For the Love of Work

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Dorothy Sayers, the brilliant English writer, said it best in her essay, “Why Work?”:

Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God. [full text below]

If this statement seems naïve or idealistic to you, I would encourage you to view the following clip of Jiro Ono, an 85 year old Japanese man who exemplifies this philosophy…by making sushi.

A great leader must love their work. Before I go on, I’d like to make a couple of points clear about what loving your work doesn’t mean:

  • Loving your work does not mean that it will always be effortless and fun but it does mean that it will be engaging and fulfilling. A professional athlete goes through a lot of pain in order to play well a championship game.  –click to tweet
  • Loving your work does not mean that you must live an unbalanced life and make those around you suffer. If you’ll recall in Moby Dick, Captain Ahab did not love his work, he was obsessed by it – and ultimately, destroyed with the help of a very grumpy whale.  –click to tweet
  • Loving your work does not mean that you will get rich. Forget about money. Money is not success. If you’re doing work worth doing and doing it well, the money will follow. Money can be an excellent indicator that you’re on track but if it’s your only motivation, you will finish your life with regrets.  –click to tweet



In order to love your work you must be doing something that you are well-equipped to do (think innate abilities and characteristics) and you must be doing something that you believe in (think values).

Now, zeroing in on exactly how, why, and what you should be doing takes time. This is why as a leadership coach I spend months with my clients helping them to obtain a better understanding of who they are, what they value, and what makes them tick. This is simply logical. Before you set out on a journey you must spend a lot of time preparing. You take inventory of what you have. You plan your route and train for the journey. You anticipate challenges. You envision the destination. If you don’t thoroughly complete this first preparatory phase, you’ll later be dismayed when you find yourself not journeying with a purpose but instead wandering with frustration.

I want my clients to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what they are setting out to do is worth doing and that they are the ones to make it happen.


Image courtesy of adamr on


The full text of “Why Work?” by Dorothy Sayers:

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