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Love Made Visible

Can I be passionate about work without becoming a workaholic?

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By the work one knows the workman.
Dreams grow holy put in action; work grows fair through starry dreaming,
But where each flows on unmingling, both are fruitless and in vain.

Entrée: Rekindling Passion for Work by Richard Hanes
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Passion comes in many forms. I’m focused on the version of passion that is “boundless enthusiasm”. Looking up enthusiasm in the dictionary, I learned it is derived from the Greek root entheos, which means inspired by god. Hmmm, boundless inspiration by god! When’s the last time you experienced your work or career that way? Not lately? Never? Read on!

As a Boy Scout leader, one skill we teach our scouts is starting and feeding a fire. It’s a pretty simple recipe – tinder, kindling, fuel and a catalyst to get the fire started. Tinder has two parts – something easily flammable like cotton, dryer lint or shredded paper and sticks the size of pencil lead. Kindling is a little bigger wood – a finger-sized to thumb-sized stick. Fuel is a large chunk of wood. A catalyst is a match or lighter.

You’ve got to lay the parts together in a specific way to be successful in getting the fire started. You put the tinder down first. You lay the cotton, lint or paper down first and gently lay the pencil-lead sticks on top. Touch your match or lighter to the bottom of the tinder and watch the fire grow. As the tinder blazes brightly, add a few pieces of kindling on it. Continue adding kindling until it’s burning hotly. Then add a piece or two of fuel, and when the initial fuel logs are burning strongly, add more fuel.

Once your fire is burning, it needs air and more fuel to continue burning brightly and hotly. If you don’t tend to your fire’s needs, it will cool off and go out.

Just as a fire can dwindle if it’s not tended, you passion can dwindle too if it’s not tended. You may listen to your parents, family or friends who talk you out of a career that won’t pay enough money or provide you enough security. You grow numb about what inspires you by buying things, getting in debt and having to work just to pay your bills – you know, “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.” Or you eat or drink too much or take drugs to take the edge off the emptiness you feel for not doing what you love. It’s like starting the tinder but not putting any kindling or fuel on it.

Anthony Farmer, in his essay in A Guide to Getting It: Purpose and Passion, describes passion “as a fire that can never be truly put out… a fire that never dies that will blaze again at the will of its owner.” “Without passion you cut off vitality to our heart, your spirit and to your life.”

So how do you rekindle the fire of passion in your life? Do some inner work fist to reconnect to your inspiration, which means to “breathe in”. What did you love to do as a child? What makes you lose track of time as you do it? What do you lose yourself in as you do it? What possible works did you leave behind because they didn’t fit others’ expectations of you? What would you do if money were not an object? Answering these questions gives you the air you need to rekindle your inner fire.

Next gather your inner tinder. Pick small ways to try the things that inspire you. Set easily accomplished goals that will give your self-esteem a boost. Make these goals specific, realistic, measurable, achievable and timely. Ignite this tinder with your love and watch it start to blaze. As it burns brighter, gather your kindling – slightly bigger, more ambitious goals. Goals that stretch you, give you more self-confidence and allow your inner passion to burn brighter and hotter. Lay your kindling on the little blaze started with your tinder and add more as the flames burn higher.

Next, gather your fuel. Your confidence in your abilities will have grown as your passion burns hotter, so try even bigger, long-term goals. Find ways to fuel your desire so that you passion serves others. A fire to keep only one person warm quickly burns out.

Finally, lay in a long-term supply of fuel, keep your fire supplied with air and stoke it regularly. Rejuvenate yourself and your fire – take out the spent ashes, and put more fuel on it often. Love yourself, do the things you love so they will nourish your inner fire. Set bigger and bigger goals for loving service to others and tend them carefully. Anthony Farmer reminds us that, “Passion comes from being engaged in life, all aspects of life.” He quotes James Roberts Rowe, “Putting your heart, mind and soul into even the smallest tasks is the essence of passion.” To quote Mother Teresa, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Use your passion to do your unique small things with great love.

About the author:

Rick Hanes is a life and career coach, writer, outdoorsman, gardener and tireless advocate for living life with purpose and passion. He founded Fruition Coaching in 2004 to lead the fight against leading lives of quiet desperation. Check his website at to contact him about rekindling the fire of your life!

