I generally don’t spend a lot of time pondering existential questions, but lately I’ve been struggling with a big one. To put it concisely, “What is it that makes us work?” There are some easy, obvious answers like “to earn money” or “to find fame” but those only get at the superficial part of the question. They don’t begin to explain the amount of time and energy we invest on the job – where most of us will spend the majority of our lives.
I worked at Microsoft for over 22 years and was fortunate enough to contribute to the growth of one great business (Microsoft Office) and lead the creation of another (Xbox). I worked long hours, traveled way more than I would like, and missed important family and life events as a result. And while I was certainly well compensated for my work and achieved some notoriety in certain business communities, there was definitely a great deal of tension around my work-life balance. Logically, once I left Microsoft (and the salary and prestige that came with the job), you would think my work pace would have declined.
I am here to report that some 6 years after retiring from Microsoft, I’m still working very hard, traveling more than I’d like, and have to plan my personal life very carefully. I am still motivated to put in the hours and effort required in a variety of different ventures and activities. In a world in which much of my work involves no compensation, I am left asking myself “why do I do it?”
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