Designing your Work Life

As an avid self-help book reader (and ignorer of all advice they offer), I have gone through “Designing your life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Unsurprisingly, I ignored their exercises, words of wisdom and tips for life.

While waiting in an airport, I looked through books that would be better than the 2 I had already packed for myself and I saw “Designing your Work Life”. In the same act of hopefulness, I bought it and set it aside for an indeterminate period of time.

In an effort to “fix” myself amidst common issues I am struggling with at work, in life and in general, I started the book yesterday with the specific goal of following their steps. Note-taking is an unsolved problem for me so doing the first exercises make the most sense here; with the added benefit of public accountability.

Page 51 describes two exercises to figure out your purposes for work and life (or write them down if you already know them) where you write a 250 word manifesto of your Workview and Lifeview that answer a series of thought-provoking questions. So, here we go:


Why work?

Let's ignore the obvious, “because we have to” and instead say that, if we can, we choose a career early in life in an area that interests us. Sometimes we are forced into it but we do work out of a necessity to work in order to survive. Yes, we can find some public land and grow crops on it but that it also leaving your life behind as well.

What is work for?

To provide a minimum quality of life that allows you to utilise your free time in ways that are not restricted. To allow contributions to a system that, in theory, takes care of worries that we have moved past as humans (healthcare, transport, infrastructure, services).

What does work mean?

Work should mean that it is a task you give more than eighty thousand hours of your life to and it provides learning experiences, gratitude and fulfilment such that you want to spend your time with it; regardless of the money.

How does it relate to an individual, others, society?

I suppose it relates here because a job can be necessary for society to function but does not provide much motivation for an individual to work it; or that society creates a hierarchy based on these positions and metadata associated with them. To an individual, it should not be something you dread or crave time away from.

What defines good or worthwhile work?

Humans are short-sighted and selfish creatures by nature, this is not a bad thing in itself but it does mean that good work first has to benefit the worker; which could be in the form of seeing their impact or altruism, but it can also be financial or otherwise. I believe worthwhile work leaves the area of that work measurably cleaner/better than before; something that is not causing harm (or minimising it) and providing the greatest benefit to the majority.

What does money have to do with it?

Unless Capitalism somehow fails overnight, it is necessary in order to function within society, as well as to provide for those outside of your immediate circle (through taxes towards social housing, public healthcare, homeless initiatives etc or direct donations). It needs to be enough to allow you to live a lifestyle that you (and those dependent on you) can live in comfort without fearing a surprise bill or how to eat for the next week.

What does experience, fulfilment and growth have to do with it?

It is secondary. When you are in the position where you can select from a number of open positions that all reach your financial needs then you are able to select a position based on what it offers you; whether that is learning to stay relevant for future positions or for personal growth. The fulfilment is the part that, I believe, makes you stay in a position for 2 decades vs 2 months; feeling appreciated, recognised or required in a position that has meaning in your life is going to remove the dread one feels before the work day and increase your productivity.


Why are we here?

I believe this is random and there is no specific reason we are here.

What is the meaning/purpose of life?

As above, any meaning we have is/must be created by ourselves. If there is a purpose beyond what we make for ourselves, then it would likely be to reproduce and continue.

What is the relationship between individuals and others?

Humans are social animals. We benefit from others and our worldview is improved/expanded when we surround ourselves with different people. Other people are necessary for an individual to experience a life beyond the filter bubble of their own mind.

Where do family, country and the rest of the world fit in?

I wish I had a positive view here but I believe people prioritise themselves first and then those within their immediate circle naturally. If we were able to take actions where we had the same compassion for the world and its inhabitants as we did for ourselves then behaviour would be good in general.

What is good? What is evil?

Evil is an easy one: an action that causes harm (and where the consequences are known) but provides little/no benefit for the individual(s) carrying it out. Applying that definition to actions is subjective, however. For example, is the mother torturing and beheading the person that sexually assaulted and murderer her child evil?

In the same vein, an organisation/government/individual that tells a lie to the public in order to cover up damage to the environment is evil. While there is a benefit for them (continued profits), the consequences are far greater.

Good is less easy to define. A person may have committed adultery earlier in the day and then that guilt forced them to assist an elderly person with chores. Is that good? I guess if you do not connect other actions and instead judge each in isolation then it is easier. Can an action be good if the motivation do the action is not?

Do I believe in a higher power? How does that belief affect my life?

No, I do not. It makes me angry that some do but I know that is through my own experiences with religion. I am frustrated that Catholicism can still exist when it has contributed to thousands of child abuse cases globally and misused donations from those that could barely spare to provide them. It makes me more pessimistic in general, it frustrates me that my father turned to Christianity more when he realised his terminal brain tumour truly was terminal. If I could have faith then I would be able to see a greater plan in actions. Right now, I see the majority of human impact as negative and progressively destroying a planet when we are aware of the consequences. That action is evil, even if the individuals are not (in particular the huge majority that have no choice but to live in a destructive manner).