Finding Meaning in Your Work
No matter how exciting learning a new skill is at first, eventually everything starts to feel monotonous. It's up to us to find the meaning in our work and do things that matter to break up that monotony.
I've been going through a bit of a crisis lately, and thought I would write some thoughts down both as a way for myself to deal with them and in case anybody else is going through the same thing.
I was in a serious rut in my professional life.
I was constantly feeling like the work I did had no meaning, and that the only way I could be satisfied and fulfilled was if the work I was doing had a direct, visible impact on the world.
I felt like I wasn't utilizing my skills to the best of my ability, like I was wasting them.
This feeling crept up slowly and then started to become debilitating. My performance at work started suffering, and I dragged myself to work every day, wondering why I was doing it all in the first place.
Right around that time, my pastor approached me with a request.
There was an orphanage in Mexico that needed help. They were running out of money and had no interface in place to accept donations, other than people writing checks and sending them in the mail.
He asked me how quickly I could build a website that would allow them to accept online donations.
I said I could do it in a day or two, and immediately started researching the best way to get that done.
I ended up building a very simple one page site using Gatsby, Netlify, Tailwind, and DonorBox to accept payments, which uses Stripe behind the scenes.
You can view the code for the site on GitHub if you are interested: El Faro
He shared the site and the orphanage was able to collect enough funds to stay open, and that site continues to take donations on a regular basis.
I felt incredible.
I was able to use the skills I've been developing over the last 10 years and use them to help a group of children avoid being thrown out on the street.
Then a very interesting thing happened.
My work performance increased and I felt more satisfaction in my day job than I ever had before.
I had a major epiphany: the reason that I was so unhappy in my work is because I was treating work as a selfish endeavor.
instead of treating work as an opportunity to serve others, I was treating it only as a means to my own ends.
In hindsight, this is an embarrassing admission, especially considering I am a Christian, and should put service of others at the center of everything I do.
But I feel it's important to write about it because it may help others come to the same realization I did:
That they key to having a fulfilling career is to treat your career as an opportunity to serve others, whatever that might mean.
For us designers and developers, it means creating the absolute best software we can, and going above and beyond for our clients and employers.
For entrepreneurs, it means creating a product that genuinely helps people solve a problem in their lives, with that being the primary goal, and income being second.
Since then, I've begun reading Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller. It's a book about how and why to connect our work to God.
It's made me realize that all work is God's work, and that the opportunity to serve others is present no matter what work we are doing.
My particular skills happen to be software design and development, and now I go to work every day seeking opportunities to serve others with those skills.
It has made all the difference in my perspective on work and my career.
My name is Ken. I design, code, and write.
I'm greatly interested in the process of taking websites, software, and digital products from idea all the way to execution and beyond.
I write about the intersection of design, development, marketing, and entrepreneurship, and how to build great things that make a difference.
If you'd like to keep up with what I'm doing and be notified when I write something new, you can do that by signing up right here.