Towards Purposeful Work

Neal Lemery
Dancing Elephants Press
3 min readMar 30, 2023


Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

(published in the Tillamook County, Oregon Pioneer, 3/290/202

by Neal Lemery

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

____ Steve Jobs

In every job I’ve had, I’ve tried to find purpose, joy, and a sense of worth. A worth in both the task and in shaping me into a better, more skilled and knowledgeable person.

“Did I create value today, did I make it better?”

And “it” has many different meanings. Did I improve my boss’ business? Did I serve someone well? Did my work better some condition or circumstance? Did the community benefit? Did someone else benefit or grow? Did I grow? Did I develop better skills? Was there value in what I did?

On a deeper level, did I advance myself, or others? Did I advance a better idea? Did I teach? Did I learn? Did others learn? Is the world a better place for what I did today?

Now when I fill out government forms, I say I’m “retired”, but that’s a misnomer. The nearly full calendar on the refrigerator and the to do list tells me that I’m anything but “retired”. I’m busy as I want to be, and that’s the real gift of retirement. The person who schedules my life isn’t someone else in the office. It’s me. I get the final say. And, if I don’t like what I am doing, the buck stops with me. My whining won’t play well on Facebook.

I do take the occasional day off, and I sometimes stop doing something simply because it no longer brings me joy. Hopefully we all do that, and we follow Steve Jobs’ advice, feeling free to be able to move on to better ourselves and the community.

Some friends who apparently don’t know me very well ask what is there to do in a small town. I can only laugh. While we have fewer people and maybe fewer outlets for volunteers and the ability to be involved than the big city, there seems to be unlimited potential to contribute, and to change the world, at least change my village.

As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

If I want to be rebellious or ornery (or, to be polite, “purposeful”), I’ll engage with just a few people, and foment a different idea or a radical thought or action. It might catch fire, and thereby change things. If I want a more satisfying life, or a better community, I need to look into the mirror and take action.

As we were leaving a now regular community event that several people had recently started up, a new resident remarked, “You need to make your own culture here.” Yes, in many ways if you want something to happen, it often starts with yourself, or your determination to find what you want to do right here.

We’re here to make a difference, and the time to act on that is today.




Neal Lemery
Dancing Elephants Press

Author of Be the Change: One Random Act of Kindness at a Time; Building Community, Rural Voices for Hope and Change; and others. On Amazon.