Yes, I know, it’ confusing. I thought it would be. This is the first episode of the Sunday Letters newsletter in audio format, yet it’s Issue 127. Ok, so here’s the story…
I’ve been writing Sunday Letters since 2015, and although I have published podcast material with the newsletter before today, it has never been branded Sunday Letters. Now that I’m testing a move from MailChimp to Substack, I figured adding a podcast under the same name is a good idea.
I had considered adding an audio clip in MailChimp but it wasn’t possible to embed a media file on the published page. A YouTube video yes, but an audio, no. So, when I saw Substack could not only do this but allow publishing to podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, I decide to jump in and give it a blast.
A quick intro; I’m Larry Maguire, I’m a writer with a BA in psychology studying a Masters in work psychology at DCU. I’ve been self-employed for 20+ years and I am a recovering entrepreneur. Recovering, because I found that way of living exhausting–the constant pressure to achieve and to put on a show. Today I’m not chasing much. There’s nothing out there ahead of me with which I need to catch up. Instead, I follow my nose and see where it takes me. I’m curious and frequently get lost in things, but I do so for the enjoyment of the thing rather than what I can get out of it. The inherent value of the work coupled with the anticipation for what will happen next is what’s most important for me these days when it comes to work.
I write. I can’t stop writing. I read too, although taking a book from cover to cover is a rarity. Instead, I browse, and if what I find happens to broaden my views on the world, I’ll combine it somehow and perhaps write on it. Philosophy and psychology are my regular go-to topics and you’ll see these featured regularly in the material I publish. In particular, I examine our relationship with daily work; that thing we do during our waking hours, for one-third of our lives or more. I have found from my early research on wellbeing at work, that vast waves of people are at odds with daily work; about 40%. In fact, you probably know this to be true anecdotally. It’s a love-hate, need-want, push-pull kind of thing. Very few can say that they are flat-out in love with their work.
I write often on the nature and structure of the self; that aspect of personal reality that we call “me” or “I”, and also cannot identify. Whatever I am, I can never really put my finger on it, and all conceptualisations seem to leave something out. It is the reality of being and existence and our coming to terms with all that it comprises. It is the fundamental question with which all human beings must grapple and yet never comprehensibly answer. If we are not asking; who am I? then we live in the fake plastic reality of our own making. It is living in this question and accepting that it can never be answered is that helps us cope. Shit happens, and if you want to deal with it and survive, then this is the only question worth asking oneself.
Self, and the work it does, you or me the work we do; this is the full extent of our lives. That work can be whatever we choose, but within this waking existence there is activity, and the measure of the lives we live is the extent and nature of this activity and its impact on others. So you see, this idea provides a framework for discussing our reality. Maybe it’s too heavy, but I think it’s worth it.
The Value of Work
I’m always on the lookout, or maybe it’s on the lookout for me, for examples of craftsmanship (using the pronoun in a universal sense). This morning as I walked home from the park with the kids, I saw this..
I don’t know about you, but if I ever need a bricky, I’m hiring this guy and his crew. This wall was built by a bloke that both gives a shit about quality and workmanship, and has put the time and effort into creating something others can admire. Be careful now! I’m not saying that the admiration of others is the target, it is rather a consequence. People can admire our work but only if it’s done for the right reason, that is, under our own command and out of our own interests. Chomsky, quoting famous thinkers of the Enlightenment period, said;
“…if a person works, if a person does beautiful work under external command, meaning for wages, we may admire what he does but we despise what he is. Because he’s not a free human being.”
It is the biggest problem we encounter today in daily work; we do it to get somewhere or some thing. Our work has become transactional and soulless and yet we wonder why so many of us are at odds with work. Doing work primarily for its inherent enjoyment and self-gratification, it is that which is the seed to great work. That for me is what daily work is all about. However, that’s not to say we’ll always get the best results from our work–we’re not supposed to–but it does mean we care enough about what we’re doing to immerse ourselves in it for long periods without distraction. That’s really the secret to doing great work.
Some say that it has to do with patience, but that’s not accurate. Patience implies the possibility of impatience, of unease with something. It says there is a risk of failure or that the end result will evade all our efforts. If patience or impatience exist is means we are conscious of the result, and if we are conscious of the result, we are outside the work. It implies that there is an end result. But the truth is that when we are immersed in our work for the sake of it, in what Csikszentmihalyi called Flow, there is no thought for end results. If within our work we are concerned with patience or a lack thereof, our head is in the wrong place.
Forget it. You might as well stay in bed.
Most of the world is in this frame of mind; the need to have things turn out a particular way, and for others to conform to prewritten directives. It is what destroys creative thinking and our chances of success before we even start.
And so this is my personal philosophy for life and work. Not for happiness per se, but rather a balance, and there is an imperative that has possessed me to share this idea.
Everything I write is saturated with this idea, and if it resonates with you, then I’m glad you’re here. I should say, however, if what I have to offer is at odds with your thinking and beliefs, I welcome your comments. Because it is that to and fro of discussion and engagement that makes life interesting.
It is the success and failure, the wins and losses, war and peace, black and white and all the shades in between that makes life worth living.
Thanks for reading/listening to Sunday Letters this week. I’m looking forward to producing more content here on Substack, and if you like what you’ve read today, consider supporting this work.
See you Sunday (or Wednesday).