When one thinks of meaningful work, generally, they think of labor that accomplishes a certain goal. One thinks of a prestigious job or occupation that has meaning to it, but meaningful work can mean a lot more than just a prestigious job or having meaning to something you do. Meaningful work can be defined as enjoyment of the worker, dedication of the worker to the job, and involvement that the worker shows toward his or her job. In “The Physical Genius” written by Malcolm Gladwell, he talks about how to become a Physical Genius.
Gladwell is an English-born Canadian journalist, author, and speaker. He has written many books and articles in sociology, psychology, and social psychology. People who have experienced the meaningful work, can be described as true physical genius. However, it requires more than just experience to become a physical genius. Imagination and experience are the key concepts in defining physical genius. Physical genius traits are different from “normal” humans. In ‘Work Makes Life Sweet” written by bell hooks, who is an American author, feminist, and social activist.
She has published many books and scholarly articles, mainly focusing on race, gender, feminism, and sexuality. Hooks explains what “right livelihood” is and what it takes to get right livelihood. Right Livelihood is a way of living one’s life to the fullest by choosing the “right” job for oneself: choosing a job that one would love and make a meaning out of their job. Barbara Ehrenreich, author of “Selection from Nickled and Dimed,” is an American author, political activist, awardwinning columnist, and essayist. In this selection, Ehrenreich talks about how important it is to have a meaningful job rather than just a job.
She explains her own experience at Walmart and how the employees are treat by the management at Walmart. Having an experienced job does not indicate that one is enjoying the work and time of their life that they are putting in to that job. Living life through right livelihood can be challenging sometimes as it comes with many risks. However, not everyone can take those risks that come with those certain jobs. Nevertheless, having a meaningful job in life is something that most of us desire, but yet, we often have to put our needs over our desire.
There are two kinds of people: who are good at their jobs and those, who are great at what they do. People who are in love with their jobs, are also great at what they do. However, if someone is great at their job, this does not mean that they find some meaning in their work. People who love their jobs and know what meaningful work is indicate that they have found the meaning of right livelihood. Gladwell talks about Charlie Wilson, who is a well-reputed and experienced neurosurgeon. Wilson is a physical genius, who enjoys his work and also does it very well.
Gladwell asks Wilson’s about his success as a near surgeon, “When he talks about his extraordinary success as a surgeon, he gives the impression that he is talking about some abstract trait that he is neither responsible for nor completely able to understand” (11). Gladwell explains how Wilson is a physical genius. Wilson goes on a run every morning, and in his mind he pictures his brain surgery procedure. He will do the procedure over and over in his mind so that when he actually does the surgery later that day, it will be as if he had already done it.
Wilson is able to make decisions about the surgery while the surgery is going on, without even thinking about it. When he is asked about the process of the surgery, he says he has no explanation to it, it just comes naturally to him. Ehrenreich explains her situation at Walmart when she is folding clothes. She states, “In this situation, all I can do is everything at oncestoop, reach, bend, lift, run, from rack to rack with my cart. And then it happens, a magical flow state in which the clothes start putting themselves away.
Oh, I play a part in this, but not in any conscious way” (63). Ehrenreich, working at Walmart, does her work at an unconscious level but, she does not enjoy what she does. Even though both Wilson and Ehrenreich do their jobs well, Ehrenreich has not found her right livelihood. She has not defined the right meaningful work as Wilson has. This explains the difference between normal talented people and physical geniuses. Physical Genius is the key of imagining something and being able to put it into an action very easily and quickly.
If knowledge and learning new everyday is part of a job, it leads to success at work and in personal life. Sometimes, a job requires more than what someone can put into it. However, a thirst for learning new things with experience and accepting failure, can teach a lot. Gladwell states, “[… ]Far more than technical skills or intelligence, what was necessary for success was the sort of attitude that quest has- a practical-minded obsession with the possibility and the consequences of failure” (12).
Having technical skills or intelligence is different from having a commitment of learning something new everyday. Gaining new information or knowledge with open mind and not worrying about the results can help lead to success. Moreover, it is really important to realize the importance of failure, which a way success is recognized. Even though, when someone is a physical genius at their job and has all the training and skill to go with it, might find it really hard to pursue their right livelihood through a meaningful job.
Hooks explains, “When you do something and you do it well, it is hard to take a break, or confront the reality that I had to face, which was that I really didn’t want to be doing the job I was doing even though I did it well” (30). When someone is trained, skilled, experienced, and is good at what they are doing, they do not see the point of taking any type of risk with their jobs. Not all has the courage or the right situation to find a meaningful work and live in a right livelihood. Some need more money than others, depending on their circumstances.
Many of us, when in a ituation of changing jobs, have to consider many options, like, is it even worth doing, how much is the salary, or is it sufficient enough to cover the daily needs. Despite all those questions, if one has a positive attitude in their life, they might be able to find a job that is worth taking that risk and finding answers to those questions. Working a job that provides money, happiness, and success has always been mostly everyone’s dream, but very few can pursue all those things from their one job. However, the first step is always the hardest towards a dream job.
If one is now fully aware of their right livelihood, there is no way they are going back to where they started from. Hooks states, “The practice of ‘right livelihood invites us to become more fully aware of our reality of the labor we do and of the way we do it” (31). When one realizes that what they are doing has some meaning in their lives, the job itself gets easier. Realization that their time is worth more than just folding clothes at unconscious level or working a job and not getting recognized for all the effort and time you have put in, are the stops signs to pursue a new career and success.
Realizing how one wants to define right livelihood can sometimes be hard because not everyone can take the risks that come with it. Ehrenreich states, ‘What you don’t necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you’re actually selling is your life… ” (67). Time is a very important part of our life. Working a 10-12 hour shift and not feeling the positiveness about that job says a lot about a person. When someone is putting ten hours of their day into a work and not feeling happy about it, will definitely not lead to success.
If someone really wants to be happy and successful, sometimes, we have to choose between one of those, but one must consider what is it that they want to achieve and how do they want to define their right livelihood. Its is matter of realization of how and what job is one working right now and what do they see in their future. Better yet, do they have a future with that job? Now not all of us can quit our jobs and go do something that we have always wanted to do. We all need the money to survive, more or less than others, depending on the needs and wants.
But we might make our dream job our hobby. Like Wilson, who defines as a true physical genius, has found success and happiness as a neurosurgeon, a job that he enjoys. Since he loves what he does, he is good at it and hence, he has found his right livelihood. Right livelihood is something we all look forward to but not many of us can achieve it. Even though one might be willing to take the risks that come along with it, it does not mean they have reached right livelihood. Needs can change with time and so can the definition of meaningful work.
Nevertheless, many people may not even know what their meaningful job is. But that does not mean that they will never have one. Exploring different jobs or taking a risk of exploring different jobs, might lead someone to their dream job, that they have always wanted to do but were not aware of it. Before putting any of our time into a job, we must consider, why are we doing this job? What do we get out of this job? Do we get happiness, success, money, everything, or nothing at all? Hoping one day, most of us can become physical geniuses at our jobs and can live our lives through right livelihood.