I’ve had jobs where I couldn’t wait for 5 o’clock to roll around, where I eagerly anticipated and counted the days to a 3-day weekend.
I was a waitress in a donut shop in Philadelphia. The place smelled unbelievably great, but it was not work I was cut out to do. I waitressed in a pizza parlor in New Jersey where we waitresses also cooked. I made a mushroom cheesesteak sandwich you would have remembered the rest of your life. Summer jobs. Nice people, the people I worked for and the people who came in. But, I watched the clock. And there were many days where it moved real slow.
Today is the Sunday of our 3-day Labor Day weekend. I’ve been working on the patio with the cats. They’re not doing much, because it’s ridiculously hot, so their contribution mainly consists of finding shade near me, stretching out and looking gorgeous. I’m not getting pestered to play like I usually am.
I sat down to plan a coaching program for a new client and design a new webinar. When I looked up, 3 hours had gone by and I never even felt it. I was so engrossed and happy, so delighted, so fulfilled, it felt like no time.
Tomorrow celebrates the workers in America. The history behind it is permeated with the idea that their work is not fun or engaging, that they’re working for someone else who’s making a lot of money and not working nearly as hard. It’s the whole idea of the disparity and tension between “labor and management”.
Given this historical perspective, it’s understandable the word labor was chosen for this holiday because the word means to “toil”, to do “hard or exhausting work”, possibly even strenuous manual labor. The derivation comes from the Latin word labor, which meant “to experience sinking, even pain, from struggling with a heavy burden”. You see this concept of enduring and struggling as well when you hear that women “go into labor” delivering babies, not an easy job.
There’s another key definition of labor and that is to exert oneself. That means to pour out your energy vigorously, energetically.
I know from personal experience exerting oneself can be EITHER totally unrewarding OR deeply fulfilling.
I think which it turns into (unrewarding or fulfilling) comes down to 2 additional elements: PURPOSE and PASSION.
I’ve had the same job for over 30 years and never had a day where I watched the clock. My clients will laugh and tell you I don’t even look at the clock and frequently run over, whether it’s a workshop or a coaching session. I love my work so much, love the clients I get to work with, love my staff, I just get lost in doing it, completely carried away.
It’s true for the rest of my staff too. We’ve frequently had a workshop end at 5:00 where participants stayed till 7 PM, as energetically engaged as they were in the morning. We never tell them to go.
The difference is, as good as I was making cheesesteak sandwiches or pouring coffee and serving donuts, these jobs for me personally didn’t align with a purpose I was passionate about. I did work with people who are passionate about it. I remember a woman at the donut shop who had waitressed there for over 25 years and loved every second. She remembered everyone’s name and lit up every face that came in. She made pouring coffee look like art. She reminds me of the 85-year old waitresses at Vahl’s restaurant in Milpitas who absolutely love you, love their work and make you feel like you’re at your grandmother’s table. They’ll never retire.
So, this Labor Day holiday was intended as a break from work that people didn’t really WANT to be doing, work they didn’t feel they were doing for themselves, work that didn’t align with their true purpose in life, work they probably were doing because they needed the money and it was the best job they felt they could get. You add all that up, OF COURSE you’re going to watch the clock and feel like you can’t wait for 3-day weekends.
One time I was working a couple hours on a holiday and one of my staff came in. I asked her, “Don’t you want to take a day off?” She smiled brightly at me and said, “Dreams don’t take days off.” We both grinned and had a splendid afternoon.
I hope you’re enjoying this weekend very much. I also hope for you, that each day you do go to work, it captures your heart, your imagination, your dreams … because it’s work that completely fulfills your purpose and your passion.
And now, it’s cooled down here considerably … time for a bike ride.