Saturday, November 15, 2008


"I stayed because every time you threw a brick at my head or said I smelled, it hurt, but it could never hurt more than it did every day of my life just being me." - Po, Kung Fu Panda

I had an epiphany today - an actual, legitimate event which radically altered how I looked at things. It was initiated by work, continued by Fry's, and completed by Kung Fu Panda.

At work, I have been overwhelmed - almost to tears at times - at the feeling of futility in my job. I do things, but they don't really seem to make in impact, or even be recognized. My nadir was on Thursday, when after modifying a document to be consistent with the format, I was asked to revise the font from 12 point Times New Roman to 10 point Helvetica. I screamed in the car at the triviality of my life on the way home.

1) What I do does not seem to motivate me to do more.

On Friday, I took a break at lunch and went to Fry's, the computer store. Every now and again, I am overcome by the need to look at computer games - although I consciously know they're a waste of time and not productive (and Heaven's sake, often not Christ honoring) I just get the urge to at least go look. I didn't find anything, but what I did wonder and ponder was why I could spend hours of time playing these games - or for that matter, doing well in college - and then it hit me: there was a clearly defined goal or endpoint. Adventures brought you experience and greater abilities; homework and study brought good grades. If I put in the time, that's what I got. A great counterpoint to revising font size and realizing there is only more of the same next week.

2) I can keep to the task if there is a known endpoint with recognized rewards.

If you've not seen Kung Fu Panda, you should -although it is billed as a children's movie, it is rife with adult thoughts and themes. At one point after the quote above by the main character Po, the teaching master Shifu realizes that he cannot train Po as he trained his other students. They were motivated by typically martial art motives; Po is motivated by food. It is only when he uses food that Po trains and masters Karate to get the food -and then realizes it was not the food he was after.

3) Different things motivate different people.

And then, the whole thing hit me like a safe on the head: I am not happy in my current career, and not feeling like I am making progress in so much of my life, because I am not setting the right motivators.

I like to clean. I like to have the dishes done. Why? Because I like to see results - pretty fast results - at the end of my work.

Honest to goodness, I like attention. I like being recognized. I like, if you will, a degree of performing and being noticed. I like to know if I put in the effort, it will make a difference, a discernible one. I like to be rewarded with physical things - as Moliere said, "There's no praise to beat the sort you can put in your pocket."

Yet when I look at my life, I find that all of the above is scarcely present. Certainly in my job function, I will probably never be recognized in this way, because my line of work never is. It's hard to be incentivised to work and succeed when it seems like all your money disappears as soon as you make it - what's the point of making more, when it will just be gone as well? And what's the point of working on things that are years out, when it seems like the things never get beyond year one?

What does this mean? Certainly nothing for my job at the moment, although maybe I do need to rethink my career field. I need to try this out, at least in my private goal life, and see if it is really true. If it works there, then it will work out anywhere in my life.

I hope so. I can't do font sizes forever.

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