// Internet Duct Tape

How to find out if you are passionate about your career or if you are just wilfing

Posted in Technology, Workhacks and High Tech Life by engtech on April 16, 2007

art of happiness at workI was reading an interesting post about a new weblogism [1] called ‘wilfing‘. “What was I looking for?” describes getting trapped in an Internet rats nest – you had good intentions of doing a work related search but the siren call of the Internet was too much and you went off on a tangent (*cough* It’s all Google Reader’s fault *cough*).

In The Art of Happiness At Work [2] they state that “A third of people see their work as a job, a third as a career, a third as a calling.” The go on to say that it is more a reflection of the attitudes of the worker than inherent qualities of the job. Books like What Color is Your Parachute are devoted to helping people find a calling instead of a job. To paraphrase my friend AJ [3]: I’d rather spend my life failing at something I love instead of being successful at something I hate (or worse, something that filled me with apathy).

With post graduate studies we often set our feet down a career path without having a real idea of the satisfaction we’ll get from it. The simplest way I have found to discover if your following a calling, pursuing a career or working at a job is to pick up a well written textbook [4] related to your field and try to read it. Do you enter a state of flow or is it a chore?

That answers your question. Pursuing a calling comes from following a passion that truly interests you. And it is the only thing that will enrich every aspect of your life.


  1. Weblogisms are neologisms focused on the Internet. Neologisms are newly / deliberately coined expressions.
  2. Despite being written by the Dali Lama, the Art of Happiness at Work isn’t worth reading. Skimming over the excerpts here will give you most of the wisdom it contains.
  3. I think someone else more famous said it first, but I can’t remember who it was.
  4. I say well written because there are some writers who can make anything boring. And yes, I do realize that I’m sometimes one of them :)

23 Responses

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  1. Webomatica said, on April 16, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Welcome back – FYI I set up a Weblogisms page here. I think that might be a better reference as it grows on a semi-regular basis in between cat litter removal.

  2. Elaine Vigneault said, on April 16, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Are people really confused about this? What the hell is wrong with our society when we can’t tell if we like our jobs or not?

  3. engtech said, on April 16, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    @Elaine: good question. From the shear number of career advice books out there I’ve always assumed that people are confused about it.

    ‘The Art of Happiness at Work’ gives statistics that people fall into one of three groups in terms of job satisfaction and they link it to the attitude of the worker more than the qualities of the job.

    When I wrote this post I was thinking of students who are new to the work force and how they often have no idea whether or not they’re going to have long term satisfaction from the path they’ve taken.

  4. Webomatica said, on April 16, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    There is definitely something amiss with our society from my standpoint. I think a lot people see work as a means to an end and they remain focused on the “end” (retirement) without really knowing what they’ll do when they get there (if ever). I just started reading a book called The Number that kind of deals with this subject.

    Many men on the cusp of retirement only have the concept that they want to golf upon retirement. The implication is they’re so obsessed with work that they have zero hobbies. Perhaps this society, with its emphasis on work and accumilation of money and material things, has forgotten what it’s like to actually enjoy life.

    Me, I plan to blog about golf.

  5. engtech said, on April 16, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    It was interesting watching my parents retire. It was also interesting to see the difference between my 19 year old ambitions to avoid the rat race and not follow in my father’s footsteps and the actual choices I made a decade later.

  6. engtech said, on April 16, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    @webby: just added that to book to my library request list. I’m horrible when it comes to financial planning.

  7. alejna said, on April 17, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    This was a really interesting post–thanks for sharing the information on this topic and about the book.

    On the question that Elaine raises (“Are people really confused about this?”), I would have to say “yes”. And not just students new to the work force. The downside to “callings” is that (like other jobs or even careers) they are so often accompanied by frequent frustrations: from other people, from real or perceived failures, and from a shortage of secure or well-paying jobs in that field. (This is a particularly common story in academia.) What we often end up with are serious naggings of self-doubt.

    I’m reminded of a post by YTSL (an online friend) featuring a story told by her former professor about a crisis of faith in her professional calling. (As an added bonus, the story involves chasing monkeys. What more could you want?)

  8. A.J. Valliant said, on April 17, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    I think it’s more a case of being unsure of how much happiness we deserve. One of the core tenants of judo-Christian culture has always hard work and self sacrifice in this world, divine reward in the next. While we have become a more secular society, there is still the perception that aspiring to an ideally happy life is callow and self indulgent: if were are not bored and mildly suffering then we are somehow shirking our responsibilities, or doing unimportant things.

  9. Ilya Lichtenstein said, on April 18, 2007 at 2:36 am

    I’m going to see the Dalai Lama speak here in Madison in a few weeks, and I’m really looking forward to applying his ideas to my random web browsing :)

    I think his made up statistics are off though- I imagine about 90% of people see their work as a job that just pays the bills.

  10. engtech said, on April 18, 2007 at 4:13 am

    Yeah, the book was very so-so.

    I hate statistics because they’re never given with enough information behind them to adequately gauge their veracity. It’s so easy to only show part of the picture with stats.

  11. lightwave said, on April 18, 2007 at 10:22 am

    If I didn’t have to worry about the money, I’d probably be pursuing higher education in Physics or Math or probably take up a second course in Engineering. I passed up an opportunity to work in the semiconductor industry because pay was low and I had to pay for the bills. That’s why right now, I’m a programmer. IT jobs pay relatively well from where I am. Hopefully, when I’m financially stable, I’ll still have enough the time to pursue that which I really want. A career in Physics. Software development isn’t really that bad, it’s just that it’s not my first choice. :)

  12. engtech said, on April 18, 2007 at 10:27 am

    @lightwave: physics is an amazing base for the semiconductor industry. I work in ASICs (not programming) and I’ve been constantly impressed with my co-workers with Physics backgrounds vs some of the others.

    I just finished reading a 1985 book call Programmers at Work that was constantly drilling that compsci isn’t nearly as useful professionally as a Math or Physics degree.

  13. […] Engtech […]

  14. Lola said, on April 19, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    I think it’s more than Judeo-Christian ethics or keep up with the jones pressures. It’s more and more expensive to live, and people feel intense pressure to have just the basic necessities (a home, food to eat, health insurance, etc). The gap between the haves and have nots has grown to the haves and everyone else. Everyone else is usually worried about how they’re going to have enough money for basics, and whatever’s left over (if anything) goes to the persuit of happiness. For those who have been able to find what they love doing (a calling) or something that keeps them sufficiently interested and engaged (a career), I commend them for having had the skill to build their lives in that fashion. It is about choices and planning.

    But combine the pressure have “enough” to “get by” with the lack of insight many people seem to display about their lives, their choices, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more than 1/3 who see their work as a “job.” Sometimes that’s the best they can get.

  15. ahouseholdkate said, on April 22, 2007 at 5:52 am

    I enjoyed this post and all the comments. I think your suggestion of picking up a textbook from your profession is an interesting one. The quality of textbooks for my profession are varied and I’m not sure that just randomly picking up one, reading it, and ranking it as a chore or not would be indicative of whether the profession is my calling or not. However, I figured out my calling when I had to work in the profession (at the level I wanted) for five months without pay. At the end of the first month, I was a bit stressed from having no income, but family and a future husband helped alleviate the stress. After two months I was able to look at the work I was doing and know that I would continue doing that work without pay for the rest of my existence (however, it is nice to get paid for doing it). That’s the moment I knew I had found my calling. I know that this is not necessarily feasible in all professions because in order to have the position you desire, you may have to move up the ranks. But maybe if people were given time to apprentice in the desired position, they might have better motivations for sticking with the bottom rung job and slowly moving up the ranks.

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