you’ll become

On work

One of my favourite quotes about work comes from Kahlil Gibran who said this in “The Prophet”:

Work is love made visible. And if you can’t work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy.

Whether you are employed, self-employed or “unemployable”, work can be challenging. I’m not referring to those busy, frantic even, times but rather the experience of doing work that we struggle to do with passion, with love. That latter experience inspired this next piece (well, that and Dr Seuss):

Oh, the person you’ll become

When you wake in the morning,
do you hear your passion calling you
or the shrill alarm clock
beside your bed?

Oh, the person you could become.

When you walk out the door,
do you step into the morning light
or feel as if you are falling
back into the darkness?

Oh, the person you may become.

Is your daily work your labour
of love, your soul’s song,
or the burden that crushes
your promise with infinite despair?

Oh, the person you are becoming.

And when your day is done,
is your spirit elated with a sense of infinite possibility
or is it starved and unfulfilled,
having been drained of its vitality?

And at the end of it all, what have you become?
Do you feel a sense of wonder or do you quietly rage
against your ceaseless confinement?

Oh, the person you have become.


You’re miserable because you’re not writing

Perhaps you are miserable because you’re not writing? Stacey experienced that and really nails what it is like to be a writer sometimes in her post titled “All I’ve ever wanted to do with my life is write”.

She expresses how I have felt when I was not writing as much as I would have liked to or when I wasn’t writing the stuff that I needed to write.

I went through a phase last year when the work I was doing was pretty repetitive and not in the least bit challenging. It felt a lot like this:

I’m a writer who doesn’t have the time to write anymore.It makes me miserable, and frustrated and a bit lost. My North Star has winked out.

One of my conclusions about that time turned out to be one of the reasons I started writing much more for myself here and is nicely expressed by Stacey’s advice to herself:

You’re miserable because you’re not writing anymore, Stacey. Write more, dammit.

When I feel adrift, I usually turn to writing because it unblocks the dam of emotion that has built up. It’s a lot like unblocking a drain that you’ve neglected for too long.

At first it is a struggle just to dig out enough muck to reach the blockage itself. Then, when you dig some more, you see all the gunk ooze through and it isn’t pretty. Soon enough, though, that all gives way to a wonderful flow that you don’t want to stop so you keep writing to keep the pipes clear and fresh water flowing.

A side note about “content marketing”

Writing isn’t just mechanically putting some text on a page, at least not for me. It is very much a creative process. I sometimes encounter an attitude about content marketing that disturbs me. It is this idea that you can just pick a topic, throw some words on a page and give it a list-based title and call that “content”.

Well, sure, you can do that and many “content marketers” do that all the time but the result is hollow and formulaic text that may as well be created by a machine (and, one day soon, will be).

As important as it is to write with a voice appropriate to what you are trying to achieve, I don’t think you can write well if you don’t infuse that writing with a little of your voice, your perspective on the world and your passion for writing.

This is how I see the difference between boilerplate marketing “content” and writing that adds something meaningful to whatever I am reading or for and, perhaps, a response to this question:

Do fewer people trust bloggers?

Image credit: Pixabay

Mindsets Music People

Steve Jobs just makes this mix for me

This Sam Feldt mix is one of my current favourites and primarily because of the first minute or so which includes a sound-bite from Steve Jobs about passion and persistence. The mix itself is great but starting with his words adds that much more inspiration to my work day.

Sam Feldt – Kriebels (Mixtape) by Sam Feldt

Image credit: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates by Joi Ito, licensed CC BY 2.0

Business and work Mindsets

You can’t do great work until you love what you do

Om Malik published a short reminder of one of the many great quotes from the late Steve Jobs:

The only way to do great work is to love what you do

It reminds of the idea that doing the work you love is the path to meaning and fulfillment.

Thanks Om!

Business and work Mindsets


I like this interpretation of “passion” from an article titled “The Real Meaning of Passion and Purpose“:

To be passionate about something is to believe in the meaning you anticipate it to deliver — whatever “it” is — and to possess an intense desire to continue into the fray.

Events and Life Mindsets

Do what makes you come alive

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Howard Thurman


Make the hard choice, get worked up about inspiring stories

People get really worked up about crap which doesn’t deserve nearly as much attention as it receives. That crap usually comprises people making stupid comments about things and everyone else taking deep personal offence. What follows is a Twitter mob that lacks perspective.

This story on the SouthAfrica Instagram profile is an awesome item which more people should be getting worked up about and sharing but like many great and inspiring stories, it doesn’t get as much attention as the crap because most vocal and popular mob leaders became popular because it’s easier to get worked up about offensive, though frequently insubstantial, crap.

Getting worked up about inspiring and meaningful stuff is tough because it usually means you need to actually do something substantive about it, not just tapping a retweet button and complaining some more. It’s easy to whine because it doesn’t involve making a useful contribution to your community.

And, yes, I am pretty cranky this morning.