From where we sit

A new perspective on work

Anton Ng Anton Ng

Another new year, another set of goals and resolutions reflected upon and listed. Some resolutions are new but, if you are like me, most of this year’s resolutions are recycled from previous years, because they were not achieved. For many of us, our resolutions and goals are tied to what we mostly do during our waking hours — work. In an earlier article I wrote, I intimated my disbelief that one should love one’s work; that it cannot be true, because it is not true for everyone; that there are certain activities that would be almost impossible to love, like cleaning a poso negro. A noble job, yes; something that can help one provide for the family, but I find it hard to accept that one can love doing such a task.

That was until I read a book by American pastor and theologian Timothy Keller entitled Every Good Endeavor. It provided me with a deeper perspective on work.

When we say work in this article, it is not limited to the activities performed by employees and business owners. Work also includes the activities of housewives and volunteers. The dictionary defines work as any activity involving mental or physical effort done to achieve a purpose or result. That means that most of us engage in other types of work outside of our day-to-day jobs.

I would like to share with you learnings that gave me a better perspective on work.

First, work is, by nature, good. It is not a curse, as I have earlier believed. Work is part of our design. In the Bible, God worked for six days when He created the world. In Genesis 1:28, God instructed Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Our first work was to create a society (“be fruitful and increase in number”) and develop the earth (“fill the earth and subdue it”). We had work even before we committed our first sin. Work, therefore, is part of our nature.

Have you ever experienced feeling sluggish and bored when spending multiple days doing nothing? That is because, for most days, we are not designed to do nothing. Let us, therefore, be grateful that we have something to do for almost all our time, that we have work; not only because our work pays for our bills, but because we need work for a more fulfilling life. May we then not hope for days of doing nothing. Again, work includes any activity outside our respective jobs that allows us to use our mental and physical faculties to achieve a purpose or result.

Second, all legitimate work has dignity, regardless of the pay or status it affords you. Every work has its value in this world. Can you imagine a world wherein nobody cleans up? Regardless of whether you employ someone to clean your home or you yourself keep your house tidy, that work is important. With nobody cleaning your house, it can result in sickness.

Have you ever had a dilemma in choosing the kind of work you want to do? How often did we decide to choose something, because it pays more, even though we know that our skills and passions are more suited for another kind of work? May we find solace in the fact that all works have dignity, that all works have value; may this perspective allow us to not choose work solely based on pay or status.

Third, work can sometimes be fruitless. Not all our work will produce the desired results.

Have you ever poured your entire energy, time, and skill into an endeavor and, yet, everything was for naught? Talent alone, without effort, will not guarantee success. There are times, however, that it will still not be enough, even with both talent and effort. Sometimes, even if we put in our best efforts, other factors keep us from achieving success.

Gaining these three perspectives on work allow us to look and value work more deeply. Work keeps us motivated to do our best, because it is part of our design. Work keeps us both humble and proud, because all works have dignity. Work keeps us from being cynical, because work can sometimes be fruitless.

Anton Ng is a Partner of the Audit & Assurance Division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading Audit, Tax, Advisory, and Outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 Partners and over 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us at: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to anton.ng@ph.gt.com or pagrantthornton@ph.gt.com. For more information, visit our Website: www.grantthornton.com.ph.

 

As published in The Manila Times, dated 9 January 2019