30-day news cycles wind around to weeks like this one, ending with a jobs update in the form of non-farm payroll increases and a new setting for national unemployment rates.
This one will be important for reasons I talked about last week here. Federal Reserve governors face a big decision on whether to begin lifting interest rates. What it may come down to is the power of optics.
But more importantly, recovery achieved so far but still far short of where we hope it's heading has to do with jobs. On Friday, a yardstick will give us directional help, but whether the latest monthly report falls short of expectations or blows past them, there will be another, deeper underlying factor bearing on the housing recovery, and it has to not just with payroll counts and wage levels, but job fulfillment, satisfaction, engagement, and purpose.
New York Times contributor and well-known author Barry Schwartz offers these cautionary insights about the role of work in our lives, which can go far in who and how you motivate the folks you work with.
Of course, we care about our wages, and we wouldn’t work without them. But we care about more than money. We want work that is challenging and engaging, that enables us to exercise some discretion and control over what we do, and that provides us opportunities to learn and grow. We want to work with colleagues we respect and with supervisors who respect us. Most of all, we want work that is meaningful — that makes a difference to other people and thus ennobles us in at least some small way.
Schwartz's main point is this: we spend half our waking lives at work, and you can probably guess what the conclusion is about that. Do work that is worth doing. Help others do that too.
Now, work that matters, definitionally, is not only about cause-related, humanitarian, not-for-profit enterprise. Work that matters is work that can ennoble because it contributes to ways people can make a living, learn, thrive in a community, connect to solutions, etc. All it requires is passion.
For example, take Vincent Scully and Vin Scully.
One of them, Vincent Scully, is a (retired) renowned Yale professor of architecture, whom Philip Johnson once described as the "most influential architectural teacher ever." He's 95, and once wrote:
Thinking about the work of Robert Venturi, and I have thought about it a good deal over the past twenty years, it struck me this time that he is a little like Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt save the capitalist system in America--pretty much from itself--and was hated for it by all capitalists; Venturi saved modern architecture from itself and has been hated for it by almost all modern architects."
When Scully writes, fact--which we need--and belief, which we are passionate about, intertwine. In fact, architecture and Scully are an inseparable entwining of helical genetic matter that spans the three-quarters-of-a-century adult lifespan, a life of doing work worth doing.
Scully is as beloved as he is trusted as a bard of ballgames; he loves his work, and no one is his match at it. One of his many, many quotable extemporaneous comments:
"Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, not illumination."
For sheer poetry, read Scully's account of the last half of the 9th inning, September 9, 1965, where Sandy Koufax struck out the final three Cubs on his way to the fourth perfect game of his career.
Work worth doing? Part of it should feel like a mission, and part of it should feel like play. With that blend, work transcends pay.