You Are Your Work (and That’s a Good Thing)
Think of your professional life as a journey that begins with drudgery and ends with love
There’s an exchange in the Estonian literary classic Truth and Justice that has always stayed with me. It’s a conversation between a farmer and his son, who is about to leave the family estate for a stint in the Imperial Russian Army. Even if he is gone for only a few years, serving in the army is no joke. Almost every village has examples of young, able men who have gone away, only to come back unable. Or who don’t come back at all.
One can, therefore, sympathize with the father, who was hoping to bequeath the farm to his son. For two decades, he has worked arduously, often to the point of collapse, to turn cheap swampland into flourishing acreage. And to an extent, he’s succeeded: While it’s not exactly thriving, the farm yields a respectable income, even employing a few farmhands.
Despite the farm’s prosperity, though, the work never stops. The father’s imagination for new projects seems to expand in proportion to the farm’s success. There are evermore bogs to be converted to fields of grain, roads to be paved, new houses to build, and old ones to renovate. With the old man now broken by the taxing work — at least in body, if not in spirit — it is his departing son who should propel the farm to new heights.
To the father’s great anguish, the boy wants none of it and plans to leave the farm for good. Trying to reason with the aged master, he asks somewhat bluntly: “Why should they, the children, bury themselves in the marshes when it’s so much easier to earn their daily bread elsewhere?” Receiving no reply from his father, he adds: “Unless it’s for love, of course…”
The old man stays quiet for a long time, contemplating the sad words of his child. Finally, he mutters resignedly: “Work and sweat, then love will come.”
It’s a theme that we see time and time again: accomplished people continuing to tirelessly put in the hours, long after they have realized their initial ambitions, often at the expense of their relationships, well-being, and health.
We strive for success for no other reason than that we are human. We crave validation, and being a hotshot…