Friday, November 6, 2009

Why I Do What I Do

I have some stuff to report on Sunday concerning my job search and life in Seattle, but today, I've decided to figure out what my mission statement is.  In other words, why do I do what I do?

The idea of a mission statement came from a program called "Project Hire" that I took a while back at Manchester Community College.  This was in addition to three free workshops I took there, which were called "Interviewing Skills," "Job Search and Cover Letters," and "Effective Resume Writing"--each class being, with questions, a little under 90 minutes in length.  Project Hire, on the other hand, was composed of brief opening remarks, and then two classes (we had a selection to choose from) covering similar material as taught in the workshops, but by different people (and for job hunting, some additional techniques to use).

Anyway, I am now trying to figure out my mission statement.  I've done PAR (problem-action-result) statements, but have yet to really think about my career objective (to retire?).  My career objective apart from being a novelist, poet, and playwright, that is.  And I think that is why I am having trouble with my mission statement.

Having just finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I can't help but question whether or not I'm going about my job search correctly.  After all, the point of that book (among others) is to not follow the crowd when the crowd is wrong, and Phaedrus's search for Quality is familiar to anyone in any career who chooses to measure success on how good their products are, not on how much money they make.

And that's another thing I find a little disturbing about the whole key to success in a job search: not that you are marketing your skills, but that you are, in effect, marketing yourself as a product.  Not a human being.  A product.  While I don't disagree that thinking that way about oneself will allow one to see the skills and attributes that one can bring to a company--and will help in bringing about a successful end to a job search (at least temporarily)--I don't like comparing myself to an inanimate object on a shelf, devoid of personality or life.  Perhaps it would be better to follow the old mantra "know thyself," for that is essentially how one not only lands a job, but lands the right job.

But I am getting away from my mission statement.  According to my brochure, "It should quickly convey who you are, what you do and what you are trying to accomplish.  It is about what you believe in; what makes you passionate about doing what you do every day."  Well, I am passionate about writing.  Why?  Because I enjoy telling stories, I love communicating with others, and the sense of accomplishment after creating a really good piece of literature--whether it be a blog post, a short story, a poem, a play, a novel, or parts of each--is indescribable.  It's when Igor Stravinsky finds that note on the piano.  In some ways, it creates something new that wasn't there before, or reveals something that was there all along.

What do I believe in?  I believe in a job well done.  Even if you have the shittiest job in the world, you should do that job to the best of your ability.  Why?  Because even the best job has parts of it that are not enjoyable, that are tedious, and that need to be done to continue doing the parts you do enjoy.  I don't mind editing and proofreading my novel, but doing it again and again and again is not that fun.  And sometimes, I'll come across a section that I don't know how to fix.  So do I just leave it?  Maybe for the moment, but eventually, I know that I'll come back to it and figure it out, because by breaking through that one tedious edit, I may vastly improve the entire novel.  And while I can occasionally slack off, I am not lazy, and I am not a quitter.

What do I do?  Besides writing, I read books, magazines, and poetry, watch plays (though, since college, this has been a too rare event), see movies, enjoy the outdoors on nice days, learn about different cultures on TV and through my travels, study Japanese (hopefully I'll start doing that again this weekend), and hopefully begin to study French again someday soon (Vancouver is just a car ride away, though Quebec would be better for French-speaking--and listening--purposes).  I also love meeting new people, especially from foreign lands or different ethnic backgrounds than me.

What am I trying to accomplish?  Simply put, I want to make a positive difference in this world, whether it's through my writing or by my example.  Working with a nonprofit to feed starving children in Africa (heck, to feed starving children in America) would be right up my alley.  I also would prefer to work for a company that treats its employees and customers with respect, not one over the other, or neither.  It would also be nice if I could work for a company whose bottom line was people instead of money.  If your main goal is customer service, the money will come, but if your main goal is making money, at some point, the customers will dry up, and so will the money.  So really, companies should focus on the people they serve and employ if they want to make money long-term.  The problem is that too many people within companies only care if they make money, screw the long-term consequences.  Of course, paying executives 400 times what their employees make for bankrupting companies (when it used to be 40 times for a job well done) seems to serve neither the goal of servicing customers nor the goal of making money.

Who am I?  I've saved this question for last because it's the toughest of the bunch.  I'm sure my friends could give you a great answer to this question, but I'm too close to the action.  Still, let me try: I am a principled, artistic, creative, intelligent, hard-working, spiritual, knowledge-hungry, passionate, loving, kind, somewhat shy, humorous humanitarian who would love to have a job that pays well, but not if it requires me to break my principles (I will bend them, but not break them).  In fact, I would rather have a job of which I feel good about that pays nothing, that a job of which I feel terrible about that makes me wealthy (then again, isn't that my situation now?).  I also tend to be a bit frugal with my money (I hear you laughing, people who know me!), which is why I've been able to save enough of it to move out to Seattle and try my luck at finding a job here.  That, and money from a will and a house sale.

So, now I just have to compress all of that into a ten-second spiel.  What could be easier?


  1. You may yet make a good Hamlet! But these ARE tricky things and it would be strange not to be a trifle confused. Yet one must leap! Act!

  2. Unfortunately, I'm a little too old to still be a Hamlet. But I agree: like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, one must have faith, and leap.

  3. See my forthcoming essay on the Indian movie "Flag Hoisting" or "Ascent" for a guy slightly old for Hamlet


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.