Have you ever walked into a room and felt that something was different but you just couldn’t put your finger on it? This usually happens to me about once a year, and the last time was in Charlotte, North Carolina.
It was a quaint little restaurant—some would call it a greasy spoon—with about 12 tables. When I arrived, the breakfast rush was in full force with only one vacant table. While I was waiting for it to be cleaned, I watched the server. It was hard not to see her as Tina was the only server working the 12 tables. She bussed them all, too. She was in a zone— a zone of connection—where everything appeared to line up perfectly for her: the customers ordered when Tina arrived at their table, the food was ready when she went to pick it up, and people arrived and left at a steady rhythm, not all at once. She smiled at everyone, too. It seemed that everything flowed perfectly for her.
Surprisingly, Tina had time for a bit of small talk. I will never forget her response to my question about how long she worked at this restaurant: “For 18 years, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Sometimes people are nasty, but I figure it’s because their life is hard right now and they can use a break. So I’m especially nice to them.”
As I ponder the idea of loving your job, I feel compelled to compare it to loving others in general. If you have a pet in your life, in time you come to love it for its qualities, idiosyncrasies, attitudes and behaviours. Whether it is a drooling bull dog, an aloof Siamese cat, or a voracious alligator, you choose to love your pet.
Previously I had commented that falling in or out of love with our life partner has a lot to do with the thoughts that we focus on. If your relationship is new, all you can see, hear, smell and feel is absolute perfection. Not one flaw can be found. Imagine that your relationship with your loved one is going through a tumultuous time. It is likely that you are focused on everything you don’t like about your partner, everything that is not working. And if you continue to think this way, it won’t be long before you are falling out of love, and rather quickly at that.
So is loving your work really about what you are focused on? Is it about your attitude over the work itself?
I clearly recall Ernie, the crossing guard. He was an older gent who I remember as always having an icicle hanging from the tip of his nose in the winter. All through elementary school, Ernie was a mainstay in my life as he helped me safely cross the road. I don’t remember how old I was or even if he was talking to me, but I heard Ernie state with passion and conviction, “I am responsible for making sure that my little angels get to school and back home safely every day.” I remember this because he was the only adult who ever thought I was an angel!
Did Ernie love his job? Did Ernie find his reason for loving the work he did every day even though his job was not particularly hard?
And what about Tina? She had a routine service job that was physically demanding but not much more. She found a way to be at peace with the rudest customers and reciprocate with even more kindness. Did Tina love her job?
What I believe is that being in a state of love for your work has everything to do with your thoughts and attitude, and when you line that up with something you like doing, and at a place that feels like home… well, how can you not love your job?