Whose work are you doing? It’s a simple, but important question and one that I’ve just had to remind myself of. We all tend to refer to our work as being “ours.” A lawyer says she practices the law—that her work is the law. A carpenter says he builds and repairs things—that his work is building and repairing. A chef says she creates food—her work is food.
We say “my job,” “my work,” “my profession.” But, who does it really belong to?
A lawyer provides a service to people. A carpenter builds things for people. A chef cooks food for people. Is there any profession that is completely self-serving? Perhaps professional gamblers, day traders or hedge fund managers, but there aren’t too many engaged in those professions as a percentage of the whole. Then there are the illicit drug dealers who provide a service that is detrimental to the lives of those they serve.
Aside from the few exceptions and anomalies, doing our work in the world means we serve others. And, if we are truly in service in what we do, then wouldn’t our work belong to the people we serve?
Consider that if our intention was 100% pure about being in service to others, then we are doing the work of others, of community, of society, of employees who work for us, of vendors who supply us, and of our natural environment (Mother Earth) who provides for all of us. If we care solely and purely for being in service to others, then our work is their work.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. If all we care about is serving others, how do we provide for ourselves? After all, we all need to make a living don’t we? Of course we do. Yet … what if we gave ourselves to our professions and the work we do in the world with a complete focus on service, and merely trusted that we ourselves will be taken care of … what would the result be?
I know of three people who are doing just this. J. Kim Wright, who raised a family and practiced law, and is now single handedly leading an international charge to transform how law is practiced. She wrote Lawyers as Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law. She travels continuously, goes wherever there are legal professionals who want her help in transforming their careers. She has no stated fees and trusts that in each adventure the right compensation will result—and it always does.
BJ Harden Jones and Aaron Maret are co-founders of co~luminate, a physical space for co-working, events, and gatherings with the intention of creating personal and cultural transformation. They hold events continuously in which they charge on a sliding scale with a range and a suggested fee. Many times their sliding scale begins at $1. I recently asked Aaron how that was working for them and he replied that the average fee they receive is roughly equivalent to the suggested fee. That means that some people may pay as little as $1, and some pay more than the suggested fee.
With my recent book release of Shift, there are many people (friends and family) who I have gifted copies to. I have also had some friends pay more for the book than the $15 list price. One friend wrote me a check for $50 for two books and wrote, “Planting a Seed” in the memo section. I didn’t ask for more, but some have given more as they recognize the huge personal and financial sacrifice I’ve made to write the book.
In our modern business world we are taught about leverage and negotiation. We are taught to maximize revenue and minimize costs. What if we threw that old paradigm out and merely sought to be in service. What would our world begin to look like?