Why didn't I think of that before?!

I found this article from a Linkedin discussion (of all places) with the caption, “Why do some people settle for ‘making a living’ or ‘making a killing’ when they could be ‘making a difference’?”

That’s not a rhetorical question. This BizShifts-Trends article gets at the root of this issue—why do people “settle” for unfulfilling work? It seems so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

If you’re caught up in the typical American view of work you may say you’re ‘making a living’ when in truth something inside you is being killed each day.  Every day, millions of people rush to get to jobs they don’t love and yet those people defend their choices as responsible, practical, and realistic. How can it be responsible to live the biggest part of our lives devoid of meaning, joy, and purpose?

How, indeed! For most readers, the excerpt above, if not the whole article, will probably strike a chord because most of them (the self-fashioned “99%”) live this kind of life, or used to before they lost it. They hate Mondays (no, the actual day, not America’s beloved boogie man), watch the clock tick away before lunchtime, and rush home at 5 o’clock (or 6, 7, 8…) on the dot into the welcoming arms of rush hour(s). Sounds so familiar, and it feels so inescapable…

But! the article sagely proclaims, “‘Making a living’ does not need to be eking out survival at an underwhelming job. It can and should mean literally what it says; ‘making a life’ with all the most energetic and interactive tools at our disposal.” And then like a great Oracle, it gives the secret to attaining this success:

So how do you go from ‘making a living’ working a job you despise or just aren’t interested and pour yourself into something you’re passionate about?  Take stock of your life. In order to improve anything, it’s necessary to understand what’s wrong… One of the greatest things about the Internet is that it has opened up a new world of possibilities for people who want to pursue their passions. It has removed a large portion of the wall that kept people from pursuing their interests. Activities which were once hobbies can now become small businesses. Whether you want to ‘make a living’ doing something you hate or you’d rather put your time and energy toward something you love is ultimately up to you… (bold mine)

And to its inspiring end, it closes with a quote from a happy, fulfilled, independent bookstore owner: “‘Making a living’ is doing something you care about, enjoy, or are passionate about. Wake-up and smell the flowers! Have your cup of coffee and feel the excitement of the day!”

You finish reading this, you nod your head in agreement, and you feel refreshed in your outlook on life. And then…go to work the following day (assuming you have a job). Maybe you think about finding “a new carer path”—instead of serving that cup of coffee, maybe you’ll be the one buying and drinking it. Whatever you do, at least now you know you can be happy! You can actually ‘make a living’! By using the Internet to pursue your interests! How did you manage this long without this knowledge?

I worry about that advice, though. If everyone’s going about doing work that brings meaning to their lives, who’s going to collect the garbage on Tuesdays? Who’s going to wash my dishes at the restaurant after I eat out? Who’s going to give me a parking ticket for my empty meter (if I start driving)? And most importantly, who’s going to work in the sweatshops to make the iPad I want for Christmas? Actually, those are false concerns because writers of articles like this are fully aware that there are people out there who are passionate about these careers. There’s someone who enjoys mopping children’s vomit from school hallways; there are people who aren’t “settling for mediocrity”, but actually living out their dream—as a Wal-Mart cashier. My only hope is that through the marvel of the internet, this article will help those people find these purposeful, life-fulfilling jobs that are out there…just…waiting for them.

OK, I’ll drop the heavy sarcasm now. This mucus-splatter is of the same ilk as “pick yourself up by your bootstraps (a.k.a., defy the laws of physics)” and “just work harder/smarter/happier/better/whatever” rhetoric that those who have tell those who have not why they fail at life. The assumption is, of course, that “everyone” (i.e. Americans) can live a life “releasing those skills and talents that make you fully alive,” while ignoring the fact that our entire production/economic system requires this imbalance. If someone gets to live a life of meaning, someone else has to (literally) clean up after them as the cogs in the system that support them. If someone’s gonna be rich, someone else has to be poor. Maybe the 1:99 ratio is a little too much for OWS protesters’ tastes, but we’ll find the right balance soon enough, and the homeless will get to have their parks again.

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