…While Working

I remember the story of two Zen monks, both prodigious smokers. Concerned about the question of smoking during their prayer time, they agreed to consult their superiors. While one received a stern reprimand from his abbot, the other was given a pat of encouragement. The unlucky one, greatly puzzled, asked his friend exactly how he had framed his question. “I asked,” the second monk replied, “whether it was permissible to pray while smoking.”

– Jean Kinkead Martine, “Working for a Living”

We often get the message that work isn’t meant to make us smile, that making the world a better place is something we do on our own time, and that if we’re having fun we shouldn’t expect to get paid. These messages are deeply wired into our culture and it’s hard to just yank them out. Martine’s story provides a means to short the circuit.

Of course our clients and customers will demand that we provide them with value before they provide us with money. But if we choose our work well, we can provide value while also doing good and having fun. And the great thing is that if we choose very well, the cycle just feeds itself.

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