Now, Play may be nice. Play may be fun. But it doesn’t fucking MATTER to you.
Confucius famously observed: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Later that same week, Confucius also said:
“If Debbie in Marketing does not give it a rest about her fucking cats, I swear to Christ I will open my wrists in the break room. If she says one more WORD about the fucking ointment she’s gotta put on that one cat’s anus, I swear to GOD I will slash my wrists right in her face.”
Sage words. As true today as when he wrote them two thousand years ago.
This is the thing: the difference between WORK and A JOB. Your WORK fires your imagination and imbues you with a sense of purpose, it create a sense of flow and drive and propulsion in your life – it is both journey and destination, aim and end. You do your WORK whether you have to or not – you wedge it into the tiniest crevice in your schedule – you continue with it no matter how dense and complex your life becomes.
Hitler’s JOB was to be der Fuhrer. His WORK was to be painter. Which is an important lesson: if you know what your work is, don’t suck at it. You’ll end up super pissed. Like Hitler.
Einstein’s JOB was to be a patent clerk. His WORK was to forever alter our perception of space-time. This is another good lesson: if you can swing it at all, be a genius.
If you are Tom Cruise, your JOB is to fan the embers of your waning celebrity. Your WORK is to be tiny, closeted mouthpiece for a creepy non-religion.
And if you are ME, your JOB is to spend your days raising money for a theater, but your WORK is to be Overlord of WRITE CLUB.
Think of it this way: a JOB is a set of shears. Your time on earth is a bolt of fabric. This fabric is precious to you – it is the only time you possess. But so then these SHEARS cut all these irregular shapes out of your fabric, compromising and frankly fucking up your vision of what this fabric was to become. The pattern of a life well lived might to you resemble a floor-length garment like a dashiki.
Every hour you spend at a Job, and getting there and back, and every stray thought about some bullshit thing your boss said two days ago. All the moments of all the days you squander on a Job are STOLEN from your fabric. As a consequence of this, the dashiki of your life that you envisioned is no longer possible.
Because of the snipping and trimming and slicing of these ASSHOLE shears, you will be lucky if you can salvage a pair of culottes from the fabric of your own life. Instead of the stately and regal dashiki in your mind’s eye, you’re stuck with these culottes that are unflattering, and frankly more than a little demeaning. Your ass not only looks huge, but they are badly out of season, and you have squandered your adult life on the construction of these culottes, which your friends all agree was a bad miscalculation.
This is not the case with WORK. Your Work is something you will defend. Where your Work is concerned, when you get some bulllshit call, you will not let stand – you will blitz the line judge in the McEnroe style – a mushroom cloud of hair brimming over your headband:
“You CANNOT be serious!”
At a Job, when somebody shits on you, you just shrug and check your watch and hit the vending machines and you’re like “Ooh. Krackle Bar,” and forget all about it. And, I mean LOOK at yourself, man: you are SETTLING for a Krackle Bar. A waxy, flavorless Krackle Bar, dude. Grow a pair. And get to fucking WORK, OK?
Work sustains you. A Job feeds off of you. Like a tapeworm.
You get stoked about your Work. You get ground down by your Job.
You are a giant-killer in your Work. At your Job, you are a piss-ant.
You are a sex machine in your Work. At your Job, you are a eunuch.
And if you talk about your POSITION at an organization, what you have there, my friend, is a JOB that you hate, but that you are pathetically trying to convince people is something awesome and prestigious.
Your PROFESSION is still a Job, but you can only get it if you stay in school for a long-ass time.
If you have a GIG, you’re trying to convince us that your Job is cool. Which it isn’t. It just means you’re allowed to where your Chucks and jeans there. But they will still bitch you out if you show up late, and we will find you to be a douche if you persist in calling it a gig.
Your CAREER is a string of Jobs. So you can track your failure over time, as you trapeze from one irrelevance to another.
Work – real work – matters to you. Maybe not as much as your kids or your wife or your dog, but it matters an awful lot.
If there is a fire, you know the five things you need to grab to continue your Work – the things that you cannot let burn because they are too fucking important. In your Work, you will persevere, you will redouble your efforts. You will abide.
If there is a fire at your Job, you will walk away without snagging a thing. You will stand across the street watching blankly as that shithole burns to the ground.