When does a job feel meaningful? When it allow us to generate delight or reduce suffering in others. Though we are often taught to think of ourselves as inherently selfish, the longing to act meaningfully in our work seems just as stubborn a part of our make-up as our appetite for status or money.
The real issue is not whether baking biscuits is meaningful, but the extent to which the activity can seem to be so after it has been continuously stretched and subdivided across 5 thousand lives and half a dozen manufacturing sites. An endeavour endowed with meaning may appear meaningful only when it proceeds briskly in the hands of a restricted number of actors and therefore where particular workers can make an imaginative connection between what they have done with their working days and their impact upon others.
Important to connect workers and the impact of their work
P g 238
The start of work means the end to freedom, but also to doubt, intensity and wayward desires. The accountant's ten thousand possibilities have been reduced to an agreeable handful. .... How satisfying it is to be held in check by the assumptions of colleagues, instead of being forced to contemplate, in the loneliness of the early hours, all that on might have been and now never will be. ...... Life is no longer mysterious, sad, haunting, touching, confusing or melancholy; it is a practical stage for clear-eyed action.
... The absence of certain practices and products is deemed by entrepreneurs to be neither right nor inevitable, but merely evidence of the conformity and lack of imagination of the herd. Yet the milieu also demands that its protagonist develop a hard-headed awareness of certain intractable financial and legal truths, as well as an accurate sense of what other human beings are actually like. The field seems to require a painfully uncommon synthesis of imagination and realism.
Death is hard to keep in mind when there is work to be done: it seems not so much taboo as unlikely. Work does not by its nature permit us to do anything else other than to take it seriously. It must destroy our sense of perspective, and we should be grateful to it for precisely that reason, for allowing us to mingle ourselves promiscuously with events, for letting us wear thoughts of our own death and the destruction of enterprise with beautiful lightness, as mere intellectual propositions.....
Our work will at least have distracted us, it will have provided a perfect bubble in which to invest our hopes for perfection, it will have focused our immeasurable anxieties on a few relatively small scale and achievable goals; it would have given us a sense of mastery, it will have made us respectably tired, it will have put food on the table. It will have kept us out of greater trouble.