Why Are You Working Today?

why are you working today

It’s a simple question. Why did you come into work today?

Why do you get up every morning, get dressed, and commute to the job you have?

You could have any job. So, why do you, day after day, go to the one you have?

If you are sitting there without a clear answer to this question, now is the time to figure it out.

I learned my answer over a decade ago. To understand mine, and maybe get some perspective on your answer, I first have to tell you what I learned from a guy named Wing.

Wing’s Lesson

Wing was the Lead Mechanical Designer for an engineering firm I worked for. He had been there for many years and personified the definition of “company guy.’

He was the first one at the office in the morning and the last one to leave at night. Wing’s commitment to the firm was unshakable. If you were unlucky enough to go in over the weekend, you would probably see Wing there.

He was one of the most well-respected people in a 600+-person firm. Everybody loved Wing, including me. Even the President of the firm would happily share stories about Wing (like when David Letterman included him in a comedy bit).

Wing proudly displayed various pictures of his son and daughter throughout his office. Despite his success at work, these were his two crowning achievements.

Wing’s sense of humor and outlook on life was legendary. In fact, it helped me through a scary time in my early career.

My Probation

As a young marketer, I was tasked with conducting a marketing presentation for our office every quarter.

At that point, I was a terrible public speaker. Although I felt comfortable in everybody’s presence, once I stood in front of the office I became a bundle of nerves. My quivering voice and shaking hands made my lack of confidence apparent.

From the audience, Wing interjected, “Remember, you still on probation!”

I had been with the firm for three years!

But that was Wing’s way of telling me, “Hey, you are among family, this is no big deal.” To this day, once someone cracks a joke at me my nervousness goes away.

What A Robbery Taught Us About Work And Life

A couple months from that day, Wing developed brain cancer. As I said, Wing’s commitment was unshakable. He would still come into work. He was still the first one in and the last one out.

But we were seeing Wing slowly lose his battle against cancer. He lost weight. He underwent surgery but would still walk into the office with a giant scar around his head.

Chemotherapy was adding to the attack against his body. The admins would bring him food, but Wing was unable to eat.

Before our eyes, Wing slowly died. There was nothing we could do about it.

Practically everybody at the office attended Wing’s funeral. During the funeral, Wing’s daughter walked up to the podium. She was clearly distraught and inconsolable.

With tears streaming down her eyes she said, “I feel robbed today. My father spent so much time at work that I never got a chance to know him. Many of you people here know my father better than I do. So all I can feel is robbed.”

Among the rough and tumble engineers and construction professionals, there was not a dry eye in the crowd. As we walked back into work, my office cohorts looked like zombies. Reality had slapped everybody in the face, including me.

On that day, something became quite apparent to me as I questioned why I decide to come into work every day.

It’s For Our Family, It’s For Their Family

The reason we work has less to do with us and is more about the people we love.

Some people proclaim to “love what they do.” But if you really question them, they are most likely to admit that there is something that they would rather be doing with the ones they love that doesn’t involve marketing construction-related services.

Why is this important? Because your job is to keep the people at your firm employed. And like you, they work to support their families and the people they love.

That’s a heavy burden to bear. Heavier if you ever witnessed or conducted layoffs. And although it’s sometimes tough to put in the extra effort or get out of our comfort zone, we must not forget why it is we do what we do.

Work To Live

We also have to make sure we provide the appropriate attention to our loved ones. It’s import that we communicate the importance of this mission for our families at home and our extended families at work.

There is an old saying that goes, “You work to live, you do not live to work.” Truer words have never been spoken.

If you do not care about the people you work with…

…if you do not view and treat them as your family…

…if you do not concern yourself with their family’s well-being…

…find another job!

Someone somewhere entrusted you with the responsibility of helping to keep your co-workers gainfully employed. Therefore, you have a moral obligation to be effective and conduct every day, and every task, with the importance it deserves.

And today is the day to start.

Share Your Why

Now it’s your turn to share with the group. Why are you working today? There are no wrong answers.

Share yours by posting a comment below.

Comments

  1. Why do we do most things? If my latest novel is to be believed, it’s to keep the boredom and the feelings of emptiness at bay. Although the truth is, I genuinely enjoy my work. And doing it from home. I’ve got my family right here. Yes, I know how fortunate I am.

  2. I work to live, but sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between work and home. There have been times in my career that bosses were not understanding of the family. Thankfully, times have changed and I have been working for many years with a family focused owner and company.

  3. I can’t express it any better than you have, Matt. We work to support the people we love, and support our co-workers who are doing the same. Just to mix things up though, I will add three other motivations to the list. We work to contribute to making a better world today. We work for the future to give the generations to come the best platform for building their own version. Finally, we (I assume I am not alone in this) work for the sheer joy of creating. A sense of purpose and accomplishment is what completes our lifecycles. Do you agree?

  4. I’m pretty fortunate to have taken a good approach to my work over the years. I probably sacrificed career advancements and salary for time spent with family and kids. I was able to be the baseball and soccer coach and attended school concerts. Now, my kids are pretty much on their own and seem to recognize the important things in life. That said, I recently started my own firm, and seem to be at the office from dawn til dark. My wife doesn’t mind, and I’m having the time of my life trying to be an engineer, accountant, marketing director, and h.r. specialist of a 3 person firm. My point is enjoy the seasons of your career, and recognize that there will come a time to do the things you want.

    • Matt Handal says:

      Bill,

      Thank you for sharing. That does sound like a great approach. And it’s a great reminder that your priorities change in difference stages of your career.

  5. Laurie Orlando says:

    What an awesome post Matt! For the first time in a long time, I work for a great team of super-talented folks who are like a second family to me. Several of these folks have been here 20+ years and some of them have been friends since college – that speaks volumes. I have a great boss who challenges me, values my opinion, realizes the importance of his marketing team and gives his team kudos in front of the company at our monthly staff meetings. In addition to providing for my family (and to support my shopping habit), I truly enjoy what I do, like the projects we work on and feel like an important part of a great family with strong values – that’s why I am working today :o)

  6. Thank you for this reminder that, once again, life is about relationships. I have been at my job for 8.5 years – my longest relationship other than with my children 😉 It’s not always fun, frequently stressful, and the work can be mundane/repetitive/thankless at times. But the real reason I’m still here is because of the people. I love the individuals I work for and with, and I value the unique relationships I have with each of them. I go above and beyond what is asked of me because I’m doing it for my friends, not just a boss or a coworker. And in turn, the owners and managers are more than generous, giving me the support and freedom I’ve needed to care for my kids as a single mother. So, while this wasn’t my career aspiration, it’s truly a wonderful place to work and I’m so grateful to be here.

  7. Mark Baker AIA says:

    I have two answers to this thought-provoking soul-searching question! I get up every day to make a difference to the people that use the buildings that I designed; the children swimming in our rec centers and learning in our schools, the elderly that are living the last part of their lives in our assisted living and memory care facilities, and the troops that are defending America in our military buildings. Architects touch people’s lives in a unique way.

    I also go to work every morning to make a difference in the firm I work in. This gets back to your point, Matt, about the many invisible families that our firm supports.

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