It Pays the Bills

Stardust, a nearby "cafe" (if you will), attracts all variety of odd characters oozing with undiscovered talent, an eye for the extraordinary and taste for the absurd. The tables are old doors with half-inch polyurethane surfaces, the chairs are 60s-style remakes with white bubble-scallop mildly uncomfortable shapes, and the walls are lined with obscure videos of indie films. They serve a fabulous watercress salad, steam some of the best yerba mate tea, and their coffee is, well, week-long eye openers.

Tuesday afternoon Drupal coders cluster on the impromptu stage and sit glued to their laptops, occasional murmers and smirks breaking their fastidious concentration. Sundays at 9, my friend Drew and I sit facing the morning sun and write. He's working on his first children's book and I'm, well, I have so many projects in my creative queue that I can't decide which one to create first.

I know so many truly creative people. People who have talent, ideas, excitement, desire and true lust for what they're about. For some reason, however, many (if not all) of them have their creative energy on hold as they exist in homeostasis at their jobs. One of those creative geniuses and I were having a conversation the other day. It went like this:

"How's work going for you?"

His voice dropped. "It's pays the bills."

My heart sank, mainly because I felt like that for many, many years and it resonated. After the conversation, I thought about why we are so miserable in our jobs and what could be done. In the past, I would have just put on a happy face until I found something else, that, at the time, I thought was better. But in reality, it was just a new paycheck coming from a new place but the feelings were still the same. Many of us feel that way still.

What I'd like to see is how we can be more excited and engaged about what we do to pay the bills. Without going through a job change, or a career realignment, or hours of therapy, why can't we be that way now? What's stopping us? Are there people out there who are in their ideal job but still feeling stifled?

If you are in an organization with people who are not engaged, customers feel it. They may not know what it means, or why they feel that way, but it comes across. Sometimes it's obvious in the way customers are treated, sometimes it's just a flat energy while we endure being served as customers.

Every engagement with a customer is an opportunity to do some good. To make a difference. To make their day. Even if you're in a job that falls under the "It pays the bills" category, you still have the ability to make it a worthwhile experience. Engage with who you're serving, whether it's an internal customer or an external one. Keep doing that and you may just realize that there's more to what you're doing than just a job.

Not sure? Just ask your customer.