Why we do what we do

Yesterday, I went to a Master degree graduation ceremony at the local university. The introduction speech addressed to the soon-former-students was extremely interesting.

It recalled me why we work.

If  you listen to the biblical sayings, it’s because mankind is a band of sinners that were  thrown out from Paradise. However, there are still people when given the opportunity not to work at all that still find some occupation instead of just sunbathing on a mexican beach.

The speaker made a clear distinction between “job” and “work”, between what he called “paid work” and “life work”.

For many of us, working is a kind of prostitution of ourselves: we trade our time against money. But maybe there’s more than just money ? Maybe there are greater extends, greater causes, greater expectations ?
For many of us, working is just what we were told to do to “earn” our life, but in the end, is a life spent hunting for our food is a life worth living ?

For many of us, we could completely miss the point of our own life, because the society says we shouldn’t look for our inner desires, dreams and thoughts, and instead get rich so we can afford everything salesmen try to sell us, like a new(er) mobile phone, a bigger car, a bigger house to put our bigger LED 3D TV.

Or … maybe there is some art to do in this world. Maybe there is some mystery awaiting for us to solve it ? Maybe we could replace the word “work” by “craft”, that conveys a totally different meaning ?

Maybe we can use our work as a medium to express ourselves, to add meaning over marketable work.

As Leonardo da Vinci said:

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.

Had he only done his job (painting, sculpting), even very well, he wouldn’t have achieved such fame as he has now, as museums are filled with less famous artists, but who had of course great skills. What made the difference is that da Vinci was inventing new techniques that made his work astoundingly better that any competitors. He spent his life looking at the World straight in the eyes, and constantly invented new painting techniques, described physical and biological principles, designed music instruments, bridges and weapons, etc…

He was well paid to do so, but even the most well paid engineer wouldn’t spend his life working in such way if it wasn’t coming from within his own self. I don’t think Leonardo felt he traded his time for money. I believe he would not have stopped if the payment stopped, because it was a personal quest for beauty and knowledge he was on.

Masterpieces are always made by passionate people, who are not looking for money, but to achieve a higher level of mastery in their “art”, artistic or technological.

So now, what about transforming our daily job into masterpieces ?

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