“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”
I’m excited to celebrate the 100th post on this site with the start to a meandering on life as I reach an age milestone that I find quite significant. I’ve learned a lot during my walk on this earth, yet I know very little. Yes, it’s cliche to say that the more I learn, the more I discover how much I have to learn, but it’s absolutely true. And to that end, most of what I’ve learned are perspectives, ideas, and truths that other much greater minds have realized during their journeys. So instead of attempting to arrogantly develop my own philosophy, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on this statement from Stephen Hawking, one of the most powerful minds of our time.
Part 1: Never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. I think that we too often mistake work for a four-letter, stress causing word. It’s something we do to get through to the weekend, to earn a paycheck. We too often forget that work is an experience that offers value to our identity and our time in this world. I also believe that because my generation has been told again and again, “do something you love for your career and you’ll never work a day in your life,” that we feel entitled to that dream job the moment we graduate from college, and we become easily frustrated by anything that doesn’t meet our high standard.
Both ends of this spectrum lock us into an unforgiving paradigm paralysis during our twenties; we’re always searching for something “better” while we begrudgingly whittle away at the jobs we’ve found, earned, or negotiated our way into with much effort. Either side of the continuum we find ourselves in, the stress of Michael Bluth or the despair of Oscar the Grouch, I think we might be missing Hawking’s message:
Work is your service to our global community. Work is your time to think hard about the world and the positive effect you can have on it, and then going out and having that effect. Work in this case might not mean what you’re doing from 9 to 5, it might instead mean you stay up an extra hour at night to complete an important project for a nonprofit you volunteer for, or it might mean you turn off the T.V. for three hours during the weekend to help build the community in which you live, or it might mean you skip happy hour a couple times a month to pursue your passion, paid or unpaid, recognized or ignored.
Now it does not mean that this type of work comes without stress or despair. We will most certainly feel anxiety for our attempts to make an impact on this world, and we will most certainly continually hope for a better way to make that impact. But this new understanding of work from Stephen Hawking refocuses our energy towards more productive and more meaningful pursuits.Work becomes on-going, consistent, diligent, and done with both compassion and passion, no matter what stands in your way. Imagine the limited understanding of our universe we would have if Stephen Hawking didn’t wake up everyday and work.
To any doubters, or to anyone struggling, remember one of the greatest campaign slogans, “Just do it.” Hawking offers further and more poetic motivation, “however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” Our perseverance, persistence and courage will see us through.