Main Course: Work Is A Four-Letter Word by Eileen McDargh
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I can hear the jokes already and most of them are not politically correct. Let me throw out a word that we often don't attach to work and yet I think it is a word of redemption, of contribution, of achievement, of community, and ultimately, of legacy.

Here it is: LOVE.

Kahil Gibran proclaimed, "Work is love made visible". I would further clarify his position by insisting that a job is what you do for a paycheck. Work is what you do for a life. It is that energizing, all-encompassing activity that allows you to bring skills to bear in ways that are satisfying beyond a pay period. It is that activity that saves you from being a faceless number in a mechanistic wheel-hence it holds redemptive powers. It is that activity which makes a contribution to a larger world order. It is that activity from which you sense a measure of accomplishment and achievement. It excites you. It gives you joy. It binds you to a community of people who are stakeholders in what you do. Ultimately, it has a ripple effect and the potency of a legacy for those who follow.

"Ah come on!" you insist. "How about a garbage collector? A waiter? A store clerk? Who is going to love those jobs?"

Great question. And at face value, it seems that not every employment opportunity has such grand potential. Just take the money, leave it as soon as you can for greener pastures. Screw those miserable bosses. Thumb your nose at the customer.

And tomorrow you die.

That's it. Plain and simple. While you are looking for the dream vocation, the better work environment, the nicer boss, reality can step in and your one moment on the Planet is gone forever. It's a reality made even MORE real by current events.

There's an uneasy shift that has taken us by storm and rattled our plod-along workaday world. Many are paralyzed by the insecurity of the times. The terror of 9-11 and the subsequent global aggressiveness pushed us over the edge. With a wobbly U.S. economy, unsettled change continues to bombard us. Mega-mergers boggle the mind with the endless zeros streaming behind a behemoth's financial size. We gasp at the number of employees who are cast off from a consolidated giant. We see plant closures and layoffs in everything from clothing manufacturing to banking. Overnight web companies turn almost under-age youth into millionaires and executives at age 40 are left scratching their heads. Then, dot.coms fail, leaving bewildered employees in the rubble. Wall Street meltdown, corporate greed, and icon-like presidents who crash as fallen idols make daily headlines.

Despite statistics that indicate employment is coming back, there's pain and inaccuracy behind these cold numbers. We are working more but feeling as if we're earning less and living in time poverty. Affluenza is an all too common word. The consistent notion that work should be a 24/7 event is being challenged by a rising number of strident voices. And with those voices comes a cry for the most urgent answer to sustainable success: finding meaningful work that makes an impact and lets us live in the bargain. Answer that plea and we'll unleash a productive and creative power akin to a tsunami.

In short we want to LOVE what we do, who we do it for and who we do it with AND love the life we create outside that work. That's the essence-the Holy Grail-the mysterious work/life balance piece. Finding that Holy Grail is done by parallel processing, working on two tracks. The first track is to make work "work" for you in your current situation.

Wouldn't it make more sense to transform wherever you find yourself-even while continuing to search-so that if and when you leave, there's a faint footprint of achievement, community, contribution and yes, even the memory of a beneficial interaction. Such a transformation allows you to love yourself in the process. It keeps bridges from burning and strengthens a network of relationships that one day you might call upon.

The critical question becomes: how do you turn a "job' into a "work"-into something that gives you more than a paycheck? No, you might not be able to alter the corporate strategic plan, paint the garbage truck peppermint pink or change a boss from a toad to a prince. But, there are specific action items you can take within your sphere of influence. Too often, we expect management to lead us in career directions, to provide us with recognition, to make "it" a better place. It's just like a marriage: there's responsibility on both sides. Using the tools offered by Bev Kaye and Sharon Jordan Evans in Love it. Don't Leave It (available at major bookstores), you'll find a literal alphabet soup of specific action steps to help you take ownership for your life at work

Don't wait. Time is too precious to squander. You CAN fall in love again.

About the author:

Named by Executive Excellence Magazine as one of the top 100 thought leaders in business, Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE authored one of the first books on work/life balance. Eileen is an award winning professional speaker, consultant and facilitator. Find fr*ee articles, surveys, book reviews and more at her professional speaker website.

