Why do you work?

This week I felt like writing something a bit more personal and less about metrics or strategies. My friend Russ Thau talks with his teams about why he works and asks them to share if they feel comfortable. I saw him do this about 10 years ago when we worked together at Box and I immediately adopted the approach too!

I have always found these conversations to be the most enlightening and interesting when getting to know teammates. The idea is pretty straightforward, most people can quickly provide 2 or 3 core reasons as to Why they work. Obviously most folks have to work to make money to live & pay bills etc but nearly everyone I have spoken with has some other underlying reasons, goals or drives for work. In many cases it’s goal oriented such as being able to buy their first home, pay off student loan debt or something like a meaningful vacation.  For others its to reach a career milestone, or make good on a promise they made to someone in their life that they would accomplish a specific thing. For others the Why beyond work can be more people centric like helping others or making the world a better place. 

The other interesting thing about talking about this and/or writing it down is it helps you center and be even more focused. Let’s be honest, spending 40-80 a week at work can be boring, tiring and sometimes quite frustrating! But if you can remind yourself why you work and narrow in on that focus it can make work more meaningful and fun.

Along those lines I’ll share why I work: 

  • Growing up I was the oldest of 4 kids and we were all born within a 5 year span from 1980 to 1985, so all very close in age. My parents had me when they were teenagers and both dropped out of high school. They worked blue collar jobs all of my life as a waitress and truck driver. Most of the time we had a very solid middle class life, but there were some periods of time when money was tight and we felt thos effects. When my parents split up things were very difficult financially, we had to sell our family home, and I can vividly remember at times not having food in the refrigerator and our electricity and phone lines being turned off because we couldn’t pay the bill. We lived in a town with drugs and gangs, we experienced people we knew closely going to jail, getting addicted to drugs, and in several cases getting murdered or committing suicide. This bonded us kids together very tightly so I am grateful for having close relationships with my siblings but I also know I never want my children and wife to feel that uncertainty and worry. It’s a horrible feeling being young and not knowing what is going on and not being able to do anything about it. So I work to make sure my children have financial security and never have to worry about stability. When I’m in the groove I think about my beautiful family, my wife Katie, my son Luke and my daughters Kayla & Leah with their happy smiling faces. I want them to feel safe and protected. I also want them to see how hard I work so they understand what a work ethic means. My father and grandparents showed me that no matter what hole you think you are in, a positive attitude and work ethic can push you forward.  Nothing in life is free. You have to work for the things you want. 
  • I have had a very fortunate life and I feel lucky for what I have. Yes, I have worked hard and pushed through difficult times but I also had incredible mentors and people that gave of themselves to help me. I had managers that were willing to not only give me a chance but also invest in me. They taught me. They coached me. They were honest with me about what I needed to work on to get better and be more successful. They also encouraged me when I was doing things well. Above all else they also gave me opportunities to grow, take on new challenges and showed trust in me. I will never forget folks like Megan RhodesArt RodichDavid GunningJerry Clarno and Jim Herbold. There are days even now when I hear their voices in my head. I still do things every day that they taught me!  So another reason why I work is to be that person for other people. I want to pay it forward isn some way and help others be more successful. I want to promote folks, I want to coach and train them how to be better. It’s fulfilling to me to watch folks like Mallorie Maranda, Zishan Yousef, Sonia Mheta, Kevin Michaelis, Francis Paras, & Justin Bullock out there doing amazing things and knowing I may have played some small tiny part in helping them at some point. I know with absolute certainty that I would not have made it to where I am today without the help of countless others investing in me and being honest with me. I appreciate them and I hope to make a sliver of that impact on others. 

Closing out, I encourage each of you to take a few minutes today to write down why you work! It’s a fun exercise and may center you and provide focus a bit more as we close out the week.  

* You can learn more about me on my Bio or my Linkedin page *

** If you see an acronym or word anywhere on the site that you haven’t seen before, I might have posted an explanation on my glossary of terms. If not, tell me and I’ll add it!*

***Lastly if you are intrigued about anything I write about OR just want to network, hit me up! I love talking about business and career journeys.**


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