By Basil Gala, Ph.D.
In Search of Meaning
The work we do on a regular basis should be a career as much as it is possible. That is, all work we do should tie in with our lifelong goals for the things we want to accomplish in our chosen field, vocation, avocation, or main interest. Sure, we need to have a variety of experiences if what we want to do is write or manage, but even the variety should aim for our major goal in life. Why so? Would you buy the idea that “life is too short, the art too long?” Fix your work activities then, if you can, to your planned career, and run your career on four legs: enthusiasm, service, artcraft, and profit.
Profit? Yes, profit. What shall it profit you if you gain the whole world and lose your own purse on the way to bank? Profit is what business people call the bottom line, after all expenses are deducted from all receipts. The bottom line is where you begin figuring out how to run your business or career, before you do anything else. The whole variety of living things on the planet operate the same way. Each species must see to its profit from operations in order to survive and thrive, and not become like the dodo bird.
You ignore survival values, i.e. Money, at your own peril. Even if your parents left you plenty of the green stuff or you have already earned enough of it on your own, where is the guarantee you will keep it till the end of your road or that of your offspring? Earn it and leave it to your heirs or worthy causes in your will. Payment received for your efforts certifies also that what you have produced is worth something to your fellows. Payment is sweeter by far than compliments, honors, or admiring looks. Money is the most sincere form of appreciation.
Going backwards, I now examine the second leg: artcraft. All work and
careers run on a collection of acquired skills: a craft, or, for some people of outstanding talent, an art.
Before we established colleges and universities training multitudes of young people with books, lectures, laboratories, libraries, and computers for a vast variety of professions, we had the apprentice system. Very often the son apprenticed with his father, as Jesus did with Joseph in carpentry, starting from age five or six, because very little formal schooling was available for ordinary people. The daughter trained with her mother in household tasks, cleaning, cooking, fetching water from spring or well, taking care of babies, tending the garden and caring for a few animals. At thirteen or so, boy and girl were old enough for adult responsibilities.
For those without a skilled father or mother, an uncle, aunt, or other master in some craft provided the apprenticeship. Those who sought a different craft from the family’s, served a master for five years without wages, just room and board, working next to the master, picking up technique and learning. After that the apprentice served another five years as a journeyman, or the female equivalent, on small wages. Now the apprentice could do the work well enough to earn enough money still working for the master or independently, could settle down and marry. The skills and knowledge the apprentice acquired during all these years was practical, immediately useful, not theories, words from books and lectures. That was a good training system, in many ways superior to ours today, and it cost the parents little or nothing, one of its main superiorities.
If you have a chance at a close apprenticeship to a recognized master in your chosen field, grab it. If not, collect the works of an outstanding master you admire, and model your own efforts to those works for a while. I have modeled my own efforts in philosophy on the writings of British philosopher, logician, and Nobel Prize winner for literature, Lord Bertrand Russell, which I have admired since I was a teenager.
First you choose a field of endeavor for a first, second, or–like me–a third career. When you start your career, pick an artcraft that you naturally do well; perhaps you have the talent for it. Anyway, you’ll run faster on a good artcraft leg. If you have fun practicing your craft, that’s great, because you will need to practice it every day for many hours to become productive and competitive so your output is saleable. Everybody who hears Mozart admires his great music, but how many people appreciate that he practiced his art constantly, starting when he was an infant?
My career is applied, practical, philosophy; I sleep, eat, think, write, think, write questions and answers of applied philosophy. But first where is the profit? Why should people pay for my advice, information, or entertainment? Yes, my readers will pay for my advice if they see a payoff in it for themselves, and if they find my writings interesting. But until they pay me, I must keep practicing my writing skills and my thought processes daily for many hours on end.
People may pay well for what you do for them; you may be very good at producing large amounts of what your customers want to buy. Are these two legs of a career, profit and artcraft, sufficient? Yes, they are sufficient for making some money, even sufficient for amassing fortune and fame. Drug dealers, casinos, cigarette makers, candy companies, prostitutes and pornographers do as much.
The third leg of a career, true service to the people must run well too. A sound, ethical career, needs to see to the welfare of the customers. The product you sell to the public should do good, do no harm; it should appeal to the customer’s virtues, not vices. Serve your community well with your career to assure its longevity and that of your spirit.
You will not serve very well, you will not practice your artcraft long and hard, you will not profit handsomely in your career without applying yourself with enthusiasm to your work. The Greeks meant with enthusiasm the entrance of the god inside of you, or at least of the muse. This fourth leg of a career I left for last to discuss because it keeps the other three in motion.
It is a deep and abiding interest in what you do, a love for your work as
strong as that for your spouse or children. It is a love which fills you with energy, with confidence, and with inspiration—your spirit is on the wing, creating, producing things of value. Passion drives you to furious achievement. What great things were ever done without passion?