The urgency of meaningful work.
This one is a love song to all of you reeling from the news cycle and worrying about your life's purpose. On Charlottesville, Harvey, Irma, Ferguson, Maria, Las Vegas, whatever's next, and...the urgency of meaningful work.
Watch the video or read the full transcript below.
Hi, friends. It's Jenny Phillips at jenniferlphillips.com.
I am here today to talk with you about meaningful work and how we might find that meaning in light of all the...shit...that is going on in this country, America, right now.
I should acknowledge that this is my first blog post of any kind, video or otherwise, since the events of August 12th in Charlottesville. As you know if you know me or are on my email list, I was present. I was actively organizing and resisting in Charlottesville on A12. So, that moment in time is significant for me in a number of ways - for my work and for the messages that I have to share with you.
But this is more than that, more that that one thing, which certainly would be enough. This is all of it. I'm hearing from so many people...I'm seeing it online in my feeds, and personally I'm hearing it from my friends and neighbors. I'm hearing it from my clients that it is increasingly difficult to find our bearings in these times. (I say "our" because it is happening for me too.)
And, let me just put out there at the front that I am so angry about the state of things right now. I'm angry that we have such poor leadership - at so many levels, not just the presidency, but certainly there. I'm angry at what I've seen coming out of institutions - large organizations, the university here in Charlottesville. I'm shaken that we cannot seem to find a way as a society to agree on the basic requirements of human dignity and human life that each person deserves. And I'm heartbroken and saddened and aware and awake to the reality that many of these problems we're having are seeds sown when this country was founded on a slave economy.
And, I'll just put that out there right now, because if you don't agree that white supremacy is a problem, if you don't agree that we are facing some of the weakest leadership as a country...certainly that we have seen in my lifetime and possibly in the history of the nation, then you might want to find someone else to listen to on this stuff. I'm might not be your person, and, frankly, that's fine.
I'm talking today to those of you who are also feeling that pit in your stomachs and who woke up to hear the news out of Vegas and turned to your spouse or your children with no ability to make sense for them, or with them of what has happened. Again. So, you guys are my people. Those of you feeing distressed. Those of you feeling trapped. Those of you feeling fearful. Those of you who are willing to join me in admitting that we have fallen under the rule of a tyrant. Those of you who are trying to love this country by trying to make it better. You guys are my people. I'm talking to you.
So, I'm talking to you about meaningful work. I keep coming back to this because it seems to me paramount that we look hard at how we are spending our days. There is so much work to be done to move this country to a more caring place, to move the meter towards justice. And, we need to do it.
No one is going to do it for us. I think that's one of the big lessons here: that the folks who are in charge of our institutions...while there may be good seeds here and there (and certainly there are; I'm grateful to you)...the folks in charge of our institutions are not getting it done for us. And that means it falls to US. That is what representative democracy is about. That is what a government for the people, by the people, and of the people means. So, let's do it. And, to do it, we need to focus on what we're doing with our time.
So, my ask for you today is that each of you look hard at the work that you're doing. Figure out how you can begin to shift that large ship towards these ideals. If you are working in a for-profit organization, if you are working in a nonprofit, if you are in education, if you are a stay at home parent...it doesn't matter where you are right now. What matters is how you are going to shift that boat that you are steering. To a better place. To a place that is more productive. To a place that is more collaborative with folks like you and like me, who actually give a shit about this stuff.
We have got to work together. And we have got to start where we are. So, I'm asking you right now to stop being hard on yourself about all of the things you are not doing, to focus on where you are right this minute, and to commit to doing something better. Something different. Commit to some small change that will move your work life into a more just space - whether it is in your organization, whether it is leaving your organization, whether it is changing the industry that you know the most about, or whether it is giving that industry the middle finger. Whatever you think is required, start to make the change.
If we don't figure out how to focus the time that we're spending every day - those 8, to 10, to however many hours we're working to some end that is collaborative or that is someone else's...
If we don't figure out how to use that time better, we will NEVER...we will NEVER mount the defense and eventually the offense that we need in order to create a society that is caring, that protects the environment, that treats people equally and fairly and with dignity regardless of whatever detail about their genetic makeup is different than our own. If you want to live in that kind of place, you have to work for it. I want to live in that kind of place. I'm trying to work for it. I know I can do more too. So, I invite you to join me in some introspection and in some accountability about the changes that we need to make.
These are really tough times. It's not looking like it's going to get better any time soon. We've got each other, though. And, in fact, only with each other - doing the work - can we even have a hope of creating the thing that we want to create. And of not losing the thing that we've already created. So, please join me. It's a little scary over here, but it's also really productive because the anger that I'm sure you're feeling - and the sadness and the heartbreak - have somewhere to go.
I'm going to come back. I'm going to talk a little bit more in a different post about how to do this concretely, what some of the steps you take will be, and, really, where to find hope and how to manage the despair that I think a lot of us are feeling right now...because there is just no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have got to focus and get to work.
Love to you and wishing you peace and inner strength as you make sense of another tragedy. And to those of you out there who may have been personally affected by any of the litany of horrible things that have been happening, I'm sorry, I'm with you, and I'll keep trying.