Making a difference in the world

I happened to stumble across Steve Pavlina’s blog post on Contributing through Your Career. His basic thesis is that most people feel driven to make some sort of difference in the world, and that if you do it on the side instead of through your career, it isn’t as fulfilling as it might be otherwise. I think he does have a point.

I have in times past struggled with the idea that I’d like to do something more… not ‘important’—that’s not really the right word. ‘Worthwhile’ is probably the right word. Eventually I came to a couple of realizations. One is that all of the information I put online for folks to help them be more creative (reviews of writers’ books and cookbooks, writers’ exercises, articles on writing and roleplaying, etc.) is worthwhile. So is making T-shirts. Things that help others do what they love, or that help make others happy, are worthwhile, even if they don’t involve feeding the world’s homeless or bringing about world peace. Someone has to make the little happinesses come about, and that’s okay.

The other realization is that it’s okay to say that reviewing books and designing T-shirts are my jobs. Sure, I don’t make a lot of money at them, and sometimes folks look at me like, “you call that a job?” but the fact remains that I put a lot of hard work in and just because I enjoy that work doesn’t make it a hobby rather than a job. And once I came to accept that these were my jobs, and not a hobby masquerading as a job, I became much more contented with them and far less restless. I’ve had far fewer feelings about what I “should” be doing, and can settle down to the far more enjoyable task of simply getting my job done!

So when you’re casting about for something to do that seems worthwhile, make sure you aren’t overlooking what you’re already doing. If you need something new by all means go for it—but sometimes you just need to come to terms with what you already love, even if you don’t realize it yet.


Needs More Coffee

Posted in News & Musings
7 comments on “Making a difference in the world
  1. What do you say to people who don’t think any job will make them any happier?

  2. heather says:

    That’s kind of a big question, now isn’t it? 🙂 After all, there can be so many potential causes behind that issue—depression comes to mind as a big one, since it tends to make all things seem bleak and futile. Really that’s entirely too large and individual an issue to have one answer, IMO.

  3. Bush Mackel says:

    Hm. I like this post. It makes me think. … Though I’m still not sure my day job is bringing happiness to other people. Perhaps I should quit and start over. (#);)

  4. heather says:

    *grin* My husband for a while stopped working as a software safety expert (ie, someone who makes sure software that runs everything from cars to air traffic control, space shuttles to amusement parks, trains to medical equipment, doesn’t hurt or kill folks) and went back to being a software developer. He just couldn’t do it—he found that he missed knowing that he was making that difference and helping to ensure that folks didn’t get hurt by software design flaws, so he went back to software safety, even though the hours are longer and it involves more business travel. It was worth it to him. I can understand that, even though my goals are hardly so lofty. I think everyone just has to find their own level of “difference” and its place in their lives.

  5. springraise says:

    This is an interesting post. If you find your contribution to the world to be noble and worthy, who is anyone else to judge? Each of us has our calling. What’s not discussed is the profit motive and whether there’s some nobility in that. Is pursuing profit a worthwhile cause in itself? I think we individually have to do things that provide us intrinsic value, but in doing so, we have to remember to help others. If we don’t our lives will never be rich no matter how much money we make.

  6. heather says:

    I think it depends on what you do with that profit. At least, that’s my personal take on it. Part of what I wrestled with for so long is the fact that it’s tough for me to hold down any kind of ‘regular’ job due to tendonitis and bipolar disorder, so I don’t contribute to the family finances nearly as much as I’d like. I dealt with that partially by finding ways to make a bit more money with the web site (although it was also important to me that, for example, I not totally clutter it up with ads all over the place), partially by finding other ways to feel like I was contributing to the household, and partially by just learning to deal with it. 🙂 To me, making that extra money is about doing my part to pay for things like the mortgage, rather than an end in and of itself.

  7. Aaron says:

    Most people find fulfillment in the things they do outside of work. It’s great if your work is fulfilling, but just something to make the ends meet can be fine if you have time and energy for other things.

    This has actually been one of my main concerns when considering applying for jobs in the game industry. I feel compelled to do something noble with my life, and it’s hard for me to think of games as being a noble cause most of the time. There is value to simply raising moods, but it’s a fine line between a little relaxation and avoiding life.

    I have a pretty Aristotelian view of the arts, so doing more than merely entertaining is important to me. I can appreciate mindless entertainment, like Pac-Man, but I feel like meaningful entertainment is more important. I’d like to see games be capable of teaching and entertaining at the same time, similar to films like Schindler’s List or Pay It Forward. In some ways, I think games are even more capable of doing that than films or literature.

    Anyway, I’ve decided to apply for some design jobs, but I’d be just as content (if not more) living near family, holding a mindless job, and coming home to blog each night. =)

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