What Kind of Work Do You Do?

A story is told of three brick layers, Peter, Paul and Phillip, who were asked what they were doing. Peter said, “I am laying bricks.” Paul said, “I am building a church.” Phillip said, “I am building the house of God.”

If you looked at the three brick layers, you would see them doing the same thing. But in their minds, they were doing three different things. Peter had a job. Paul had a career. And Phillip had a calling.

While all three might get the same financial compensation from their employer, they don’t all get the same job satisfaction. This is why: A job is something you do to put food on the table and a roof over your head. A career is something you do to advance yourself. It is more like a steppingstone, one of the rungs on the proverbial corporate ladder. A calling is much more deeper and meaningful. It is something you do passionately because you love it and can’t think of life without it. A calling is the reason you are alive. When you are in your calling, you are infused with purpose.

Many people wouldn’t think of their work as a calling. When you talk about calling, their minds go straight to people in the clergy, wearing collars. But the truth is, any work can be a calling, be it accounting, teaching, singing, writing, or even sweeping the streets.

People who look at their work as a calling are not self-focused. They are other-focused. For example, when Phillip the brick layer said that he was building the house of God, he wasn’t thinking of the actual work of laying one brick on top of the other, although that’s what he was doing. He was thinking of the end result of his work and the impact that his work would have on others. He was thinking beyond the pay cheque he would get after laying bricks.

When the entire focus of your work is on how it can fulfil your desires, your work will only be a job. A job never satisfies you emotionally. That is why you can have a good salary and still feel unsatisfied with your work. On the inside of everyone of us is a deep yearning to do work that is bigger than ourselves, work that goes beyond our own selfish needs. And as long as you are not treating your work as a calling, you will feel like that every now and again.

So how can you start treating your work as a calling? There is no quick and easy solution to this. Sometimes the work you are doing isn’t work you should be doing at all. That means you have to look for more meaningful work to satisfy you.

Now, don’t go and quit your job today. I won’t be there to feed you if you don’t have an income. If you feel that you are in the wrong job, start looking for one that you think will make you come alive as you serve others. The next time you are applying for a job, ask yourself, is this job my calling?

Sometimes you can be doing work that is your calling but instead of taking it like it is your calling, you take it like it’s just a job. This will require you to change your attitude towards your work. It’s very simple. All you need to do is start thinking of your work more in terms of how it serves others, than how it serves you. And when you finally become happy with your work, you will come and thank me.

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There is Nothing Worthwhile Without Hard Work

I used to work in an advertising agency. I was a copywriter. In that job, most of my work was thinking up ideas. Sometimes I would write sketches in my notebook or type them out on my laptop. In the end, you would get a two-word headline, or a 90-word radio ad and coming up with those two words could sometimes get really hard!

I even developed a habit of taking a stroll every lunch time, notebook and pen in my pocket. If you found me walking, you would think I’m just loitering but inside my head, I was working hard.

That job taught me the value of working hard. Most of the good work I did came out of exerting a lot of mental energy to a problem. I learned that nothing worthwhile comes about without a lot of hard work. Even when you are doing something that you enjoy, hard work is inevitable for success.

Stephen King, one of my role models, has written 58 novels and 5 nonfiction books so far, not counting TV shows and movies. He is very talented and obviously works extremely hard. There is no way talent alone could have gotten him such success. Like someone once said, hard work will always beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

I want to think that I’m a good writer. Still, I can’t hide from the fact that I’m not the best writer there is. Even in my small circle of writer friends, I know a few who write much better than I do. I have therefore purposed that I might not beat them at the craft of writing, but I’ll beat them at working hard. I will out-write all of them. I haven’t yet achieved a lot, but I already have four books published under my name and a few others already in the pipeline. I plan to put my best foot forward always.

What do you want to achieve? What do you want to do with your life? Do you have a dream that burns in your heart? I may not know all that you need to succeed, but this one thing I know: you can never go wrong when you get busy, put in the time, break a sweat, and work hard.

What is that one thing you are going to work hard on until you succeed? What are you waiting for?

On Life and Jigsaw Puzzles

Every once in a while, I pay myself by buying a jigsaw puzzle to play with.Recently I started working on a new jigsaw puzzle. While assembling this 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, which is a painting of Mount Rainier, Washington State, I learnt a few lessons on life. I would like to share some of them with you.

