Principles: Great Work ∞ Great Learning

This is the first post of a multipart series about the relationship of work and learning and how it goes together for individuals and for companies.

Inception #

The concept was initially seeded in my mind over a decade ago by a guest lecturer in my university entrepreneurship class. “My first job out of college was with the Ford motor company” he said. “I had great pay, a solid job for life - if I stayed around for the next 40 years I could have had a pension and a nice gold watch. However, after 4 years I left.”

“You go and work for someone, what’s the exchange? You exchange your time and sweat and they pay you money. Is that a fair trade? No. Here’s what’s missing. Your time can never be recovered. However, money can always be created. You’re giving your most precious asset in return for something ephemeral. What makes it all worth it?“

Nobody responded.

“You get to learn. When you put your time and sweat in, you are compensated with money - but what really balances out the equation is the education you receive as a part of that work. The moment I stopped learning at Ford was the day I quit.”

Until this point, I imagined that I’d always be ‘working to live’ - working to make ends meet while I pursued what I really wanted to do in my remaining time. But, what I wanted to do in my remaining time was to learn, to invest in myself, to improve across a variety of dimensions. My paradigm shifted. Work wasn’t just about money. Work could provide a scaffold for growth. Now I understood how work itself could be fulfilling.

Going forward, I decided to optimize my work for learning. ‘Am I learning?’ became a guiding question in my life choices. A question that answered ‘no’ a few years later when I quit my first job.

Continued in Part 2


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