Thursday, March 17, 2016

That which drives us

“When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently, I've taken on a new endeavor, being a co-owner for a small business. A hobby shop.  What a task, a struggle, many think. I get people telling me "congratulations" as if I won an award, instead of risking my credit, thousands of dollars, and my name and social security number on contracts.  I did this to do what was necessary, to help my community, not for any personal achievement, though that will be part of a long term goal.

Today's blog isn't about my personal struggles and goals, here, but on goals and purpose itself.

I have observed so many people in both the oyster world and the gaming industry searching for a drive and purpose. While working as a judge on the Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix circuit events, I see a lot of loyalty, enthusiasm, and hard work being done by people who are by all accounts considered volunteers at best.

What drives people to fly across the country and the world to work for three days among thousands of people in a convention center room?  What is the goal that makes them stand for volunteer work for 10 hours straight and still be smiling at the end of the day?  What makes working that hard worth it?

On the other side of things, oyster work is not the most glamorous of jobs.  We get up early, the work is wet, often cold, and we're cleaning oyster feces, often in slimy or murky tanks.  Oyster work involves a lot of walking and movement around facilities, a high amount of knowledge on how systems work, the ability to scrub tanks, clean systems, fix pumps, make sure things aren't going dry, setting up pvc piping, moving heavy loads of oysters, etc.  We get dirty, covered in oyster slime, deal with rotting objects at the bottom of tanks, and have often wet clothes from the work.

What purpose do people find in growing and producing oysters?  To make a living on these small bivalves that people like to eat so much, despite them growing on the bottom of the sea and coastline? Why work so hard, in smelly wet conditions? 

The answer to both these questions, to both sides of long hours and hard work is multifaceted, but can be distilled down to a few concepts:  Community, Purpose, and Ehrgeiz.

Now some of you may not be familiar with the concept of the German word: Ehrgeiz, so bear with me, I'll explain below.

Community and purpose, the first two drivers for people in these positions, are some of the most important human conditions.  There are thousands, if not millions of people out in the world seeking both purpose in their daily lives, in the meaning behind their existence, and the membership in some form of community.  People want to belong, to be know that there is some greater meaning behind their actions, their lives, and a need for them to personally work together and do good, to do well. 

To be needed in your community, and to be doing work towards a greater goal and ideal is often vital for everyone- it's being seen at even low level jobs, taught to managers of retails stores, explained to construction workers, given to the leaders in a volunteer community, in order to find ways to instill community and idealism into employees- to build loyalty and appreciation for the organization in which people work. 

And now, Ehrgeiz.  The German word for ambition- but it means a little more in in this context.  The form of the word ehrgeiz in this context is used in order to convey a drive towards better things, to have ambition, but not only personal or individual ambition, but ehrgeiz towards a community purpose, towards goals. To strive to higher things within a community group, to improve not only oneself, but the community as a whole is what brings the term ehrgeiz into this context at least.

For volunteers working long hours, this can mean recognition, involvement in larger things, and building a community with like minded people.  For workers in difficult or dirty jobs, this can often mean purpose or striving towards larger goals within the organization and personally.

So how do these concepts lead to you?  It's nice to be able to describe great things for people to strive for, but how does this affect people in their every day lives?

Realistically, that depends on each individual- your beliefs, interests, and location.  Maybe you want to be more part of your church group, or volunteer at humane societies to help animals.  Perhaps it's looking to find more meaning in your daily job.

For any person, find what parts of your life are inspiring, or can help you set goals, and work towards accomplishing those. 

A retail worker may find more love for their work if they see themselves as a part of a community of employees, or a church volunteer sees their connection to the church grow stronger.  Inspiration in every day life can come from small things.

Another part of the judge community which is very important- evaluate yourself and the program!  As you become part of a workforce, watch what work you're doing, what is worthwhile, or what could be done better.  Being able to give constructive suggestions and feedback can make you a valuable part of whatever community you're becoming a part of, and can make you feel more valued within it as well!  Make sure too, that what you're doing fits within your worldview- is the program doing good or causing harm? What about my actions?  These are excellent questions to ask yourself as you join in with something!

But above all:  Do good.  Do well.  Make the world a better place, no matter how small your actions.  If you can seek and find some purpose and belonging in your daily life, in your workplace and community, you will hopefully see and feel a change and greater satisfaction in everything you do.

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