All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.– Aristotle
I understand why people find this inspiring or profound. But this is absolutely terrible advice from a practical standpoint.Most of us are never going to get paid to do what we love. Work is something we do to support ourselves. Ideally, we don’t hate it. That’s the best most of us will ever do with our employment – we can consider ourselves fortunate if we don’t actively loathe it. But love it? Steve Jobs got paid to do what he apparently loved, and good on him. He is not like most of us, though. He had a lot of talent and he happened to love something that was beyond lucrative.
Hear, hear. As Max Weber famously noted, the old Calvinist notion of a “calling” has long been intertwined with our ideas about work. Personally, I lament all the wasted time and unnecessary anxiety I felt as an adolescent, struggling to figure out why I couldn’t think of a career choice that appeared to me in a flash of divine illumination. Many of my peers seemed to have their lives all planned out by the end of high school; what was wrong with me? Was I going to be a – gasp! – failure?
But now, one of the things that ruffles my feathers about all these platitudes and exhortations is the unspoken and likely unconscious elitism behind them. I would add to what Ed said that many of the jobs that are absolutely necessary for society to run at all are inherently boring, tiring, and nowhere near being nourishing and life-affirming. There’s an implicit understanding in speeches like the address Jobs delivered at Stanford that we are the special ones; we have the education and privilege to customize our lives to our exacting preferences. Trash collecting? Maintenance work? Don’t those people have an app to take care of that sort of thing?