BY PIPER KLEMM
As I prepare lecture notes for my college course this summer at St. Lawrence University, I’m always struck by the same identifiers of successful people appearing across different types of industries and facets of life. The most common theme I find is that they all love to work. Though there are, in most cases, monetary fruits to their labors, the most successful people I know are united by a mindset that finds the work itself to be deeply satisfying.
I’ve grown up feeling the same way. I wake up every morning, ready and excited to get to work. I often have to be disciplined about “life maintenance” tasks like getting dressed or eating a healthy breakfast because left to my own devices, I would get right to work and not look up until hours later. I love to work.
It’s unsurprising then that I come from a family of people who love to work and that I married someone who loves to work.
This is not to say I don’t like to vary projects or that every single task is my favorite thing to do. I’m not an industrial robot, ready to be deployed to work forever on a single task, but I love to pursue a mission. I want a purpose, a task where I can make a difference and produce results. I love unstructured work where I can go at my own pace and conquer projects as needed. The deadlines I meet, projects I progress, issues I release, podcasts I record, and books I write fuel a positive feedback loop that gets me out of bed the next day.
I hate being sore from the gym and I’ve never become an exercise junkie (no matter how much I’ve tried), but my version of a “runner’s high” comes when I get into bed after a day well-worked. It only lasts a moment because I am exhausted to my core, but my mind pauses in weariness . Whether the bed is warm or cold in that moment is irrelevant – I can feel that satisfaction with a day spent in action.
Though I’m always striving for a perfect day, I know it’s not a realistic goal. I’m proud of stretches of time, even if I’m never exactly content with what I might accomplish in a 24-hour period. As computing pioneer J.C.R. Licklider said, “People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and to underestimate what can be done in five or ten years.”
As I prepare to teach these St. Lawrence summer courses, I’ve been thinking about the way our society teaches us about work. Sometimes, we are conditioned to believe that love is sparing people from work. But you’re not loving your children by sparing them from work. You’re not loving your horse by sparing them from work. You’re not even exactly loving your spouse by sparing them from work.
Young people I meet are so worried that their work might not be appreciated and valued – and they’re not wrong. It might not be. It happens in many jobs; I even experience it at my own company. Work often isn’t appreciated in real time or even in its time – ask any artist. It’s up to you to do tackle the work you do with a mindset that lets you be proud of it. But finding value in yourself and your efforts and how you are spending your days can have all the impact in the world.
Teach your kids the joy of accomplishment. Teach your horse the job of doing their job to the best of their ability. Even in a world that can feel out of control in many contexts, you have control over how you accomplish the tasks that need doing.
We spend much of our time talking about self-care – because, yes, people who love to work need self-care. We need boundaries, we need healthy diets to excel, plenty of exercise, outlets for creativity, and enough sleep. But I am experimenting with the idea that a more rewarding approach to work might lead to a lot less self-care that’s really self-destructive. Be the change you want to see in our industry and the next time you go to complain about something, pick up a broom and start sweeping. When all else fails, model the behavior we need to bestow upon our next generation of horsepeople.
By TPH Publisher Piper Klemm, PHD
(Follow me on instagram at @piperklemm)
About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
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