Saturday, December 04, 2010

Working on the Railroad... with help from Robert Fulghum & Patrick Swayze

I've done quite a few posts on work (recently there was this Oct 2010 post on the subject... which then linked to additional posts) and lately have been thinking about the subject both in terms of the goal for and approach towards it.

From a goal of work perspective, there's multiple answers... with one being first and foremost. Work gets people money, people use money to buy things that help them both enjoy aspects of life (entertainment spend) and stay alive (food and shelter). Particularly when one's got a family does this basic notion of work towards the goal of money take precedence.

Beyond this "goal 1A of work being to make money", there's also the idea of work towards the end of building something. This could be by someone who started their own company or by someone working as part of something they're invested in and trying to help grow. Either way, there's huge value in this idea of ownership in the place and a point to the efforts on behalf of that place.

There's of course nothing at all wrong with work being done for the first goal of making money. Really, this probably describes the majority of the working population and is necessary for society to function. That said, the second idea of work as building towards something more ideal, just not always attainable.

One sector of work that me thinks should fall into this second category of work being done for the purpose of building something, but oft times falls back into just a work for a paycheck category is corporate work. To this end (and going back to the intro of this post), I've been thinking lately about what happens to someone in a corporate environment who doesn't particularly see their efforts building to anything...


Approaches could be to either just do the bare minimum (or less in the case of people hoping to prove themselves just replaceable enough to get offered severance packages to leave) or to take a different tact and follow the principles brought to us (in decidedly different forms) by both Robert Fulghum and Patrick Swayze.

Fulghum's principles pertaining to this topic came from the bestselling compilation of aphorisms "All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten". There's many more than this in the book itself, but here's a sampling (taken from this website)...

- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- Don't hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don't take things that aren't yours.
- Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Flush.
- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
- Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
- Take a nap every afternoon.
- When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
- Be aware of wonder.
- Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
- Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
- And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.


Additioally, Patrick Swayze provided us wisdom around work from the movie Road House...


So... Fulghum said some profound things, Swayze said some profound things (well... sure, why not?), but do they tie back to the world of corporate work (or even the non-corporate kind) as discussed in this post?

Heck, yea. I've been thinking lately that even in a setting where someone might not feel their efforts are building anything, there's still a lot to be said for just doing what you feel is the right thing with work.

At different times that may mean doing right by customers, by your own company or by your co-workers. In short... you do what you think should be done and treat people well (to put a fine and oft necessary in the corporate world) point on this, by not throwing them under the bus).

Do that and though a job may be more of a job for money than a building opportunity, it's still something to feel good about.