I recall hearing a little phrase while growing up. “Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
The sentiment is sweet: if you’re able to give yourself to a task/role that you’re passionate about and it can serve as a means of livelihood, then you will escape the drudgery that many adults face who perform a job merely to earn an income in order to survive.
Behind that little phrase, though, is a deeply-held value. Most people would rather that things feel easy. We don’t want our occupation to be hard. Get in, get out, go on vacation…with the least effort, bruising, or discomfort along the way.
What makes a job easy?
Is it having little to do? Is it being able to complete most tasks quickly, without needing long-term investment or cooperation?
Is work easy if it’s a natural fit, an application of expertise and experience? Is it having a passion for the vision and task?
I’ve written previously about various perspectives on work and rest: do we work in order to rest (e.g. go on vacation), or do we rest in order to work—to have sufficient energy and capacity to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the endeavor?
What’s the danger in pursuing ease? Skating through the bulk of most of our days, avoiding entanglements and issues and efforts, ensures that we’re never going to develop the sense of ownership that would bring us to a level of engagement and contribution that would actually be effective and life-giving, rather than the mere avoidance of energy expenditure, which is the heart of ease.
I’m somewhat of an expert on avoidance. For those familiar with the enneagram paradigm for self-awareness, I’m a type 9. My vices include disengagement, lack of being present, and sloth (not physical, but mental; checking out). When an issue (even a small one) comes up, my first reaction is, “Great, something I have to deal with. Can I just wait and hope it goes away?”
Internally, my soul is wrestling with the reality that I’m now going to have to spend energy on something. In my unhealthy moments, I’m seeking ease—the freedom from having to engage, a desire to cruise through and skim over the surface.
On the contrary, my healthy response would be to embrace the situation, to be fully present to what’s going on, to enter in alongside of others, and to be an influence toward peace and cooperation.
Does that kind of engagement take effort? Yes. Is it easy? Not necessarily. But is it one of my best opportunities and invitations to contribute? Yes, and it’s all too common for me to miss out on all that if I remain in my default-mode of ease-seeking.
Easy and hard are the wrong labels, the wrong goals for us to surface as we consider our vocation or employment. Rather, we should seek engagement. Some engagement may be both challenging and life-giving. Some may come naturally and smoothly, with less effort.
But if we can orient ourselves to seek opportunities and choose to engage rather than to avoid, the question of ease can be replaced with the experience of life.
And that’s the environment for excellent followership.
For encouragement and guidance in understanding and applying yourself to following and leading with excellence and helping others to do the same, see:
Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture (by Allen Hamlin Jr; Feb 2016), and A Discussion Guide for Teams & Small Groups (Dec 2017).
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