Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Is your current life, career or circumstance good or bad?

On the line below, put a ‘star’ somewhere--anywhere--that comes closest to where you fall right now. Don't take too long to think or your mind will step in and your answer will be influenced by what is safe or what is concrete or how things SHOULD be. Instead, just respond as honestly as you can.

Things are bad...... I'm not sure........Things are good

"I had all those cable networks reporting to me, I had a number of windows in my office and I had all the corporate perks you could possibly imagine, but that wasn't what I was about, so I left."- Geraldine B. Laybourne, resigned as President of cable TV operations for ABC & Walt Disney Co., now with Oxygen

I want my identity back. I don't want to be known as the CEO of AOL Time Warner . . . I'm my own person. I have strong moral convictions. I'm not just a suit. I want poetry back in my life. - Gerald Levin, former CEO of AOL Time Warner (the world's largest media company)

It doesn't matter what level of fame or fortune you've achieved: I’ve never met anyone who permanently escapes the search for purpose and passion. The fact that you are a human being guarantees that sooner or later you will come to face this issue head on.

You might find "it"--those moments when you and everything around you are in allignment with the rest of the universe-- in your spare time, or once a year while on vacation, or if you're really lucky, in your paid work. If the latter, consider yourself very lucky, because most people plod through their jobs for security, money, but not for purpose and passion.

And yet, if it's is so damn important, and it is, why not let yourself believe you can find it in the work of your dreams?

We're going to call this state "GOOD WORK". Here's what it is and isn't:

Good work is meaningful, enjoyable, interesting, rewarding.

And bad work is boring, miserable, meaningless, and depressing.

Before I tell you how most people describe work that they consider to be “good”, what is your own version of good work? Answer the following by writing down words, phrases, sentences—whatever comes to mind:

I know when I’m doing good work when:


How much of this description is present in your current life?

If your answer is “very little” or “none”, you should know that it not only doesn’t have to be that way, it is unhealthy for you to keep it that way. Good work matters.

Here’s what good work isn’t. Most research studies confirm that good work does not depend on:
your job title,
how much money you make,
how successful you are,
or even what you do.

Assemblers in Detroit and Teachers in Baltimore can experience their work as good, and CEO’s in Boston and Production Supervisors in Louisville can experience their work as bad. At its core, good work is not about prestige or salary or power or benefits. It’s not even about your job duties or tasks or responsibilities.

Here's what Good Work IS about. People who are generally happy with their jobs report the following characteristics:

· Time flies: You lose track of time when you are doing good work
· You are in control: You are able to do a job in a way that feels efficient and

· What you do contributes in some way-- to your well being, to others, to

society, to the planet.

Differences in income, education and employment tasks bear little relationship to whether or not a person is fulfilled by the work that he or she does.

Some work is inherently and obviously bad. There is nothing redeeming about showering rain forests with pesticides or scamming elderly seniors out of their life savings. Fortunately, we have courts and governments and agencies to protect us from the very dark edges of bad work. Unfortunately, we do not have the benefit of such arbitrators when it comes to our individual career choices: you are more or less left to figure out good and bad on your own. And because 80 % of all Americans report that they are unhappy in the work that they do, most of us haven’t done a very good job for ourselves in figuring good from bad.

I encourage you to think about Good Work as a practical and achievable goal. The happier you are in life, the better for everyone around you. People who do bad work often come across as uncaring, incompetent, bitter, short tempered, or fatalistic. And it doesn’t matter if you are a college professor or the person who cleans bathrooms. Put aside your job title or job tasks for a moment and think about how you work.

Remember Rule # 1: You are not what you do. You are how you do it.

Whatever your current situation may be, think about what makes good work good and bad work bad. Then think about how you work. Then be patient, because in the next few months you'll be looking at the work of your dreams.


Debra Kay said...

Rule 1 was very powerful and I wrote that down for frequent reference. I'm very much want to find something that gives back and leaves something behind for others-but right now that may be as simple as taking care of my Uncle and my Parents. It's not always rewarded socially, but it does give me more pleasure than my last "real job" ever did.

kj said...

that is definitely good work, debra kay. what's even better is that you know it.

Bibi said...

According to your list, I'm on track with the 'good work'. Time flies for sure! I forget to eat/drink/ etc. Because of my role, I have a lot of control. And most of the time, I feel my work is making a contribution. Most of the time.

Great post kj! ;-)

And BTW, I made some changes (and more on the way) based on the last post I read here. Always good to be nudged in the ribs!

carla said...

Oh boy... this is really at the core of what I have been pondering over the past couple of years. I really agree with everything you write, but wonder how one makes the leap from bad-ish work to good work when there are so many financial constraints... I guess it's a matter of thinking outside the box we put ourselves in.

This is really a great site, Karen... I'm glad you're "back in business"!

kj said...

bibi, it would be my honor and privilege if this blog helps you in any way.

carla, money matters, no doubt, but do you know how much you must have? often financial fears are easy targets and not really the true obstacle. we'll be looking at that in this blog over the coming weeks.


Michele said...

KJ, I'm so excited about your blog ... it couldn't have come at a better time for me : ) Thanks.

kj said...

welcome, michele. happy to have you along.

Kate James said...

What a great blog kj! I love this post...you and I are certainly passionate about some of the same things. I think there is nothing more important than loving what you do for a living.

Thanks for finding me. I look forward to reading more.

m. heart said...

Wow, I'm glad you stopped by my blog today because I can't wait to read more here!