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Am I my work?

Updated: Feb 15, 2019

“This ought to make us even”

Uncle Fred said as he handed me a $10 bill

I already had in my mind what that 10 dollars was going to do for me.

Along with my brother and cousins we would help Uncle Fred with yard work from time to time.

Along with my Aunt Rosie, Uncle Fred lived on a corner lot and the side yard that extended from the gate to the street was like having an entire second yard. It was a challenge he could certainly handle by himself but allowing us to help him and make a little money was his gift to us.

Getting paid for work you do is a satisfying experience that I was able to enjoy from a young age. I don’t ever remember getting an allowance but most of my mom’s side of the family lived mere blocks from each other and there was always neighbors, an aunt or uncle or my grandmother that needed their lawn mowed, their sidewalk shoveled when it snowed or their dishes washed (thanks grandmother, those dollar bills added up).

While I don’t agree with the idea of the Citizen’s United “money is speech” concept as it relates to first amendment rights, I do believe that in our society money does have a lot to say! The idea that someone would pay money for my contribution to the solution for their “problems” is a powerful message.

Think about it.

Our society attaches significance to money. How much is Bill Gates worth or Warren Buffet? That is a common question and nobody blinks an eye when it is asked. We all know that it relates to the value of the investments they’ve made and the shares they hold but to what extent do we merge that with their worthiness as human beings. Isn’t it interesting that we would never ask that about someone who is not a high profile business person because it would be awkward and possibly offensive.

Hey Frank, how much is your mom worth?

Sure it’s partially a matter of the different meanings the word “worth” has. It is also part of the value we place on one’s ability to amass a fortune. In our quasi-capitalist economy how much money you have is a marker for how significant you are.

As a product of this system, I got a hit of dopamine with every dollar I put in my bank account. My first “real” job where I signed a W-4 and received a paycheck with taxes taken out made me feel needed and not needy. It gave me a bit of independence. It gave me choices. These are not small things.

At a young age I took pride in my work whether it was yard work with Uncle Fred or construction with Uncle Roy or delivering newspapers with my brother Steven. Without these work experiences I would not have been able to discover that the most satisfying work allowed me to express myself. Getting paid for it made it all the sweeter.

Ms. Dillon my 6th grade teacher asked us to write down what we’d like to be doing in 10 years. I declared that I’d be a teacher, an architect and be in the Olympics.

At 12 years old, I vaguely understood that for me work is about more than just the money. I’ve since then learned that it’s about tapping into my very essence and sharing that with the world. It is hard to be any more significant than that. If you can monetize this essence and create a system that serves millions, many people would say you’ve hit the jackpot. If you choose to personalize it and serve dozens you are no less richer.

I am still figuring this thing out but imagine if everyone was fortunate enough to discover their innate occupation and lived it. To me that sounds almost like truth.

Jerry L. Burrell flipping and twisting with yellow basketball in hands
Twisting thru life like this!

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