Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Sunday Musings 6/26/11: Thinking about work.

Sunday musings…

1) Oahu. Shout out to the CF Kids crew, including Lil’bingo, presently toiling away in Oahu.

2) Coca. Shout out as well to Coca Crossfit which hosted “The Heir” and his dad for a WOD. Doing Crossfit with your kids…priceless.

3) The sun. An apparently fictitious orb that fills the daylight sky and warms the earth beneath it. Not seen in Cleveland, Ohio for about 6 months now.

4) A college degree. Funny juxtaposition of “articles” in the Sunday papers this morning. There’s a long article on the “riches” of a college degree and a classic Doonesbury comic with college education competing with Google search. Funny, but enlightening, too.

Why do we go to college? Why did we EVER go to college? Back in the day, say when Grampbingo became the only member of his family to go to college, a degree was a ticket off the factory floor or out of the coal mines. Pretty clear pathway, and rather clear alternatives, but the college degree was still not all that terribly too common; lacking one did not preclude most job pathways except some professional ones. Indeed, the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s were probably the heyday of vocational training and schools dedicated to that.

Fast forward to the present. Why do we go to college? Well, EVERYBODY seemingly goes to college now, and that seems to be pretty much the most accurate, albeit least instructive answer. But why? What is it that a significant number of kids are receiving while in college that prepares them for whatever? What do they gain in school that makes them better workers when they land their first, second, or even third jobs?

To be sure there are adult fields in which college is truly necessary. You know, like medicine, most engineering, teaching, stuff like that. But for many (most?) of our young people what they get out of college, and what employers get when they are done, is 4 (or 5, or 6) years older. The Al McGuire theory: the best thing about freshman is that they turn into sophomores.

After crushing his adversary with sub-second Google searches in the Doonesbury strip Zipper is asked the same question I posed above, why go to college? “Well, to party. That hasn’t changed.” Indeed.

5) Working. Work to live, or live to work? Is what you do who you are? I’m a doctor, that’s what I do in my day job, but is that what or who I am? Do I live, exercise, eat and sleep so that I can go to work, or do I do my job so that I can do that which otherwise makes me…me?

It’s not that simple, of course. Some jobs do, indeed, take on or become in some ways who we are. Sometimes this is truly a good thing, a kind of blessing. It’s that way for a bunch of Crossfit trainers, frankly, and it’s very much that way for the overwhelming majority of people who do what I do in my day job. It can be a not so good thing, too. It seems to me that there are an awful lot of folks who allow their job to define them, allowing it to be the walls of the silo in which they view themselves and from which they view the world around them.

In these situations the minutiae of the workaday world can take on a wholly outsized importance, usually on the negative side. Petty jealousies and insignificant, unintentional snubs can acquire manufactured importance and drive focus away from the task or customer at hand as the walls of the silo collapse ever inward. “Live to work” and “what I do is who I am” can be so inwardly focused that it’s not possible to do what you do well enough, because face it…what most of us do necessitates an OUTWARD focus. We have customers, clients, or patients, and doing our job means extending the focus on THEM rather than us. Manufactured importance begins to trump real stuff. Like doing your job.

Live to work; work to live. I think part of this is just a version of the classic “what do you do?” story. You know the one: if you ask someone “what do you do?” and they are from anywhere other than California, they will tell you what JOB they do. Ask most Californians, however, and you will get something along the lines of “I’m a poet” or “I like floral design” or ” I surf” or “I mountain bike.” Stuff like that. These folks go to work, do their job, and it seems to me often do it better, with quantifiably less focusing on the minutiae of their job and how THEY feel about their job…and then they go skiing.

Live to work? Work to live? What do you do?

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at June 26, 2011 6:35 AM


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