Why claiming the moral high ground leads to endless frustration for independent consultants.
After yesterday's post on creating a "zoomed-out" vision for your consultancy, a founder sent me this message:
"Interesting post Dan. I think I witnessed so many vision/mission/values bullshit projects that I can't help but be skeptical of such exercises. But documenting our long-term, high-level goals does make sense. I see the value in it."
Reading this was a reminder of how amazing the internet can be. When we're not afraid to put our thoughts and perspective in public, people who resonate with them gravitate toward and end up connecting with us. This founder and I share the same healthy skepticism, and there's a reason for this.
I believe the central question comes down to the relationship between work and fulfillment: How important is it to enjoy our work?
I thought long and hard about this. Read dozens of articles with arguments from different sides of the aisle. Ultimately, I found this passage by David C. Baker (from his "The Business Of Expertise") was the one that better communicated what I've seen in my life so far:
"I happen to enjoy most aspects of my work, thinking of myself as a research, writer, and, then advisor. I also love it when I talk with someone who enjoys their work. We should be quite grateful if we do, indeed, enjoy our work.
But that's different than having a right to enjoy it. Not only do I strongly disagree with the sentiment, I think believing it has twisted our expectations and those of our employees."
I was born and raised in Brazil, and worked there for 10 years before coming to Europe. Most of the people there has no choice but to work in jobs or sectors where "enjoying what you do" is simply not realistic. And I imagine the same thing happens for 80% of the world population that lives in developing countries.
As David said, I also turn my nose to thought leaders who try to turn work enjoyment from a benefit into a demand. It's selfish and shallow. And it marginalized most of the people in the world who are simply deprived of this privilege.
That's part of the story. The "claiming the moral high ground" side of it. But there's also the cold, "how the world really works" arguments against work enjoyment as a demand.
You probably have heard of fake entrepreneurs and coaches preaching the mantra: "follow your heart and the money will follow". First, the fact that a lot of those missionaries struggle to get by would be enough to prove the mantra wrong. Second, just because you enjoy something doesn't mean you can make money doing it - anyone with basic economic knowledge knows the law of demand and supply has been never proved wrong in business. Third, what's the point of following your heart?
What do we really want when we demand work enjoyment? Ultimately, what people are chasing is happiness. And if we agree that happiness is a state of mind (a "state where nothing is missing") then it can't be directly pursued. It comes from inside. The search is useless.
I love working with consultants who know what makes them happy and designed their practices with that in mind. But this is a bonus, not a requirement. You will still need to pay your bills. You will still need to do some things you don't enjoy doing. And you will still need to pay the taxes of life.