Day Thirty Six: Vantage

Daily Journal

Yesterday, I was going through the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. In Chapter 2: Building a Compass, the authors present an exercise called “Workview Reflection”. You write about 250 words, attempting to answer the following questions for yourself:

  • Why work?
  • What’s work for?
  • What does work mean?
  • How does it relate to the individual, others, society?
  • What defines good or worthwhile work?
  • What does money have to do with it?
  • What do experience, growth, and fulfillment have to do with it?

“Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all, we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others.” – Bertrand Russell


This is a much more difficult exercise than it sounds, because most of us probably haven’t really thought much about why we work or question what work means to us. There is a great deal of social conditioning involved, and most of us are probably just doing as we were told.


My first impulse was to Google the phrase “Why do we work”, and that search will return some excellent articles worth reading and take you as far down the the rabbit hole as you want to go. You can read some Aristotle (he says we work for leisure). You can read In Praise of Idleness, by Bertrand Russell, who says “there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous”. You can read The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. Have you read The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss?

Once you do that, you can then become caught in a trap of debating in the forums. “Why should one aim for work that is for personal fulfillment? That’s for the privileged! We need garbage collectors, butchers, cooks, and people who do menial work too!” Indeed, the idea of “designing your life” itself seems like a first world thing, doesn’t it? Most people in the world are probably trying to find their next meal, and avoid their own injury and death. It must be nice to have the luxury of sitting down at a computer, “designing your life”.

I quickly discovered that unless I choose “professional debating” as an occupation, all the opinions are just noise, every opinion can be countered with another one, and then cognitive dissonance eventually sets in.

I suggest that, as an exercise, each person who has time to self reflect should do this exercise. If you aren’t busy working one of your two jobs right now, or hunting for gazelle, or running from a tiger, or debating Marxism vs. Capitalism on the internet. If you have about 30 minutes. Just decide for yourself. You are not describing what you do for a living or writing an argument essay. Just writing your own manifesto.

Here’s mine. (Note: These responses are rough, not composed as a persuasive essay or academic paper.)

Why work?- I work to meet my basic needs. Food, shelter, clothes, etc. I also work because I was socially conditioned by my family and teachers to work. Also, I have been unemployed for a short time before. It wasn’t fun. I felt like my life had no purpose. I became lazy and slept a lot, and I didn’t have money for my phone, gas, car insurance, and other luxuries that are actually considered necessities in the prosperous United States. Consequently, because I have ego and super ego, I felt like a loser. I work to meet my basic needs, because I’m expected to work, to avoid boredom and depression, and to not feel like a loser. 

What’s Work For?- In my world, there are different types of work. There is labor I perform for a paycheck, which I then use to pay bills and make purchases. There is my creative work, like writing this blog, making albums with my bands, and studying books for my personal development. That is work for my own self fulfillment. There is useless work that I sometimes fall into- writing lengthy debate comments on Facebook, and non value added “busy work” that employers sometimes make you do, but at least you get paid for it! Work is for generating income, creative pursuits, personal development, and providing value. 

What does work mean?- I had a hard time coming up with with what work means to me. I decided to borrow someone else’s words, possibly considering this person as a mentor. The person’s name is Swaminathan Lakshminarayanan, self described as an electronics engineer, avid reader, and counselor. The quote I found on Quora: “A platform to showcase my capabilities, talents and channelize them under specific responsibilities with commitment and contribute to the benefit of all stakeholders, while earning money and other benefits in return to better my life.”

How does it relate to the individual, others, society?- Work relates to others and society through the division of labor. Interestingly, these are three different types of work. Work for the individual- Work for personal gain and fulfillment, doing work for ourselves. Work for others- Helping your family or neighbors with a home improvement project, or moving. Work for society- Doing volunteer work or work for the greater good of society.

What defines good or worthwhile work?- Good or worthwhile worth, to me, is any kind of work that has a benefit for self, others, and society. Work that is enjoyable for its own sake is worthwhile. Work that provides benefit to others or society is worthwhile. Work is good when it doesn’t cause harm to self, others,  or society. For example, I choose to not deal drugs, work in the liquor business, deal guns, and so on. I say this not to debate the politics of whether or not drugs, liquor, and guns are bad or morally wrong, but rather to say I’d rather not work in those businesses if I can avoid it. Then there is neutral work, which is my day job. I ship shoes and clothes. People need clothing. Nothing wrong with the work or occupation, aside from the low pay and the fact that there is little opportunity for growth at my company.

What does money have to do with it?- We are no longer using barter and trade as the standard way of exchanging good and services. We use a currency system, which we do mostly for convenience. Of course, it often seems we treat money as an end goal in itself these days.

