How To Be A Player and Rock Your Job Like Mark Twain
From time to time, we get home at the end of the day, perhaps crack open a beer or uncork some wine and have a good old moan about work. Letting off some steam for 20 minutes is usually good enough. We go back the next day and all is well.
But what about when a bad day or two turns into a few weeks? What do you do when it’s not getting better?
Frustrating or unfulfilling role? Surrounded by negative co-workers? A hellish ex-army boss who thinks he’s Gunnery Sergeant Hartman?
There are hundreds of reasons work becomes unbearable. It’s often very personal, nuanced and not always a problem that can be solved overnight.
What can you do?
1. Be A Player
The first inspirational words come from Mark Twain — a man famed for having a positive outlook on life.
One of my favorite Twainisms comes not from one of his novels but from an article in The New York Times, printed November 26, 1905 [emphasis added]:
“No, Sir, not a day’s work in all my life. What I have done I have done, because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn’t have done it.
“Who was it who said, “Blessed is the man who has found his work”? Whoever it was he had the right idea in his mind. Mark you, he says his work — not somebody else’s work. The work that is really a man’s own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man’s work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world. The fellows who groan and sweat under the weary load of toil that they bear never can hope to do anything great. How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great.
Interview by A. E. Thomas
This resonated strongly with me. That feeling of being a “slave” and doing someone else’s work. At the time, I was the very definition of a cog in the corporate machine. Even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I knewthis wasn’t it. I did quit my first job shortly after reading this. Thanks Mr Clemens!
If you’re lucky enough to know what else you’d rather do then you’re in a great position. If there’s something you enjoy more than anything else, you’ve found your work (your “play”). Concentrate on that. Make it your goal to focus your energy on doing that thing. If you do it well, the money will follow.
2. Find Deeper Meaning
Quitting work right now isn’t always possible. There are mortgages and bills to pay, family commitments, projects you promised you’d deliver…
Or maybe you don’t know what you want to do, only that what you’re doing now isn’t it. You still need time to figure things out but don’t want to go hungry in the mean time.
What if quitting your job today isn’t an option?
Our second source of inspiration comes from Joseph Conrad, author of A Heart Of Darkness, from which this passage comes:
“I don’t like work — no man does — but I like what is in the work — the chance to find yourself. Your own reality — for yourself not for others — what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
Joseph Conrad, A Heart Of Darkness
People often talk of gap years and the need to “find oneself” but there’s no catch all solution. One woman’s 6 month yoga retreat in the foothills of the Himalayas is another woman’s idea of hell. But they don’t tell you that in the brochures.
For every person, this journey is different. The reason I like this quote is that it doesn’t say you necessarily need to chase your dreams and aim for something lofty and ephemeral — eventually it’s about looking deeper into yourself and finding something in the situation you’re in now.
Perhaps work sucks but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something meaningful or learn something profound about yourself whilst doing it.
3. Help Others
Our final source of inspiration is an oldie but a goodie:
“If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day — go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month — get married.
If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime — help others”
Is there someone you can mentor and help? Can you connect with more people, organize some social events, bring people together? What about volunteering even a small amount of your free time?
We’re obsessed with finding our own happiness but what if true happiness is easier to find once we reject the notion that it’s all about ourselves?