Working For A Living

Work can be as nasty a four-letter word as there is some days, especially if you aren’t doing something you love.

But find the right job and every day is like playing a game.

My dad, Edwin M. Allen Sr., was a mechanical engineer. He spent every day at Michelson Lab at China Lake working for the government to help develop missile technology. It seemed like a lot of numbers and a lot of work from where I sat as a kid. And I never could understand his sheer giddiness when one of his Sidewinder missiles took out a Libyan jet in early 1989.

But once I understood it, it was like uncorking a bottle.

While the man worked in a windowless, temperature-controlled office all day behind fairly tight security, he was literally changing the course of history. The guidance system he designed for that weapon changed the way pilots all over the world fought aerial battles. Looking back, I can see why he brought his work home with him every night, even to the point of murmuring top secret numbers while he napped on our couch.

So how do we find out what it is we really want to do? That thing that makes us giddy? Let me offer a few pieces of advice that I’ve gleaned over the years to get you headed in the right direction.

“Hey Look! Mikey Likes It!”

The kid in that seventies commercial had no clue if he liked Life cereal or not. But when he finally tried it, he loved it.

Mikey from the Life Cereal commercial (1972)

Mikey from the Life Cereal commercial (1972)

Sometimes we have stuff we hate and are dead set against going anywhere near it. Other times we have stuff we love and think we could do it the rest of our lives. The point is, we have to try them.

Now that may seem a bit redundant. You’d think if you like something you’ve probably already tried it, right? Well there can be a huge difference between liking something you choose to be around as opposed to being forced to be around it every day.

If you don’t believe me, get a serving of your absolute favorite food and eat it. And when you’re done, force yourself to eat 13 more. You may find that your favorite food doesn’t taste so good come plate seven or eight, maybe sooner in some cases. And if you somehow stick it out to 14 total helpings, you may see that food in a whole new light, if ya get my drift.

When you’re young, try out things you think you really like or maybe have an aptitude for. Doing an internship somewhere (working for free while you learn the ropes) is a great way to go. Working part-time is another. Some places have clubs, like the Explorers for police and fire, where you can be part of what is going and get an inside view of what they really do every day.

Testing Your Patience

When I was a kid I really didn’t like school all that much. It seemed like they made me do a bunch of things that really weren’t all that fun. I kind of liked science a little because we got to actually do stuff. But math and writing? UGH! So the whole thought of just being in school was kind of ‘yuck’.

test_hg_whtSo right after my junior year of high school I took an aptitude test and what did it come back with? Yep, you got it – be a teacher or a writer.

I gave that test about as much chance of being right as lottery ticket where someone had scribbled in the letters A, B, Q and the word ‘broccoli’ over the numbers in hopes of having a one-of-a-kind winning ticket.

So after going through college and trying my hand at computer programming, telecommunications/broadcasting and business administration, guess where I ended up? I spent about 15 years of my professional career teaching and writing. And in both professions I was blessed enough to receive some substantial awards.

And every day in those jobs was a blast. They didn’t always pay that well, but going to work was never that big of a deal.

So while tests in general kind of suck, there are a few that are OK.

Do What You Love, Love What You Do

This seems pretty straight forward, and is easy to dismiss as a given. But take it to heart!

If you’re not having fun at what you do, every day is a chore. And as we all know, chores are no fun.

My wife loves to putter around our front yard with the plants. She gets out there and digs and waters and digs and prunes and, well, did I mention she digs a lot? I have little interest in that. My dad made me do that stuff when he decided it would be “fun” to build these slump stone walls around our house when I was in sixth grade. And then he offered to help the neighbors build theirs, selling my ditch-digging services out for glasses of ice tea that he drank.

So you can imagine my reaction when I’m asked to go dig in my front yard now. I smile and help because its my wife (guys remember, “Happy Wife. Happy Life.”) and then I make sure she has some beverage other than ice tea on hand and that I will be getting at least one glass of it.

When all is said and done, I’m sure it was probably guys like me that invented minimalistic landscaping.

The point is, when you’re doing something you love it ceases to become a job. Sure, you gotta spend time and collect a paycheck to pay your bills, but the time passes so fast its incredible.

When I was teaching or writing sports stories, my wife had to remind me to come home some days. Yeah, it was that fun!

Believe You Can Fly

Yeah, another opportunity to sing and I’m passing it up for your sake. But one of these days…

Once you’ve found that passion, that thing that really makes you want to get up every morning, do it with your whole heart. Make it the best you can regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

I wrote previously about the wonders of the 70s Pet Rock, but there are things that we take for granted now that no one thought was a good idea when they were first presented. Here are a few:

  • Star Wars – George Lucas couldn’t get any studios to produce the first one (well, what we now know as Episode IV) and so he did himself. It is still the biggest selling independent film of all time. And when he was ‘finished’ with his project, he sold it to Disney and now they will continue the franchise in 2015.
  • Rubics Cube – Yeah, this totally looks like fun … NOT! Yet it even had jocks like me trying to figure it out in secret so we’d look smart. My only problem was I couldn’t peel off and reapply the stickers fast enough to not raise suspicion.
  • Baby On board Signs – Creator Michael Lerner came up with an idea to put the signs in cars to encourage people to drive more safely, and it quickly mutated into a way to show your style. His take was more than $38 million after some 15 years in business.

Anything you do is worth doing well. And if you believe that God has a calling on your life to do it, then all the better reason to give it your best. I think Colossians 3:23-24 says it best:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” ~ NIV


About Tim Allen

I am a former newspaper writer/editor/page designer that still loves to write and share my experience and views. I presently own a digital marketing firm and live in a small town in Big Sky country.

Posted on August 11, 2013, in Business / Finance, Faith and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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