What do experience, growth, and fulfillment have to do with it?- When I think of experience, I think of mastery of a skill or specific industry. Growth I think of as learning more skills, expanding into other areas, and building success. Fulfillment is the enjoyment of your work for its own sake, your interest and passion in what you are doing.

That’s just a start. Tomorrow I will work on LifeView, as they call it.

Deng Ming-Dao on Vantage:

Distant ridges, far away clouds
All events come from a distance.
With a high vantage point, 
Foretelling the future is elementary

Deng Ming-Dao is saying that events can be seen coming, if you are in right place to see things coming. Nothing happens suddenly or abruptly. It reminds me of the expression “taking the moral high ground”. In this way, there is no magic of predicting the future. From the proper place, you can see events coming from a distance. As an example, he says:

“A wise person who lives high in the mountains and who is not blinded by wine, sensuality, intellectuality, poor health, or greed will be better able to see events in the distance than one who lives in a closed room, eyes on some obscure object.”


Daily Stoic: Steady Your Impulses

Today, Ryan Holiday uses the example of the manic people in your life. Their lives are in disorder and chaos, and aren’t these people exhausting? Don’t they have a filter to test and sort out bad impulses. I laughed a little, but only because quite often, I am probably that exhausting person myself! He says. Impulses are going to come up. When they do, ASK: Who is in control? What principles are guiding me?

Easier said than done!

Tomorrow, I will go over LifeView and a new work week begins. It sounds like there is no overtime offered this week, so I will have a Wednesday open to write some more, and get an extra hike in.


Day Twenty Three: Renewal

Big news today! My girlfriend has decided to relocate from Arizona to live with me in Kentucky. Our initial plan was wait another year or so, flying back and forth for visits until she moved here in 2018. In the meantime, her job was outsourced and she was left with a decision: Try to find another job to keep for just a year, or pull the trigger now while she has severance pay. She will be moving here mid-March.


Pete “Overend” Watts of Mott the Hoople and British Lions. May 13, 1947-January 22, 2017

I also bought tickets to see Cheetah Chrome & Johnny Blitz, surviving members of legendary 70s Ohio punk rock band Dead Boys at the Melody Inn in Indianapolis on April 21, 2017.

Meanwhile, the news came through yesterday that Pete “Overend” Watts from 70s glam rock band Mott the Hoople passed away. They were one of my favorite bands during the 80s and 90s, having learned about them via Def Leppard, of which I was a fan of their early work when I was kid. Mott the Hoople were one of their influences, as were many of the 70s UK glam rock era bands. It is hard to be shocked by the loss of these Baby Boom classic rockers anymore. As always, it is a very good idea to see any shows you can when it comes to the last of the living old rock n roll guys.

Buffin’ lost his child-like dreams and Mick lost his guitar
And Verden grew a line or two and Overend’s just a rock n’ roll star
Behind these shades, the visions fade, as I learn a thing or two
Oh but if I had my time again you all know just what I’d do
Rock n’ roll’s a loser’s game, it mesmerizes and I can’t explain
The reasons for the sights and for the sounds
We went off somewhere on the way and now I see we have to pay
The rock n’ roll circus is in town

lyrics from “The Ballad of Mott” by Mott the Hoople

Deng Ming-Dao on Renewal

Today was a simple poem:

City on a hill,
Untouched land beyond.
A fallow field is
The secret of fertility.
I grew up in a semi-rural environment, but it’s no longer like that today, with a big Kroger grocery store in a giant strip mall where there once was a field owned by the Owens family. When I was a child, I enjoyed the trips to my uncle’s farm in Spencer County, running around exploring the woods and playing in the creeks. Sometime in my teens, I grew fascinated with the idea of exploring cities, and I do love the city. I lived in Phoenix for about 15 years, and I always loved Hollywood and Los Angeles too. I’ve been to most of the major US cities, either for vacation or touring with my bands. About 7 years ago, I relocated back to Kentucky, this time living in a rural area, the city is approaching us. We’ve had two Starbucks locations open up shop just recently. While I’ve lived in the rural environment this time, I often found myself longing for cities again. Besides downtown Louisville, I made trips to Nashville, Indy, St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit over the last couple of years. But it was only recently, in a crisis situation, that I retreated to whatever small patch of wilderness I could find to hike and be alone. I also did one of the Contemplative Weekend retreats at Loose Leaf Hollow, and I’m planning to take another weekend retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, KY, one of my favorite places to connect with nature and spirituality. Deng Ming-Dao says we need these kinds of retreats to a quiet place for our renewal, and I would agree it is almost a basic need.

The Truth about Money

Today’s entry in the The Daily Stoic is a cliche: Money won’t make you happy. 

We do need the constant reminder though. “External things can’t fix internal issues,” Ryan Holiday says. It really isn’t about money, specifically. You can’t fix yourself, or be made happy, by external anything. That includes possessions, toys, sexual partners, or an expensive vacation. Anything.