If you had stopped at the office of Bluff Park Realty in Birmingham, Ala., Friday afternoon, you might have met a furry new worker. Lucy is now trained in greeting customers at the front counter. She earned her treats and she had a good time.
I knew things would be slow on the Friday before Thanksgiving, so it was a good day for her to have a fun trip out. I was in the office for only four hours, so it was long enough for her to have a break from her normal routine but not so long that she would be unhappy.
I think both of us had fun.
I grew up believing that work was fun. I was excited about the things I planned to do — things other people consider work — and it never occurred to me that work could be boring. Having Lucy around this afternoon left me thinking about what changed for me along the way — and about what still needs to change.
I saw work as a creative thing. I don’t just mean artistic creation. I mean it in the sense of creating companies and creating wealth and inventing the future — building my own empire. Work was about doing things that hadn’t been done before. There are a dozen different things which I seriously wanted to do with my life, because everything seemed exciting.
For me, good work was fun — because achievement was fun.
Maybe it’s just symbolic, but it seems as though that changed when I was working in politics. Once I started political consulting, I made more money than ever — but the work meant nothing. There were parts of it that I enjoyed — especially the parts related to competing and winning — but for the most part, I was just doing something boring because I was paid a lot of money to do it.
Before I got into politics, I was still striving and scheming about bigger things all the time, not just to survive or be paid for something someone else wanted. I worked very long hours — when nobody else was paying me — simply because my dreams were so exciting.
I think that’s the connection I’m drawing to Lucy’s visit today. She was excited about the trip just as soon as we headed to the car. (That’s her in the car on the way to the office.) I realize that a dog doesn’t do abstract thinking in the way way that you and I do, but she wasn’t trying to please anybody. She was just experiencing the pure joy that comes from expressing herself in a new way.
That’s what I used to bring to my work. I was like an excitable puppy on each new day and each new project. Yes, I had terrible days at times. I got exhausted and was unhappy at times. But, overall, I had boundless determination — and I had fun in the long-term sense — because I believed I was going somewhere worth going.
Somehow, I lost track of my desire to create. Maybe I lost faith in myself because I was immersed in the political cess pool. Maybe I got so lost in making that six-figure political income that I forgot why I had ever wanted to create big things. And then when I got off track for so long — spending 20 years in politics — I was so badly off course that I didn’t know how to get back when I finally left the cess pool.
I have to find the joy that I used to feel about work. We spend the majority of our waking hours on earning a living. Something is wrong if we spend most of the week counting down the days until the weekend — when we can do things we care about and avoid the things we’re simply being paid to do.
By the end of Lucy’s time at the office today, she was getting ready to go home. By about 4:45 p.m., she was sitting just outside my office and giving me the look — see it below — which tells me it’s time to move on.
If you’re doing the right things with your life, work is fun. At least, that’s been my experience. I need to get back to that point — the one at which chasing goals with someone you love can be enough to make you excited to get up in the morning.
I really miss feeling that way about work.
Note: All three of the pictures of Lucy here can be enlarged to a bigger size with a click or tap. Go ahead. She’s a gorgeous and sweet lady who deserves to be appreciated.