The Work is the Reward

Icon thx Andrejs "Nice Guy" Kirma via nounproject
Icon thx Andrejs “Nice Guy” Kirma via nounproject

Last week Todd Henry offered a great piece of advice from the Bhagavad Gita:

“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work.”

Often we strive for some kind of success or reward, the fruit of our work. We think the work (whether it’s a day job or some other kind of pursuit) is only valuable because of the promise of future pay-out, whether it’s fame, money, freedom, or whatever defines success for us.

Most of us have never reached incredible fame or fortune, but we’ve heard from enough people who have. The recognition is great, but the morning after, it’ll be a love for the work that will keep you going. It seems that it’s people who have a long view are more content in the long run, in spite of the short-term success or failure.

Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search For Meaning, seems to point to this as well:

Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.

You may or may not experience success (which, of course, can be defined in many ways, but that’s a separate topic). But what you do have is the opportunity to use your mind and body to make things and serve people. And that, my friends, is a great privilege in itself.

Oh, and apparently this has been a theme for me.