Distinguishing "work" and "jobs"
Why I like one and hate the other
I’ve been struggling to reconcile the fact that I rail against “work-worship,” yet consider myself a “hard worker,” and not entirely begrudgingly. Yes, part of that comes from being conditioned to be a workaholic, something I’m working hard to reverse. But often, I do genuinely like working.
Here’s my first attempt to tease out what I mean by “work” and clear my confusion.
For something so central to our lives, there isn’t one agreed upon definition of what we mean by “work.” Some define it as what you are paid to do, what you do “for a living” (Paul Millerd spends a lot of time thinking about how to define work, and drops some great gems about it while discussing sabbaticals here).
I’ll stick to the simplest and most broad definition I’ve found, from David Allen’s Getting Things Done: anything that makes a change in your environment (internal or external) counts as “work.” Digging a hole is work, as is reading a book (since you know things you didn’t know before reading it).
Being paid or not doesn’t factor into this definition. Many things you do for fun would count, and that’s the sense in which I’m happy to “work hard”…if I’m enthused about something, I’m willing to put a lot of effort and time into it.
What many of us usually think of when we think of “work” (you’re paid for it, it sucks, etc.) I would define more strictly under the term “job”
I’d define a “job” as an arrangement between people around one doing work for another. Almost by definition, jobs are paid, most often with monetary currency.
It’s possible to be in a job that involves work you would do for fun, but it’s much more common that the arrangement involves work no one would ever do if they didn’t need the payment to survive.
Jobs strike me as coercive by nature, and enforced through survival anxiety and, ultimately, through shame--external shame from bosses/customers, internal shame inculcated in most of us long ago.
The problem is that we only value work done in the context of jobs
We’ve arbitrarily decided that work outside of a job arrangement is less worthy than work someone else is paying you for. For no good reason, we see gardening or writing a book on your own as less “character-building” than stocking shelves for 10 hours straight, just because the latter pays.
Of course, by “character” I suspect most people mean being amenable to being bossed around, shunning your other needs, and otherwise being “dependable” to do a task despite any challenges or indignities. I’m not into that type of character any more.
Either way, as far as I can tell, this is the crucial distinction. Maybe I should change this places subtitle from being against “work-worship” to being against “job-worship.”