Life is like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece on its own doesn’t make sense. It looks like some random colours. It is only when you put that piece with the other pieces that you create a beautiful picture. In the same way, you can’t look at life in only one dimension. Life involves family, school, friends, work, play, and many other things. Sometimes, one of the areas in your life might not go well. For example, the exams will get hard or you will fail a job interview. That doesn’t mean that your life has ended. If you look at the big picture, you will be able to notice that life is actually good. It is beautiful. You just need to put the pieces together.

The box of a jigsaw puzzle has a picture of the complete puzzle. In order for you to assemble the puzzle successfully, you have to keep referring to the picture on the box. Life can look meaningless without a reference point. What does a successful life look like to you? Do you have an idea or a picture in your imagination about it? Do you have someone that you know who is the way you want to be? You should have someone or something to refer to. That’s how this puzzle called life will be able to make sense.

When assembling a jigsaw puzzle, you can’t just force any piece to fit anywhere. You have to put in the hard work of looking for the right piece that fits in order to create the whole picture. Even in life, some things like relationships and careers don’t necessarily fit where you might want them to fit. So instead of exerting a lot of energy trying to make some things in your life fit where you want them to fit, it is better to spend that energy looking for the parts that actually fit. For example, if a girl consistently says no to your advances, you need to let her go and look for one who will say yes.

What other lessons do you think we can learn from jigsaw puzzles?

Life is too Short to be Wasted

Imagine you went to hospital with this pain in your body. The doctor carries out tests and gives you the worst news you’ve ever heard. You have cancer. It’s in its advanced stages. And you have only thirty days to live.

What would you do in those remaining thirty days?

Now, stop reading and think about it. Seriously. Stop now. Think. What would you do?

Would you travel the world? Would you spend those days with the people closest to you? Would you start a family? Would you buy a house or a car? Would you write a song or a book? Would you sell all your stuff and give the money to charity? Would you eat lots of pizza and ice cream? Would you binge watch all your favourite TV shows?

Whatever you’d do in those thirty days, why aren’t you doing it now?

Statistics show that 100% of all people are going to die. That includes you. So whether you’ll die in the next thirty days, or the next thirty years, it doesn’t really matter. The fact remains that you will die, whether you want to or not. Your time on earth is finite. So why spend it like you will live forever? Why spend it on things that you don’t really love doing?

Just because you are young doesn’t give you the freedom to waste time. Time is the only resource in the world that can’t be taken back once it has been spent. You can’t create more of it or save it. You have 24 hours in a day. No more, no less.

Successful people understand this principle of time and use it to their advantage. They treat time as their most important resource, and use it constructively.

Suppose you are going to live up to 80 years. That means, you’ll live for 29,200 days (80×365). That’s only 700,800 hours (29,200×24). You never get to live even 1 million hours! That’s how short life is. And if, like me, you’ve already lived for at least 25 years, that means you have less than 481,800 hours left. If you only use 8 hours every day for constructive work, that only leaves you with 160,600 hours. And we haven’t factored in Uganda’s many public holidays and weekends and sick days!

With such little time left, how can you afford to slack off? How can you afford to sleep longer? How can you afford to not pursue your dreams?

Never Give Up

I love writing. I write for a living. And I want to think that I’m living the best life ever. My friends think that because I do what I love, it is easy and effortless. But I must admit, there are very few things that I’ve done in my life that are as hard as writing. Actually, the only thing I’ve ever done that’s harder than writing is A level mathematics.

Writing involves sitting in a desk for long hours, and coming up with words. Sometimes the words come easily. But most times, I have to force them to come. Sometimes I stare at the screen for hours, willing myself to come up with the words, and nothing comes.

Many times, I’ve been tempted to give up.

It would be easier to be like everyone else, go out and get a real job. I could do what I studied at campus, and hopefully earn a good living from it.

But I have made up my mind that I won’t give up on my dream.

Nothing that is worthwhile comes easy. Nothing with a huge payoff comes without hard work and discipline. I know this might sound like your primary school motto, but it’s the fact. Hard work pays.

I still remember the day I opened my inbox to find photos from my publisher. They were photos of the first copy of Rise of the Robot. The joy that filled my heart is indescribable. Suddenly, the sleepless nights I’d had, the agonizing hours in front of my computer writing that book, they were all forgotten. The pain of those hours working on the book were nothing compared to the joy of seeing it in print.

