The Essence of Work — Part 2 — Fundamental Questions
This post is part-2 of a series of ten essays on the essence of work. For an introduction, check here.
This video is the record of a talk by Santiago Ortiz at EYEO Festival in 2014. Santiago is a visualization artist, and that is what triggered my attention first, but listening to the talk, I realized if was about the essence of work.
The description of the video starts with:
“Six Months — The last 6 months of 2012 happened to be the most stressful and creative of my life. Here’s the story.”
It’s a great way to create perspective of where you are now, your last six months, and to see why you were meant to be here, and what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. It’s a great way to re-assess what the essence of your work should be for YOU.
The first 6 minutes is a fantastic way on reflecting what is boring or not, whether you are boring or not. A narrative that is first looking at “before the 6 months”, then looking at “after the 6 months”, and then looking at what really happened “during his 6 months”.
It’s a different form of curriculum. In the case of Santiago’s talk, the real core of the curriculum of the last 6 months starts at min 11, where he shows how his visualization work lead to a different visualization of a curriculum.
It is called the “Ross Spiral Curriculum”
It makes me think about “Spiral Dynamics” of John Beck. It makes me think of the “Teal Organizations” by Frederic Laloux, who got inspired by Spiral Dynamics and Integral Life Practice of Ken Wilber (Ken will come back in Part-3 about “Needs”).
But instead of the Spiral Dynamics of an organization, a culture, a worldview, it feels like the Spiral Dynamics of a person, documenting the specific evolutionary complexity of the narrative of a person, beyond any specific grade or self-aggrandizement.
At minute 10:30, he gets into the fundamental questions:
“I am alone, I am living in Argentina, and I have to build something. In order to create a work-life, a business”.
It’s a deep reflection:
the essence of work is to create a work-life.
Think about that…
What are his assets at the start of the 6 months:
There is an interesting one under reputation. “My company was well known, but not my name, my reputation”.
The essence of work in the very near future (if not already here) is working your personal brand.
The isolation topic is interesting as well, as it is about having “access to the opportunities” that are of interest to YOU, not your company.
Thinking about it, with the six categories above Santiago invented a great way of making your personal assessment, and — maybe without knowing it — Santiago created a framework and model for self-assessment and personal growth, where you stand and want to be in terms of:
- Your financial savings
- Your personal brand
- Your access to opportunities
- Your existing portfolio (like a artist’s portfolio, or a model’s portfolio — quite different than your LinkedIn profile that is more about bragging then anything else)
- The toolkit that you currently master
- Your contextual environment
Next is to look into what can I do in “the next 6 months”, to improve yourself dramatically on all of these axes to create a place where you can “live a life well worked”. In the case of Santiago, that was:
What is yours?
How will you improve dramaticallyon the axes of the self-assessment frameworkto get to your “essence of work”?
You have — like Santiago — ask yourself these fundamental questions:
- “What I deeply love to do?” should be answered with action not with thought!!! It is really asking the question what gives me dopamine, what makes me happy when I am DOING that. It is probably in the realm of developing new techniques, and the pure joy that doing something from zero is very good.
- In the “What I am exceptionally good at?” the keyword is “exceptionally”.
- “What makes social sense?” is asking the question “What could be a business for me?”. In the sense as mentioned above: “what could be a good work-life?” But first make sense. Once you made sense, it is easier to make a business out of it.
It is all about meeting yourself, seeing yourself in the mirror of the magic tension of stress, fear, health, and fun.
Map art by Fairburn
Santiago ends by saying that what he does NOT want to do is ART. He wants to work with people who have real problems, not just experimental stuff that is food for thought, inspiration, etc. That is his choice. All respect.
But it seems that for me, the “essence of work” is almost becoming the opposite of that:
- I want to create an environment for my clients where we deliberately stay way from the day-to-day problem solving, as that is what you already do all year long.
- I want to create an environment where we make deeper connections with our purpose, our caring in life, and the deep underlying narratives of our personal and corporate mission statements and intentions.
It’s “basically” connecting with each other at another level than the pure cognitive, staying away from the unbearable lightness of tactics.
At the end of the talk — really in the epilogue at minute 36 — there is the short appearance of the “System Maps of Life”. I love it: reflecting about your life, not as a linear curriculum, but a dynamic spiral of many narratives that come together in one person, that make that person unique.
The key question of this all is of course how to create a “life well worked” around the essence of you as a person, with that rich spiral dynamic. How you create the essence of work for your “onlyness” (a term coined by Nilofer Merchant)