When that happens, you do lose some of the white-hot intensity of your younger years


Ryan Avent has a lovely essay about the reasons modern professionals tend to put in such long hours. As he says, it’s not just drudgery: for many people work is satisfying, a source of a lot more than just money. It can, of course, also be a form of avoidance, a way to avoid the messiness of real life. But anyway, for those lucky enough to have the right kind of work, it’s much more than a paycheck.

I just thought I’d add a note from further down the pike, as someone who’s a quarter-century older than Avent: the nature of the reward from work does change as you get older, although it doesn’t necessarily go away. The phrase that runs through my mind is “the end of ambition.” At a certain point you realize that it’s not about winning another prize, literally or figuratively, getting a promotion, whatever. (And yes, it’s easier to reach that state of mind if you have been lucky enough to get all the prizes you wanted.) Instead, it becomes about the craft, the service, just doing well what you hope you do well. When that happens, you do lose some of the white-hot intensity of your younger years, and (in my case, at least) start trying to make up at least a bit for other things you didn’t do. (Music!) But there’s still plenty of work to do, and plenty of reasons to do it, with — maybe — some new-found serenity.

~ Paul Krugman speaks Truth in: Work, Life, and Everything



  1. You hit the nail on the head for me!

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  2. water always seeks its own level.

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  3. This is the dilemma that the older worker faces – to be at a place in time where work is not a just a drudgery. Instead you get to use all the tools that experience has provided towards quality and service along with the soft skills of well-learned communication and contact.These are things you grow into over time. Instead we have a workplace now that devalues those sensibilities and instead rewards only data. Shame really. Once those experiences and stories are lost, we’ve also lost the people who can teach them.

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  4. And to perhaps to work on taming…” the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” From a quote of the ancient Greeks and Robert Kennedy’s speech of the announcement of Martin Luther’s assassination.

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  5. We might be programmed in youth to take rewards from work. With age and wisdom, we realize that it can/should come from elsewhere. Maybe ?

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  6. When I was teaching, I enjoyed my work so much that when the payslip arrived in my Inbox, I used to chuckle to myself as if it was the biggest joke in the world. I’d think, “If they only knew that I’d do this job for free.” Mind you, it wasn’t always pleasant, but I did love my job (and I wasn’t trying to avoid my life).

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  7. To have purpose is to have worth. Those who lack purpose will always be in search of self.

    Doing something is more important than that which you do. For you will be defined not by what work you do, but rather by the quality and integrity displayed in your work.

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  8. Read the LONG lovely essay and this.

    My take away?

    “But there’s still plenty of work to do, and plenty of reasons to do it, with — maybe — some new-found serenity.”

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  9. I agree with your perspective David. I read an article not so long ago saying that the millennials are also looking to work to satisfy their need for family – close relationships, validation, trust, and belonging. When they don’t get this they flounder. It’s different from our day when the lines were more distinct.

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