Serve the Work, Not The Community

“The only true way of serving the community is to be truly in sympathy with the community, to be oneself part of the community and then to serve the work without giving the community another thought. Then the work will endure, because it will be true to itself. It is the work that serves the community; the business of the worker is to serve the work.”

Dorothy Sayers

If you settle into a community and focus on your work, your work will live a long, honest life.

Sayers words remind me to think different. What if I didn’t pay attention to the community beyond settling into it. What if I honed in on the tasks themselves? What if I found joy out of the work? Joy creeps in and out, but I easily forget about it too.

This is important because focusing on the work prevents me from chasing fame, popularity, acceptance, or status. When you choose to chase fame or acceptance, you are serving the community and not the work. I recently saw a quote from President Obama that relates when he answered a tough question:“When is the time you felt most broken?” He admits turning forty and being frustrated with something that wasn’t working. He reminded himself that, “It’s about the work.”

“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped. I had been in the state legislature for a long time, I was in the minority party, I wasn’t getting a lot done, and I was away from my family and putting a lot of strain on Michelle. Then for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ – then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.” Humans of New York

For me, the joyful work is in the Excel sheets, charts, PowerPoints, articles, images, recommendations, strategies etc. I spend hours perfecting and synthesizing these. Sayers words informed me that there is craftsmanship in the work that I do. It is advantageous to focus on the work because as you do,  the craft improves.

Focusing on the work means I get to practice craftsmanship. I am part of a team that creates things like this!