I love and admire my dad for many things. He instilled in me a great work ethic and respect for people. He spent over 30 years helping build a small seed corn company into a well-respected player in a very competitive market. My dad also taught me that you cannot rest on your laurels or expect the past to repeat itself. Since he started with his current company in 1981, the world of work has tossed and shifted like a rowboat on stormy seas… but that didn’t stop my old man from rolling with the punches and demanding success.
If we’re to succeed in our chosen profession, we must realize that we ultimately work for ourselves. I realize that the vast majority of people in the United States are employees. Recent Labor Department statistics show approximately 15 million employees are self-employed (source), a figure representing 20% of the current workforce. In other words, four out of five employees work for someone else… but we must realize that we always represent ourselves.
I have spent much of my time here on DFA highlighting the benefits of self-employment, including a lot of self-reflection as I work to launch Whiteboard Business Partners. My goals may be different than your goals, but we’re all pursuing our vision of financial freedom. Pursuing a calling and loving our vocation are critical components to finding that freedom.
Hard passionate work promotes happiness
I had the privilege of interviewing best-selling author Kevin Kruse for my upcoming Whiteboard Business Radio podcast series. Mr. Kruse co-authored the book “We” with Rudy Karsan. It’s required reading for anyone looking for more fulfillment at work. The first key point in “We” is how we’re responsible for our own careers, and how we must act like we’re always working for ourselves.
In the past, an unwritten social contract existed between employers and employees. As long as you came to work on time, worked hard, and did not commit any major mistakes, you could count on your company to employ you for life. You would work for 30-35 years and retire with a nice pension. Global competition, technology, and shifting mindsets are now combining to make any job temporary at best. When many publicly-traded companies face declining profits, their first reaction is to lay off employees. These workers may be great employees, but it’s “just business.”
The other side of the unwritten social contracts of the past were that employers could place you where they wanted. If you wanted to move into a different division, the company may not want to do that. If you wanted to try a different job, you were at the mercy of the company. If your skills became outdated, the company really did not care as long as you were in your particular cog.
This type of career progression left many people unfulfilled at work and the recent job market only accelerates these feelings; and now-a-days employees are let go much more readily. Which has exacerbated the “Why work hard for my employer, they don’t care about me?” attitude.
What can we do then? Adopting and holding to the understanding that we work for and represent ourselves will help us pursue more meaningful work, resulting in better performance. Think about it, would you rather perform poorly at a job you dislike or excel at something you love?
Passion improves life
Mr. Kruse’s most memorable moment as an employer came when an employee’s spouse came to him at a company gathering. The spouse thanked Mr. Kruse for providing such a great place to work, and shared how their lives were better thanks to the changes at work. His marriage was improving, his life outlook was improving, and the entire family was generally happier.
A bond exists between fulfillment at work and overall happiness. Mr. Kruse and Mr. Karsan dismiss the concept of work-life balance, opting for “work-life blend” where your work becomes an integral part of your life, and I agree. In my own life, I can see that I was most happy when doing work I enjoyed. In fact, I met my wife while working my favorite job. Coincidence? Perhaps not!
We have a unique opportunity in today’s economic environment. Sure, the traditional employment contract no longer exists, but that makes for less contraints to finding work that matters.
Know your passion, find what truly fulfills you, and watch your earning potential – and happiness- soar!