Loving your work…

Tim Cook tweeted to honour what would be the 60th birthday of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Remembering Steve, who would have turned 60 today. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” pic.twitter.com/0YD0gZ7jvm
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) February 24, 2015

A nice and understandable gesture, from a friend, but I believe that the used quote from Steve Jobs is not a fact of life, or has serious implications for other people. I mean. Think about it. Many people love what they do, me among others, but they still suck at what they do. At least in the view of other people. It’s all about perspective.

Let me start with holidays. Tell me something. What is so great about people having to cancel their holiday, because your employer/some boss/whoever wants you to work on/finish something, instead of going on a well deserved holiday? Some people were even told to go look elsewhere, if they are not “a member of the team“. Luckily that person wasn’t me. Phew.

I guess that this is the other side of doing “great work” but that is also when people really hate their work. And their employer. Whoever that person or company is. Then you as a boss/manager are certainly not doing “a great job“. You may love your job/products, but I personally also happen to love my wife and family.

Sure. Many companies do this to get bugs fixed before products get released, so I know how it feels to have to work, to do great work, but I would much rather have been on a holiday with my family. That to me would have been really great, but I happen to work for one of the companies that do great work, from time to time, and then you simply (have to) accept this. Either that or look for a new job – the unspoken rule of being part of corporate work.

Another example. My mother is a doctor (works in a hospital) and she totally loves her work, but there have been times that even my mom came home stressed up about something she wouldn’t want to talk about, when a child had died. That was when mom was disappointed. Frustrated, and hated her work. Well. For some time. Still. She is very good at what she does, and people are grateful when she cancels a holiday, or returns early from one, but that is just one of her responsibilities as a doctor. Not because she loves her work, or like to cancel our holiday, but because she wants to help people in need of her expertise.

Nothing new to me. I also grew up with a military dad who yelled stuff like: “rise and shine“, “the only easy day was yesterday“, “there is no IF” and then he had to leave, again and again, too many times for work. Or the times that we had to lie about what dad did or where he was. Boy did that suck at primary school. So many boys and girls with great stories about their dad and their work. However, teachers always skipped me. Like I wasn’t proud (I was) but they were simply told not to ask questions about dad. Speaking about sacrifices. I just don’t want my son to go through this. Not ever. Sorry dad.

And I personally would have loved to spent more time/holidays with my father, but that was impossible due to the nature of his work. And working for Apple appears to be even worse. Secrecy about products, product releases and what not. So yeah. I have mixed feelings about people loving their work, and the products that they work on, because there are always people, mostly wives and children, that have to pay the price for the long hours, for the product that they are working on. Let’s remember that, and honour the wives and children that have to miss a husband/father… just because the next (i)phone or tablet/computer/watch must be great and delivered in time…

In the end. I do great work just because I can. Not because I love my work. The reality is that there are times that even I hate my work. Please. Let’s be realistic. What I love is the pay check, because that keeps me and my family afloat. Not the public figures who walk away with the glory, who are getting all the credit, while other (young) people/families (me/us) who pay the price… when the boss/manager is sitting at the beach, because I tell you that will always suck. Big time!

5 thoughts on “Loving your work…

  1. Oddly enough, it’s these kind of posts I love over everything.
    Having some insight on the being that has the expertise to blow my mind away on a regular basis with a technical post. Knowing who’s behind it all, what brought him to this, parents, sister… btw: you are not just a tall guy with glasses!

    As for this post, I join you… I have had amazing jobs for which people got jealous that haven’t compelled me that much, such as being in the very first batch of French Apple Geniuses, and others that would drive me to my office at 4 AM without even being bored of it because stranded people, troops or officials depended on me all for minimal wage (damn I actually miss that!)

    (I admit, the good thing at apple was giving a smile back to clients, and I did a great job at it, too bad the management sucked deeply)

    You never know in advance, and ageing might affect me too, though I still have the hope of finding the job that has the good formula!

