Everybody loves lists! And I’m still working, so don’t think that this is entirely retrospective or anything. Because it isn’t.
A lot of people treat work like some kind of inevitable hurdle that we have to get past in order to be happy. Work is treated like an unfortunate by-product of being human, something that we have to treat and cure.
As much as I love my couch and Netflix, I’m starting to develop a different attitude towards “work” in general. I think it’s an area of life that can really benefit people more than they ever know. Having a job isn’t just a chance to bring in money, it’s a chance to build a positive relationship with work. Even if the job is crap, even if the pay is low (or non-existent), there are 3 benefits that I think work can provide everyone, but especially anyone who wants to freelance.
- Skill – I’m not just talking about the ability to run a cash register, or deep-fry donuts, or toss a pizza crust. Workplace behavior is a skill, and it transfers into the rest of your life. Recognizing (and respecting) superiors, helping team members, concern for quality, and attention to detail; these are skills, and they’re AMAZING. I was a cashier for years, and the main skill I took away wasn’t scanning bar codes: it was the ability to learn a craft and be good at it. Interestingly, I wish I had thought about this sooner… what if I trained my writing and drawing the way I was trained on the register and managerial duties?
- Discipline – My definition of “discipline” is “strength of character.” Being disciplined means being very much in control of yourself, and making sure you’re doing what’s in your best interest (most/some of time, anyway.) In all of my jobs, I showed up on time, I did honest work, and I left when all of my work was done, and not a second before. I’ve gotten better about treating my personal work the same way, but I’m not quite there yet. Start at a regular time? Maybe for a week… Work a full day? Whaaaaat? It’s hard when you’re your own boss, but I’m getting there. And the benefits are already starting to show: when I draw and write regularly, I miss it when I can’t draw or write. When I work a full day, I have visible proof of my effort and I feel encouraged. Being disciplined is a great way to show yourself respect for your occupation, and it feels better than totally not caring and watching Continuum all day.
And since you could potentially do both at the same time, why not?
- Habit – “I cannot tell you what I suffer for the want of seeing a good picture…” says Mary Cassatt, regarding her lack of work. This quote (from Mary Cassatt and Her Circle) really struck me last night. She later says, “Oh how wild I am to get to work…” Do I regret it when I miss an opportunity to work? Not just because I don’t like it when I’m lazy, but because a chance to create was missed. Habit means that something is ingrained, subconscious, practically natural. When I miss a phone call from a friend, when a favorite band came to town and I didn’t know, when I missed an invitation to coffee… these things make me sad. I want to feel the same way about work. My work should be so deeply set in my day-to-day routine that I feel honest (not just guilty) regret when I miss it.
What have you learned from work?