Note: Those who read this blog regularly know how much I believe passion for our work is a requirement and that if we aren’t fulfilled by our job, we are being unfair to ourselves and our teammates. This is an attempt to explore why those who believe a job is just a job may in fact have it right. Empathy matters and there is not enough of it today.

I have been a Sailor in the United States Navy for over 24 years now and still remember the recruiting slogans that called us to serve back in the day…

  • Army: Be all that you can be.
  • Navy: It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.
  • Air Force: Aim High!
  • Marines: The few, the proud…

They each appealed to my desire to be a part of something far bigger than myself. They all but guaranteed personal growth and exciting experiences would accompany the sense of service we would soon feel. That is precisely why I joined, and that is why many of my teammates have chosen to serve in uniform. As I compare notes with people who make a living in various ways, I have come to appreciate that for many, a job is not a passion. A job is not a calling. A job is not designed to give them a sense of fulfillment, personal pride, or belonging. A job is just a job. It is nothing more than a means by which they trade their time for money. Money is what affords them the opportunity to pursue their interests outside of work. And it’s outside of work where they are finding fulfillment. Those of us who have an expectation of being fulfilled by our work have it all wrong. Those who have no expectation of being fulfilled by their work are much more content with life.

Contentment is the state of being satisfied with a given situation no matter how good or bad it may be. Those of us who continually challenge ourselves to be more than we are rarely find satisfaction. We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to meet the expectations we have of ourselves and that others have for us. We also demand more from our teammates and in some cases want more for them than they want for themselves. At times, we are guilty of faulting them for being content with who they are and for being satisfied with their accomplishments to date. Those of us who make professional fulfillment a priority have work-related issues continually percolating in our subconscious that distract us from being present. That doesn’t happen when a job is just a job. We spend a significant amount of our “free” time developing our teammates and seizing professional opportunity. That doesn’t happen when a job is just a job. We spend time and money honing our professional craft that could be repurposed. That doesn’t happen when a job is just a job. By attempting to see our profession as our primary means of reaching the highest point on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs…

  • We work really hard to bring our best to our team each day only to return home exhausted and much later than we planned.
  • We pour our heart and soul into making a difference in the lives of work teammates, sometimes to the detriment of the people we love in our personal lives.
  • We ask our families to make a significant sacrifice in the name of our profession.

The recruiting slogans that called me to serve, appealed to a young boy. A boy that was taught to challenge himself in all aspects of life, to seek out opportunities to contribute to the world around us, and to help teammates at work and at home reach their potential. This life continues to afford me every opportunity to do all of that and more. But if I would have only learned earlier in life to expect less from my work, I might have a few more hobbies, I might have a little less stress, and I would definitely have more time to spend with my family. Those who see their job as just a job may spend their workdays counting down the minutes until quitting time and they likely dread Mondays more than we do, but for them, it is life outside of work that matters. They enjoy proper work-life balance. They may not have a passion for what they do, but they certainly have a passion for how they live. Those of us who see our work as something more, may, in fact, have it all wrong. We want to belong to something bigger than ourselves, but we must realize that we belong to much more than our work.

  • Do you love your work or is it just a job?
  • Where do you find fulfillment?
  • Do you belong to more than your work?