  2. Can Tim Cook’s comment be flipped around a bit and give a different perspective?

    In other words, is it possible that people who don’t love their job do great work? Can someone, not in love with what they do, be willing to go that extra inch/yard/mile (centimeter/meter/kilometer for you metric fans) in order to accomplish really amazing things?

    Accidental discoveries do happen – like when velcro or teflon or x-rays or super-glue were discovered (see http://www.nbcnews.com/id/38870091/ns/technology_and_science-innovation/t/greatest-accidental-inventions-all-time#.VO3wW0uA2ZM for a list of the top 10).

    Technology products are especially prone to needing to be perfected by the efforts of some very hard working people, who probably love what they do or they wouldn’t work so hard at it. Single people have a different set of motivations than parents or married people do. Both should be rewarded or paid for what they help bring to market. Executive pay is obscene these days and they’re generally paid far more than they deserve, but that ball of crap is not so easy to roll up the hill.

    I agree with Pike’s comment that people who want to spend time with their family shouldn’t be looked down on when it comes to receiving accolades or incentives compared to the those who either choose to be a part of the corporate slave market, or who don’t have a life without their job, and have few other options than to slave away for the benefit of their corporate benefactors. It takes both types to make a world that is interesting and challenging to live and work in.

    • Absolutely. I know people who don’t “love” their job, but they need the money. They have no choice. Either they work or they don’t get any money. Yet some of them are doing a fabulous job. Even for minimum wages. One person I like to name here, as an example, is Jose. A local lory driver who drives around at night to collect our garbage bins, and really nothing is left behind. Everything is removed from the street. Even stuff he should leave alone. But no. He is not writing software or anything like that, but without him… trash fallen out of the bins (think dogs/cats) would be left alone. Like in other villages. Smells awful. Especially when it is hot outside. He also does the job quick and quiet – we hear the difference when somebody else is on the truck. And when he is done, ahead of time, then he comes back for a cold drink and to watch American TV shows. That is how much we appreciate Jose and his work.

  3. Wait… you’re an accomplished programmer yet you don’t understand even the simplest logic? Did you not study Venn diagrams in eighth grade?
    The quote doesn’t in any way imply that loving your work automatically makes you do great work.
    Nor does it comment on office politics or work/family balance – note that it says “what you do” and not “your job”. Synonyms sure but not with entirely identical meaning. No one will ever love everything, or maybe even most things, about _how_ they do what they do… that’s a given, but the premise is that to excel you need to feel a passion and a purpose in your craft.
    I get the extremely IT-centric, corporate and honestly rather regressive and somewhat misogynist perspective your analysis is centered around, given the origin of the quote, but still… ouch.

    • Failing logic? Please read my blog post again. It is pretty verbose about the fact that family is paying the price. Like Steve’s daughter and other family members. Like me and my brother and sisters. So all in all. Doing great work asks sacrifices from people who have no say in it. You may be passionate about something, which is cool, as I am about my work, but that will most likely still asks others to make offers. My wife and son for example… but I made decisions to not go over a certain boundary as my family is more important than work. No matter how great that may (have) be(en).

      Also. This isn’t limited to IT or corporations alone. One example from my blog post; My father was in the military and we back home had to make sacrifices. Time and time again. So yeah. We did miss him. A lot. Sometimes up to six months, so while he was doing his job, and he loved it to pieces, and he was a star at what he did, he wasn’t there for us with Christmas. That is what counts for the people back home. Not the rewards on the wall.

      And what misogynist perspective are you taking about? I don’t understand this. It’s about values or lack thereof… and guys like my father and Steve Jobs certainly missed the important bits, for too long. At least my father admits it now, and warned me to not make the same mistakes.

      This is why I do everything to put my family on the first spot, and try to be a better husband/father. No matter what work may be on my path. There is always a tomorrow for work, but there may not be a tomorrow for family. Like when my sister suddenly passed away at age sixteen. So yeah. I do regret some of my decisions, to not be there for my sister… and I wish I could turn back time. But I can’t so I have to live with it. Again. It’s about values or lack thereof. Like not being there for you children…

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