Second Helping: Death by Overwork: Speaking of Negative Motivation by Barry Maher
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The Japanese have a word for death by overwork: Karoshi. A recent survey said 40 percent of all Japanese workers fear that they will actually work themselves to death.

Karoshi is not my idea of success. Sure, I talk about "Never Settling for Success," but that's not a prescription for becoming an obsessive or a workaholic. That type of single-mindedness is more likely to lead to burnout than peak performance. Never settling for success simply means that you commit to maximum effort within the hours of your life that you've allotted for pursuing a particular pursuit. And you do that in spite of the 1001 excruciatingly attractive reasons, excuses, distractions and temptations that you can find for doing less.

Tip: Focus is a good buzzword. Multi-tasking is a bad one. Computers multi-task, and usually lose efficiency when they do. When people do it, it's usually not multi-tasking at all; it's usually that older cliché, spreading yourself too thin.

Tip: During working hours, consider working.

Tip: During non-working hours, consider doing something else.

Now obviously given the realities of life today, there are likely to be times when you're going to have to work during what you would like to be non-working hours. Sometimes. But you'll never fill the glass unless you can find a way to be comfortable with the amount of your life you're devoting to the job. Then you make those hours as productive as possible.

"If I worked as much as others," Stephen Wright said, "I would do as little as they." There's more than a grain of truth to that statement.

Fortunately, as a society we're finally beginning to realize that chronic overwork is not a badge of honor, it's a sign that somewhere, something is wrong.

Tip: If you find yourself proudly bragging about your hours or your workload, you're probably putting in more time than you should.

Tip: Intelligent people don't brag about being overworked. They complain about being overworked.

Tip: If you don't have something in your life more worthy of bragging about, find something.

"Working hard has always been a measure of success in the office," says Alie Hochchild author of The Time Bind. "Now we've internalized it. So instead of the boss harassing you to work more, we do it to ourselves."

The better the manager, the less time it takes him to do his job. A good worker takes care of his health and his sanity, and is as productive as possible during the hours he is working. An astute company values its people and doesn't abuse them or any other asset.

Yet on consulting assignments, I keep hearing remarks like, "Around here, if you don't show your face early mornings, late nights and weekends you're not considered committed." I've seen low level managers cowering in their cubicles, pretending to be busy, afraid to leave the office before their boss leaves: no matter how late it gets, no matter how little they're accomplishing. If they do leave first, it's commented on the next day, either by the boss or by their peers.

I remember an executive who made a great show of carrying home armloads of work every night. Sometimes he had so much he had to make two trips to the car. After I got to know him, he admitted he never worked on any of it. He just lugged it home at night, then lugged it back the next day.

"Don't laugh," he said, patting the pile he was gathering for that night. "I'm considered one of the hardest workers in the office. And it's always a lot easier to influence the guy I'm working for with reputation than with achievement, believe me."

Activity vs Productivity

The idea (for those of us who sometimes forget) is to get the job done as well and as efficiently as possible. I'm always in favor of letting your results do the talking. And of measuring subordinates by the results they achieve. When I was an employee I wanted to be so good at what I did that I didn't have to worry about trying to impress anybody any other way. That saved me a lot of wasted energy: energy that probably helped improve my productivity.

We should never confuse activity with productivity. No matter how many hours someone puts in, no matter how much they appear to be working, the only measurement that really matters is the results.

The refreshing news is that, nowadays, among all the people bragging about their long hours, we're also beginning to hear a few executives boasting that they're good enough at what they do to be able to leave at a decent hour, to get more done, and have time to get home and refresh themselves so they can put in another efficient day's work the next day.

Tip: Never let your company, your clients, your boss, your boss' boss or anyone else make you feel guilty that you're not a workaholic.

Workaholics are people with problems. Do you feel guilty that you're not obsessed by sex (okay, would you feel guilty if you weren't)? Or by chocolate? Do you feel guilty that you don't want to spend your entire life playing golf or loafing, or reading or watching TV? Or that you're not addicted to alcohol or narcotics? Why should you feel guilty that you're too well rounded an individual to want to spend your entire life working?

About the author:

Barry Maher is an leading expert on motivation, communication, leadership, management & sales. His book, "Filling the Glass" has been honored as "[One of] The Seven Essential Popular Business Books." Sign up for his free email newsletter at

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