The Key in Ecclesiastes

admin | Eric Holter

In my mentoring work, as I get into the nitty-gritty of evaluating and assessing the particular troubles of creative services businesses, I also aim to restore the joy and contentment in my client’s work life. Persistent business struggles can really sap the pleasure out of creativity.

Work is hard, that’s why it’s called work. But it can be enjoyable in itself. But maintaining contentment and joy in work is not automatic—in fact enjoyment in work can be frustratingly illusive.

I believe that the key to maintaining joy in our work is profoundly set forth in an ancient and time-tested book. The book of Ecclesiastes.

The hard lesson that Ecclesiastes confronts us with is that—in the big picture—work really is futile. In the scheme of things, any impact we make in this world will eventually be forgotten. This is a hard reality to face. And in the ephemeral, non-physical nature of web design, this reality is all too often experienced. I’ve poured months of time and effort into building websites that would last maybe 3-5 years. Then it’ll get replaced by a new one. And what becomes of all that work? It’s gone—relegated to the archives of the Way Back Machine. Sometimes I envied architects because at least their work lasts. But zoom out just a little and you realize that even buildings don’t last forever—where is Solomon’s glorious palace today?

You see, the deepest joy in our work must not come from the results of the work itself. We have to find satisfaction in something else. If we demand that the results of our work deliver satisfaction, it will always elude us. But if we hold it with a loose hand, and acknowledge the small, everyday pleasures derived from our labors, we can come to have genuine and deep enjoyment in our work. It all begins by facing the nature of toil, overcoming its taunting voice, and then finding rest in the full range of all our activities under the sun.

So, while I’m helping my clients—as I dig into their numbers, talk to their employees, and analyze root problems—I’m also indirectly (sometime directly) teaching them how to apply the ancient and time-tested lessons of how to restore and preserve joy in their work.