THE KARMA OF WORK

(representational image, rights with the photographer)

Work : wəːk — ‘activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result’

Long back, when I was doing a post grad course in design, I appeared for an internship interview before a CEO who was known to be super tough with the employees. There were stories that people had been thrown out of the company within minutes if they could not recall the content of a meeting (if they forgot to take notes) with him, held a few months back. During the interview, I asked him, “What will be my office timing, during this internship”. He replied with a flat face, “officially 9 to 5 and unofficially 24 hours. Any questions?”. I did not have much choice. I agreed. It so happened that I was given full freedom to choose a project (I chose sustainable packaging of premium shirts) and figure things out. I was sucked into the intensity of work, where the complexity was my own doing, but I was enjoying. While the project was on, one of my classmates, a friend and neighbour in the hostel, committed suicide. It was very shocking and disturbing for me. But I continued to stay in the same place and continue to work through the internship. I realized that it is the ‘work’ that was helping me keep the calm. During this time, I was working on a Sunday evening at the design studio of the company and the CEO walked in. He asked me, “so, you were the one who had questions about ‘official’ working-time, now see who is working on a Sunday evening, in the office”. I just smiled and said, “yes, there was some work at hand”. Take away here is not the tough CEO or pro-24x7-work, but some eternal truth and about ‘work’ itself. Here they are, five dimensions of the Karma of work :

1. WORK IS ‘THE’ BLISS ON THIS EARTH: If you have a work to do, that you like, then it is the greatest blessing you have already. If that work is being paid for, the bliss is doubled. ‘Work’ is not bound by the definition of office. It can be any activity that engages you physically, mentally and more importantly- emotionally i.e. as basic as mopping the floor. If work were to be a living person, it does not expect anything back from you for what it provides. Whatever you do, adds up to you. It is your bestie. With this work, you won’t need a ‘holiday’ or ‘have to unwind’. When aligned to your grain, work can create a new energy at the end of the day. It is like running a marathon and every step creating new energy. It is important to realize that this stage of ‘elevation’ exists; it is for real. Get yourself into the ecosystem which is energizing rather than ‘sapping’ and increase your chances of having an ‘elevated existence’.

2. BE SELFISH WHEN AT WORK: Yes, be selfish when you work. That’s not the usual narrow sense of being selfish. In fact, people don’t really know what being ‘selfish’ means. A friend or colleague calling you out for smoke or coffee, while you are deep into the work, requires a thought. Is he helping you grow by doing that? May be, you needed a break, and you didn’t know that. Great! But does it happen all the time for this reason? Your work, adds value to your being. There are many around us who would be frittering away their time and would be at pains to see someone working diligently. Recognize these leakages of your productive time. Recognize the bigger purpose beyond official JDs. Be selfish. (Indian Philosophy, raises the importance to ‘self’ to an ultimate level, through this conversation between two sages of ancient times)

3. WORK YOUR FRACTAL SEED. We become what we eat, as they say. Similarly, we become what we produce every day. If we mess-up the micro-tasks that entail our profession, we spoil our macrocosm in some ways. Recently, we worked with high-end clients on strategy projects. One of the pieces of work involved transcripting some audio files. One team member did it with interest; culling out stories, insights; sharing them with enthusiasm over lunch and documenting with a good English. Other team member, thought it to be below his/her dignity to work on this ‘profane’ work of transcription and upon pressing he/she churned out a bad quality output. He/she surely lost some credibility in the eyes of the team. But this pattern, then appeared to spill over on other assignments also. It is important to value the smaller fractions of time and work at hand equally.

4. WORK, BUT DON’T GET ATTACHED:
 This is a direct pick from the ancient Indian holy text, the Bhagwad Gita, which says that you don’t have right over the fruits of your action. Your duty is to work. As an Indian one can rattle this shloka out whenever needed. But after long years I realized the deeper truth behind. I noticed that many a times, during our client engagements, there have been severe and bitter moments. But then whenever, we have been putting honest efforts, our heart and soul at work, results have been positive ultimately. The same client, who was yelling, turned super appreciative towards the end. All I and team had to do was to keep calm and work towards empathically understanding and addressing the concerns honestly. When things didn’t work out, we were content with the fact that we really tried hard. Attachment to the result, is human, but once we are conscious of it, deliverance is ahead.