“Work You Love,” Part II: How Vulnerable Are You Ready To Be? | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

“Work You Love,” Part II: How Vulnerable Are You Ready To Be?

risk

After my last post, I thought of a few more things it’s helpful to consider when deciding whether to pursue a career that strongly interests us.  Like I said before, I’m not specifically coming out for or against seeking the work you love — that’s a decision each person must make for themselves based on their own wants and needs.  I’m pointing to questions it’s important to ask when making that choice.

Doing work we’re deeply engaged in usually goes hand in hand with being vulnerable — exposing parts of ourselves it feels risky to share.  If you’re a blogger, I’ll bet you’ve experienced this sense of vulnerability when writing on something you strongly cared about.  “Do I really want people to know I feel this way?” you may have found yourself asking.

Often, revealing these parts of ourselves feels risky because they’ve been criticized or ridiculed before, and they feel fragile.  If you were told “no one thinks you’re funny” when you were little, allowing your sense of humor to emerge in something you’re writing is likely to feel unsafe.  Someone might make a similar comment, and then you’d be forced to relive the pain of that old wound.

The Perks Of Disengaged Work

This points to a reason why many of us are doing jobs that don’t deeply engage us.  In most jobs, we don’t need to bring out tender parts of ourselves to do our tasks.  You don’t usually have to expose your sense of humor, your compassion, or some other vulnerable aspect of yourself to draft a PowerPoint, plug values into a spreadsheet, or review documents.

I know many people who prefer this approach to work.  After all, they risk getting hurt enough in their personal relationships — why bring that vulnerability into what they do for a living?  And it’s okay with them if working feels mechanical, because they find exciting things to do in their off hours.  As the saying goes, they work to live — they don’t live to work.

Can You Separate “Work” From “Life”?

Although it’s easier in some ways to “work to live,” that approach, like anything, has drawbacks.  For some of us, when we don’t bring all of ourselves to our work, we’re nagged by the worry that we aren’t giving our gifts to the world.

To take my earlier example, it’s true that, if you do work that doesn’t require you to express your sense of humor, you don’t take the risk that someone will criticize that part.  But by locking that part away, you also keep people from enjoying it — you deny people a gift.

Also, the idea of “working to live” — disengaging from your work, but showing up fully in other activities — sounds good in theory, but the reality is messier.  You can’t work for 8+ hours a day with a detached, emotionless attitude and expect that not to spill over into other parts of your life.

I know this from experience.  I took pride in the work I did as a lawyer, but I wouldn’t exactly say my most vulnerable parts shone through in it.  I spent my working days in a cool, rational headspace, which was ideal for what I did.  The trouble was, I found myself, out of habit, slipping into this mindset with friends and loved ones — relating to them like they were colleagues or adversaries.

If you do something you really care about, you’ll almost certainly have to let others see parts of you that you normally keep under wraps.  This involves a risk, but also a great reward, because offering all you have to give brings a feeling of aliveness that’s exhilarating.

8 thoughts on
“Work You Love,” Part II: How Vulnerable Are You Ready To Be?

  1. Evita

    Hi Chris

    I totally agree with all you said about people going after jobs where they can be detached or not love them, but on an inner level, I can’t imagine it. I mean I totally get it, I just cannot imagine doing something that I am not fully into, or passionate about or happy. I can understand you know the odd “chore” once a month somewhere or for someone that we may not be thrilled about, but not on a daily basis.

    And I totally respect the opinion of people who think the risk isn’t worth it, but I know personally I would take that risk any day. Live fully or not at all. It may sound extreme – it is not meant to be – I just love embracing all aspects of life fully alive and fully me :)

  2. Sara

    Chris — WOW. This post is so true, especially the part about risk when doing something you love.

    I grew up in a very business oriented family. While many of my family members were creative, they saw creativity as something you did on the side; in short there was BUSINESS and then there was creative pursuits.

    There were many years when I worked way beyond what I needed to do…just to feel like I belonged in my family. As I grew older, this took a toll on my health.

    I eventually sought out other opportunities that brought closer to my creative needs, which has made a big difference in my life…now that I accept the important role creativity plays in my life.

    It was a risk, but as I reached the point where I was standing at the edge with a fire getting closer and closer — I knew I had to take the “leap of faith!”

    I’m glad I did. Now, my regular work supports my creative work and I’m much happier with this arrangement:~)

  3. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Evita — I can get how deeply you care about what you’re doing and how important to you it is to do something you strongly care about — personally, I feel the same way. I don’t think “working to live” is really an option for me anyway, because I’m bound to put so much into whatever it is I do.

  4. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Sara — yes, I think it’s amazing how strongly our attitudes toward work are shaped by what we see in our families. It sounds like at some point you developed a clear idea of what was really important to you — glad to hear it.

  5. Mark

    Great post Chris. Yes with great risk often comes great reward. Me, I would rather risk it all then to live a life of work without passion and purpose.

  6. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Mark — yes, I can definitely relate to that — and I’ve found that there’s a reward that comes solely from taking a risk, regardless of whether I get any results, just in terms of that feeling of aliveness.

  7. Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord

    I find that I’m able to strike a little bit of a balance by personalizing the impersonal tasks I do and adding my unique “Megan” energy to them. In that way, I can earn income doing work that doesn’t fully engage me, but can also feel better about doing such work because it carries hints of holism. I add love and positive energy to tasks that someone else might do in a rote, more lowly vibrating way.

    Not sure if that makes sense, but that’s the fence I’m currently straddling!

    Happy Valentine’s Day, Chris!

  8. Chris Edgar - Post author

    Hi Megan — can you teach me how to bring Megan energy to doing my tax returns? But seriously, that sounds awesome, and that’s really an ideal for me as well — fully bringing myself to whatever it is I’m doing, even if on the outside it looks dull or repetitive.

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