The topic of authentic work came up the other day and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The question was posed: what is unauthentic work? To answer that, clarifying the definition of authentic work made sense. One of the greatest aspects in working with startups and early stage entrepreneurs is that no one is forced to work on what they are working on. They are doing it because they are scratching their own itch, chasing a dream they envision, or filling a need they see in the market. One, or a derivative of those intents, is the driver of their behaviors and how they spend their time. That is authentic to me.
I have spent the majority of my career around people building what is true to their vision, beliefs, and vision. The nights and weekend projects that turn into successful, full-time jobs and companies inspire us all. Working on something that you, individually, were put on this green earth to work on is authentic work. Now, there will be times where the work seems meaningless or lacking vision, but keeping the long term approach of building your cathedral – where every role and skill learned is towards a larger outcome feel authentic.
How does one find their most authentic work? The first question to answer is what do you think about when not at your job? Where do you spend your time when not at school or working a j-o-b? If you’re working a job, asking yourself the question, what job would you work for free, where the interest is so high, you’ll work just to learn. Or even, what do you want to exist in this world that is not here? Those are the breadcrumbs worth following.
Back to the original question of what is unauthentic work? The realities of mortgages, rent, bills, and more weigh on everyone, and less meaningful jobs are often required to pay the bills, but this doesn’t prevent authentic work to be done. Ideally the existing job helps achieve the long term goal of your most authentic work, but even if it doesn’t, countless stories of artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs working day jobs that provide the freedom to explore their most authentic work are out there for us all to study. Inauthentic work is when your child-like creativity has turned to hardened cement. Inauthentic work is when one stops thinking past a paycheck. Inauthentic work is when there is little to no pride left in your work.
There is nothing more invigorating than being part of and shaping meaningful, authentic work.