Most people work, in one form or the other, yet the great majority of those people would rather be doing something else. People seek satisfaction in a wide variety of constructive and destructive activities — drugs and alcohol, the pursuit of sex, travel, sports – but they would usually like to avoid the activity most likely to lead to long-term satisfaction.
Work is the activity most conducive to living sanely in an insane world. In this case, I’m referring not to the broader concept of creating value, but to economically rewarded work. One can create great value, such as a work of art or happy children, without knowing or caring about the economic consequences of that activity.
Business, on the other hand, requires a focus on economic results. At its best, business provides the opportunity to produce work in which you can take great pride. In return for giving the best of yourself, you hope to receive the highest possible economic rewards. Merging economic drive with pride of product is a great challenge, often resulting in great conflict. It is this combination of challenge and conflict that provides the discipline, focus, and intellectual integration that is very difficult to find outside of work.
Business people often forsake pride for money, in large part because pride is intangible while money is easily quantified, and thus may seem more real. But if work is a central, defining force in life — and it is, as it represents the way most people spend most of their time — anyone who chooses money over pride has defined themselves as someone whose “best” is not noble, nor important. However, in the real world of day-to-day business, some compromise between pride and money is often both necessary and desirable. Ethical compromise, on the other hand, is unacceptable. Economics and pride of product are both matters of degree that involve striving towards ideals; ethics is a matter of binary absolutes.
On developing a career that balances your economic needs with your need to create value and to take pride in your work.