Sunday, October 23, 2011

Job One: Me

Steve Jobs died a few weeks ago. You can't escape news, blogs, and quotes about him and all of his lasting nuggets of wisdom. And I'm inclined to let the dust settle before buying into every nugget of wisdom that he ever espoused, propagated by the endless information machine, the machine that can never get enough of well-known people dying. So I'm kind of annoyed that the most prevalent Jobs nugget is informing my current attitude about life and work:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Jobs said this in his famous Stanford commencement address, and if you search Steve Jobs today you'll find tons of links to it. So here's another one.

How is anything more true than that? And why is it so hard to break free of the path that others (directly or indirectly) set out for us? In my own head, the quote is ringing as this question:
Why aren't you doing what you want to be doing?
And I keep answering back something to the effect of, "It's not that simple, man! I got bills to pay, babies to raise." But that's not really an answer. It's dodging the question. It suggests that "what I want to be doing" is watching endless movies amidst a pile of empty Diet Coke cans. But the thing here is work.
Why aren't you doing the work you want to be doing?
Now we're getting somewhere. Accept that work is necessary. Not just for paying bills and raising babies, but for mental stimulation, for life satisfaction, for purpose, for meaning. Accept that every day I will get up and do something productive, something that solves a problem, satisfies a need. How then is this not the most important question to be asking? Doesn't the problem or need deserve someone wholly interested and dedicated and passionate about its resolution or fulfillment? And doesn't one's passion, dedication, interest, time and labor deserve a worthy task? And doesn't it feel like now I could loop back and around again, endlessly? Worthy task deserves quality work deserves worthy task deserves quality work... round and round it seems to go.

Now I'll try to take this back to the beginning, about "living someone else's life." I'm hearing this Jobs quote everywhere I turn, and it has seeped in. Lately I find myself questioning nearly all my actions and decisions, testing whether I'm listening to my own voice or someone else's. And that questioning has led me to write this little rant and post it. Because the hardest thing about this blog has been to make it my own, to use my voice. I can no longer insist that what I post here must conform to the expectations of someone who is not me.

And I feel better already.

No comments: