Work, life and purpose

Purpose

We need to know who we are and what we are good at, risking everything in the pursuit of our dreams, as we nurture and hone our skills.

By EDWIN MOINDI

For work to happen, effort and energy has to be dispensed. There was a time when our ancestors had no luxury in choosing the work they did. The land they lived off dictated that. But every time a civilisation arose, labour became the fuel for its growth. Under such circumstances labour was divided into social classes and the people who worked the hardest and received a pittance were the slave class. They had no free will and only lived on the whims of their masters.

In many ways lack of knowledge necessitates enslavement. There was even a time in Europe when a Bible would be painstakingly written then tied to a monastery pew, only deciphered by the monks. Every other soul could neither read nor write.

Over the centuries man has advanced, but his ways have not become more civil. How else could we explain millions dying in China and the former Soviet Union under forced labour.

Yet, there are other defter ways of enslavement today. No person forces millions of people to travel from villages and huddle in small shanties in cities. Free will plays a critical part in this movement. Today, we are free to follow our dreams, aspire for better and thankfully make mistakes along the way. But what do we do instead? We run away from this opportunity. Most people’s greatest desire is to meet their basic needs and buffet themselves with luxuries. Our dreams are lost and fear chokes our paths with inhibiting weeds. We end up looking for jobs that put food on the table and meet our needs, but little else.

Gone are the days, when an artisan would make a product that was exquisite to the senses. Nowadays to work means embracing a herd mentality which believes we work in a certain way driven by certain standards of conformity to make money.

The problem with education

The public education system as we know it has denatured the little creativity and individuality that was present in each of us as toddlers. It then spews out semi-adult humans that have no clue who they are and what they are meant to do in this world.

How does it do this? By demanding conformity and uniformity and demanding that all toe the line for the common good.

And because of this we have inefficient use of labour. Ten people may be trained and assigned to do a piece of work but only one is truly inspired and driven to make a difference.

Wherever you turn you find uninspired doctors, sales people, lawyers and so forth. Yet this model of labor division is not slowing down. More people are graduating from higher levels of education in fields that have no possible use of their inborn skills and abilities. That is the greatest tragedy of this informed but confused century.

For every Michael Jackson, Lupita Nyong’o and Wangari Maathai, there are hundreds who are lost in the system not aligned to their true calling.

What that requires from us is a need to know who we are and what we are good at, risking everything in the pursuit of our dreams, as we nurture and hone our skills. It also calls for boldness and fearlessness in the face of living a ‘normal’ life.

In a future where professions are being disrupted and consolidated, change is both inevitable and necessary. Artificial intelligence once held in highly expensive facilities is now found in mobile devices masquerading as your personal assistant. What once required human intervention requires now little or none of it. And unfortunately, that is where what once qualified as work is going.

Creative innovative work

A side effect to this shift is people having less to do that was once routine and repetitive. We are being moved to the creative innovative wing of work. And to be comfortable with that type of work, we need to be intimately comfortable with boredom.

Boredom is one thing 21st century humans don’t know how to dabble with. They would rather die than sit still and face boredom. It’s the reason why people are constantly fidgeting with their mobile devices, looking for instant gratification. Yet boredom is the one thing that has brought countless innovations into reality. Men like Galileo would tap into a reality that sat between the dream world and this physical realm and come up with brilliant ideas.

What this world needs going forward are innovative people who can push us forward. In a world where we are talking of scarcity, innovation alters the conversation. But it starts from a person willing to be bored. Then they have to answer who they are? What’s their purpose in life? What problems can they solve? And who can they work with to solve those problems.

This will then move us from a generation that exists to satisfy its narcistic self-interest to one that builds a positive foundation for future generations.

Place of technology

Technology has enabled us to communicate and collaborate better and faster. As social beings, we cannot exist in isolation. Our togetherness is what has made us the dominant species on this planet. We can do more by subdividing work and collaborating efficiently for the good of many.

In conclusion, I believe to be productive and to satisfy the innate desire to find purpose we need to spend time discovering self and defeating the fear that binds us. We should not be afraid to fall flat on our faces when we face failure. But rather know that persistence and drive can make a difference in the lives we lead.

Edwin Moindi is Managing Director at Moindi Consulting Company, a management consulting firm that focusses on digital transformation, finance, innovation and sustainability, and people change & strategy.

Edwin.moindi@moindiconsulting.com

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