‎”Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.” – Steve Jobs

After yesterday’s news I didn’t know whether to go ahead and write the post I’d drafted or memorialize Steve Jobs. Then I saw the perfect quote to do both. Thanks, Holly Brown.

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By now I know that I am probably annoying the hell out of at least some of my “friends” on Facebook with my constant gushing about my new job. I only kinda care. The truth is, I’m happy about it, I’m having fun and I’m loving the projects I’m working on. I don’t know how long this feeling is going to last; I have no guarantee that I will end up in an equally rewarding position when my term ends in January. So I’m enjoying this as much as I can while it lasts. Deal with it.

The truth is, I spent the first half of the year busting my ass and getting a lackadaisical return on investment. My yearly review at work resulted in a shower of praise and new responsibilities but nothing close to the financial reward I expected and deserved. Around the same time I (re?)kindled a relationship that proved to be even more disappointing in its lack of reciprocity. By mid-year I was sick of being under-appreciated all around and dumped it all, as I tend to do. It all left me kinda out on a limb and floaty feeling, but you have to stand on shaky ground sometimes to know what solid feels like.

This is where the original post stops; it was going to be a whole song and dance on reciprocity and how it’s necessary in all areas of life and how we should be comfortable demanding respect and recognition from the entities we put in work for. But that’s all been said. Last night while reminiscing about the good old days at The Orchard, it occurred to me that even though I didn’t socialize much, the period of time I was working at Apple/in college was overall a really satisfying time in my life. That was the last time I was both actively working (at home, school and job) and being fully rewarded in kind for my efforts on all fronts.

I complained often about the customers, one of the managers, and sometimes even my coworkers, but working at the Apple Store was by far the most rewarding job I’ve had to date.  I truly felt like I was doing good work.  I liked the company philosophy in the beginning that we weren’t salespeople… we were showcasing good products that sold themselves. And we were. I always let people know when there was a less expensive alternative. I sent people to other stores when that was the best solution for them. I talked elderly people out of thousand dollar Mac Pros into $500 Mac Minis every week, and that’s what I was supposed to do. The harder I worked, the more rewarding responsibilities I had. Eventually, helping people with problems and teaching classes was my main role — exactly what I wanted to do.

I had a lot of great demo/teaching experiences, but the one I remember most was a woman who, because she owned a DSLR, was the de facto neighborhood photographer and responsible for capturing all the kids’ birthday parties, the yearly neighborhood Trick-Or-Treat and Christmas parties, etc.  She always ended up only emailing the photos to a few people because of their size and generally not doing anything with most of them. Her husband had gifted her a new MacBook because he’d heard that “things like that were easier on a Mac.” They are. I stepped through the setup screens and plugged her camera in, and her face lit up when iPhoto imported all her pictures and organized them so that they could easily be grouped by event. Ten minutes later, we’d made a book of the neighborhood Halloween party and ordered it from right within the application. By the end of her hour, she had a DVD of her neighbors’ child’s birthday party to give them.

I don’t remember anything else that happened that day at the store, but I do remember how happy and excited she was while learning the programs and building her projects. I also remember how happy I was to know that my hour with a stranger had helped a whole neighborhood gain permanent records of their parties, their lives, their community. That is good work. I am glad I did that work. It’s just technology and gadgets, but helping grandparents acclimate to a computer enough to video chat with their grandbabies on the other side of the world changed some lives. That’s a wonderful feeling. It just feels good to do work and get things back, and though money is nice it’s not the most important. I had forgotten what that felt like until I started putting together an outreach project yesterday at newjob that will, if it goes off, connect with a group of people my organization hasn’t really been able to touch before. It could honestly change someone’s life in a small way, and whether it does or not, knowing that something I’m doing can do that is an awesome reward.

“…the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — that sentiment goes so much farther than setting a career goal. What would it look like to love everything you do, and to do only that which you can be proud of and love in your personal and professional life?

It would look like a life that is, from all angles, a great job.

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