When I go to work everyday, sometimes I cannot help asking, what is the purpose? It’s easy to say I work for a living. Is that all there is to it? Many people think so. If you want to see the meaning of work, you must work with the goal to make a difference, either for yourself or for other people, or both.
Making a difference requires an attitude before anything else. In the workplace we see so many people working in the ordinary fashion. They just keep working all their lives. They are busy learning and keeping the rules that the system has set up for them. They also enforce the rules to make sure that other people will follow. In short, they are known as paper pushers and bean counters. They are present at all levels ranging from the lowest to the highest rank. If you happen to work in this kind of atmosphere or mentality, it will be hard to see the meaning of work.
Let me cite my personal experience in a public library. The rule is that each person is allowed 2 hours’ time for using the computer terminal. One day, my computer time expired before I could finish my work. Seeing a dozen terminals standing unused, I asked the clerk to grant me an exception. As expected, she replied that the library rule only allowed 2 hours. She could not be blamed for following the rules. She was conscious of making a potential mistake by bending the rules. In this fashion, she was only working without thinking how to make a difference.
Undeterred, I went upstairs and asked another clerk for an exception. She granted me an additional hour with the condition that she would cut me off when the rest of the terminals were all taken up. I happily thanked her and went back to finish my work. The clerk upstairs had made a difference for me, and also made a difference for herself by being flexible and creative while keeping the library resources working more fully and efficiently.
Working to make a difference is seen to bring great material rewards, as exemplified by many successful people and companies. Their works and products make a difference for the consumers, and transform themselves and the industry at the same time.
Although the workplace is filled with paper pushers and bean counters, occasionally there emerge flexible and creative people who enlighten the whole place, and change the course of direction and the operation of rules. This is known as progress and creativity that overcome the forces of inertia and complacency. Sometimes we may also encounter whistle blowers who shake up the whole place by pointing out the dangers of existing rules or methods of operation. Because they rock the boat, whistle blowers are usually ignored or even punished. Thus progress suffers as a result.
In conclusion, let me reinforce my point by employing some quotes from Albert Einstein:
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.