I’m currently working on another book project. It’s the biggest book project I’ve ever worked on. And sometimes it is very scary. But every time I feel like giving up, I imagine the sight of my name on a printed cover with that book’s title. I think about my friends and family reading it and telling me how it made them feel. I think about the money that will be made from it. I think about success. And that keeps me going.

What are you enduring? Is it sleepless nights reading for a test? Is it a hard-to-please boss who might be your ticket to a promotion? Whatever it is, don’t give up. Nothing good comes easy. One day, when the results of your hard work start coming in, you will realise that all the hardship was worth it.

Be Resilient

I still remember the first time I saw those words. I was about to do my S4 exams. It was visitation Sunday and my mum had come with a bunch of success cards from relatives. I don’t remember any of those cards or what was in them. But I still remember the card from my uncle. There was nothing special about it, but on the inside, written in his bad handwriting, were those two words: “Be Resilient.”

At that time, I never understood the meaning of the word “Resilient,” but it never left my mind. So, I went and checked it out in the dictionary.

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Resilience means, “the ability of people or things to feel better quickly after something unpleasant such as shock, injury, etc.”

I didn’t know how important those words would be in future. It’s only after much experience with unpleasant events like losing a job or a loved one, that I have come to appreciate that success card. These days, every time something bad happens, I tell myself, “Paul, be resilient.”

Resilience means picking yourself up and looking for another job after you have been fired. Resilience means going back to class the next day and studying harder after you have gotten a bad test score. It also means going back to university to do a retake in that paper you failed so that you can graduate.

Looking elsewhere for potential girlfriends after the girl you have been eyeing for some time friend-zones you also takes resilience. Sometimes even waking up and getting out of bed on a cold, rainy morning takes resilience.

You have resilience built up on the inside of you. It is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. So, don’t let circumstances kick you around. Stop being reactive to every negative situation that comes your way.

You have the power in you to be proactive, to take charge of your life, and to steer it wherever you want it to go. All of us face hardships and setbacks. Even the richest man in Uganda lost his bank. Stuff happens. The only way to get ahead of it all is to be resilient.

What situation are you facing today that requires you to be resilient?

How to Increase Your Internal Pressure in Order to Deal with Life

Do you remember learning about the properties of air in primary school? I don’t remember how many properties there were. I can only remember three. Air has weight. Air occupies space. Air exerts pressure. There was this experiment in a science textbook to prove that air exerts pressure. Heat was applied to a metallic can. Then it was tightly lidded and put away from the heat to cool down. As the can cooled down, it started crumpling and folding in on itself.

The air in the can expanded when it was heated. On closing the can and reducing the temperature of the air within, the pressure on the outside of the can became greater than the pressure within.

Our lives are more or less like that metallic can. Whenever the pressure on the outside becomes greater than the pressure on the inside, we crumple and fall apart like a house of cards.

Now, whether we want it or not, there will always be pressure on the outside. The pressures will include being broke, losing a loved one, failing a paper, screwing up a work project, or even being dumped by your girlfriend. While we can control some pressures, most of them are beyond our control. For example, you can’t control being fired from your job because a major donor pulled out their funds which were financing your organisation.

So, what can you do about these life pressures? If you increase the pressure on the inside of you, you won’t be crumpled by the pressure on the outside. Developing mental, physical and spiritual stamina is how you increase your internal pressure.

Developing mental stamina involves pushing your mind to its limits, forcing it to think and do beyond what you are comfortable with. It also involves engaging in mentally stimulating activities like reading, playing an instrument or even painting. Did you know that Albert Einstein played the violin and the piano and Winston Churchill painted?

Developing physical stamina involves keeping physically fit through exercise and a good diet. If you don’t take the best care of your body, it will one day fall apart when more external pressure is exerted on it. If you want to know if your internal physical pressure is higher than your external physical pressure, try climbing the stairs to your office instead of taking the lift. Do you arrive at your office breathless? Then you need to increase your internal physical pressure.

In my opinion, the hardest internal pressure to master is the spiritual one. Your soul will get bombarded with lots of stress and emotional distress at least once in your lifetime. Your spiritual disciplines or lack thereof, irrespective of your denominational inclinations, will determine whether you weather life’s storms, or fall apart.

What are you going to do today to increase your internal pressure?