Home > starting your own work > In Success Small is Beautiful – and More Fulfilling

In Success Small is Beautiful – and More Fulfilling

The other day a friend who runs a social justice website told me the story of a former colleague. This woman (let’s call her S) had great success with the fledgling media company she started from scratch, providing the software and logistical support for a project providing access to educational services to disadvantaged people around the world. The project was featured on TED and hailed as a great success. It was quintessential innovative work that, according to my friend, gave her a great sense of work fulfillment.

After this initial success S had pick of future projects. She expanded her company, was able to offer her services to a wider range of clients. At this she was also a success – in as much as, before long she employed a dozen people and had more work than she could cope with.

Except now that she ran a bigger company and had bigger clients, none of her work was of the socially-beneficial kind, and none of it was the type of work she had found so satisfying in the first place. All her clients were commercial, paying more money but commissioning work in which S placed no personal value.

If by some chance I were to make a living from the writing work I like to do (an unlikely scenario), I don’t want this kind of success for my self-made career. For me this is why it is necessary to keep paid subsistence work and worthwhile work in different compartments – because money always affects the work you do. If your entire living is earned from the work that was worthwhile to you in the beginning, there’s a good chance your decisions about future work will be taken out of your hands.

Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Hugh MacLeod

For ‘art’ read ‘any innovative activity’. If you can do the work you want to do without interference, and be paid after the fact, can be paid a living even, fantastic. This is a position very few people find themselves in – this is Danny Boyle and the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.

But if we set up a scenario where we have the time to do innovative work that we value for no money,  supported by subsistence work, that can be a success. So long as we don’t think of it as a failure because it has not earned us money. Don’t think you need do what you love to earn a living to be a success. That’s the way to no longer love it.

Recent links on careers, fulfilling work and writing:

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.