What is Work?

This title sounded strange to me initially, but I kept coming back to it. What is work? The answer would seem obvious to many, but let’s take a step back and ask that question again. What is work? More importantly, how do you define work? This is critical because how you define or think of work, will determine how you approach work, and what you get out of it.

Some definitions of work I found online are:

Work as a noun

  1. Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.
  2. Mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment.

Work as a verb

  1. Be engaged in physical or mental activity in order to achieve a purpose or result, especially in one's job; do work.

Work Synonyms: labor, toil, slog, drudgery, exertion, effort, industry, service, employment, a job, a position, a situation, an occupation, a profession, a career, a vocation, a calling.

Look at the first six synonyms; do any of these words describe how you see your work? For most people, the answer would be yes. Most people see work as a means of earning income through some sort of labor in order to pay for the other aspects of their lives. If you don’t think this is true, ask 10-20 people what they think of work.

If this is your view of work, I will wager that you don’t like what you do, you most likely have changed jobs multiple times, you are constantly on the hunt for higher paying opportunities, and you think work fulfillment is a myth. If this any or all of these apply to you, it is time to refine your understanding of work. I used to think of work in a negative way, and found no fulfillment in the businesses I ran. My views about work have changed, and so has my work-life.


I now define work as “the way I serve my community using my unique combination of talents.” Let that sink in for a minute. Work should be our unique contribution to mankind based on our unique combination of talents. Everybody will agree that we are different from each other, and are truly one-of-a-kind. In spite of agreeing with this premise, most people still spend their working years outside their “uniqueness.”

You are how you are for why you are. You are part of a community, and you are wired the way you are so that you can contribute your uniqueness to others, as they contribute their uniqueness to you. That is how the world should work.

Work should be a joyful and fulfilling expression of our unique abilities, and not seen as toil, labor or drudgery. If you talk with someone who loves their work, you cannot help but feel the energy and confidence they exude.

While doing some work with The Coca Cola Company in 2015, I met a lady from the Learning Department who exuded so much energy and passion. I got to talk with her during one on of our breaks, and mentioned that I liked how she brought energy into her presentations. Her response did not come as a surprise; “it’s easy to exude energy and passion when you love what you do. I love what I do and get to use my strengths to develop others.”

Let me rephrase the last part of her statement; “…because I get to use my strengths to develop others, I love my job.” She works for a fantastic company but I believe she would be equally happy and fulfilled working for a smaller company doing what she does best.

The first step to enjoying work is to change your definition of it. Train yourself to see work as your unique contribution to mankind based on your unique combination of talents. This definition obviously leads to the next big question, “how do I discover my talents?”

In my next blog, I’ll talk about Talent; what it is and how you discover it.



Talent Resources

DNA of Talent
A Blueprint for Discovering Your Talents and Putting Them to Work

Finding Your Sweet Spot
Where your Talents, Interests and Passions converge to deliver the life you were born to live.