What’s behind the work?

by Brian on June 7, 2012

I recently came across a couple of excellent pieces about finding personal meaning in business. One is an article by political writer David Brooks and one is an interview of business professor Clayton Christensen.

When I think of professional work that is inherently meaningful, I think of non-profit work, religious work, medicine, teaching. But most people I know, including me, DON’T work in these fields. We work in fields like business or technology. Fields that – for me, at least – don’t seem to have inherent meaning (or at least an obvious inherent meaning).

We can all agree that there is meaning in teaching a child, but what is the meaning of building a piece of business software?

I grapple a lot with the question of how my work fits in with my larger life, goals and worldview. Besides the financial reward and the personal interest that I get out of my work, what is the value of my work to the larger world?

Both Brooks and Christensen discuss this question. And come up with some worthwhile insights. I’ll leave you with a quote from Brooks’ article:

It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero. Understanding heroism and schmuckdom requires fewer Excel spreadsheets, more Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job.

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