Papa Why Are You Working?

This morning, I let my three-year-old girl stay home and play in my study while I worked. She watched me practice yoga and meditate . “Can I do it, too?” She sat in front of me, crossed her legs, linked her thumbs and index fingers. 42 seconds. A good start.

Later, me at the computer, she played with puzzles and books and banged on singing bowls and tambourines and drums. Finally, she said, “Why are you working?”

Good question. One that gets to the heart of work’s purpose and source of meaning. I ask myself some version of this question every morning. What am I writing for? What am I consulting for? What am I coaching for? What am I giving a talk for?

It’s the question that drives the first chapter of my previous book, The Journey from the Center to the Page.

Usually, the question and its phrasing help me remember that the activity is about more than me.

And in this instance, this morning, I do have so many options. I am my own boss and colleague.

“Because I enjoy working,” I started.  Good to know, I thought. “Because I have fun working,” I said again.

“Actually,” and then I pulled away from the desk, “there are a lot of people I know who don’t enjoy their work so much.  They want to feel good when they’re working. Like when you’re humming your own song and banging that drum – they want to feel something like that, too.”

She gave me a doe look.

“So I work to help people feel really good at their work, sweetie.”

That was about as good as I could do for three-year-old ears.

Other answers swirl in my mind’s background.

Yesterday morning, I was in Pittsburgh delivering a talk on The Creative Mindset at Work. Incredible people working with major grant making foundations in the nation who in turn fund NPOs. Ultimately, they are working to fund ideals.

Suddenly, I said, “I thrive by helping people work optimally. Which means they’re not simply satisfied with their work but deeply, deeply gratified with their work. And I do that by helping them by agile problem-artists.”

That felt right, too.

Well, my little girl, lounging on her back and still humming her own song, just asked me, “Are you happy, Papa?”


The most innocent questions can open us up to what matters.

I’ve been working steadily for 90 minutes – even with intermittent three-year-old good questions – and it’s time to walk my talk and take a Delightful Diversion.

Time for a dance break. Good Day, Sunshine.

Why are you working? Or phrased another way, What are you working for? What innocent question is opening you up to what matters today?

See you in the woods,


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  1. Jeffrey

    I’ve enjoyed the work I do for over 20 years, but since I jumped into the social web things have changed dramatically. Why? Because I started writing every day and interacting with some amazing people. So here I am 10 months later with a new direction for my business and some amazing plans. Having more fun then ever, honestly.

    It looks like you are as well … 🙂

    1. Craig~It does like you’re doing fantastic work – and your joy shows.

      The social web is definitely fulfilling its promise in many ways.

      Thanks for dropping in the hut.

  2. Hah, Jeffrey! I read the first line of Craig’s comment and thought (ME TOO!) until I read the rest of it and felt deflated. NOT ME! I love social media, but it does not jive with my analog experience of writing. I hear “content marketing” and want to slit my wrists! CONTRIVED is all I hear. And it makes me want to crawl back up in my shell and never write again.


    1. Smallstate~I understand. It took me @3 years of outrightly ignoring any-and-all social media and blogs and then entering these spheres on my own terms to start thriving in a whole new way.

      That said, I was on a plane last week writing in one of my pocket Moleskine project notebooks. The guy next to me, iPhone in hand, said, “Wow. You don’t see that much anymore.”

      “What?” I said.

      “Notebooks. Pens.” He thought it was cool, like I was playing a phonograph or something.

      A part of us is wired to set up dualities such as “social media vs analog.” Another more remarkable part of us can trump that duality as each of us find our own way, our own synthesis. Here’s to your finding whatever helps you serve your best self’s writing and serve the people who need your writing.