Livin’ the Dream

A colleague of mine answers each “how are you?” with “oh, just livin’ the dream!” I always assumed she was being sarcastic but recently, while listening to NPR, I realized she might be serious.

I was listening to an interview and a Ted Talk by Steve Shirley, the founder of a 1960’s technology company that grew from humble beginnings to be a billion dollar industry leader. The interesting thing about this company is that “Steve” is actually “Stephanie,” and she was a groundbreaker for women at a time when women working in technology was simply unheard of. She says she changed her name “from Stephanie to Steve in [her] business development letters so as to get through the door before anyone realized that he was a she.” Her tech company employed only women, and she was laughed at and mocked until her peers began to notice that her business model and her employees were changing the entire industry for the better.

Now Shirley is in her late seventies and has many valuable observations about the rise of women and the jobs they do; how the way women run their businesses is often a truly innovative and industry-leading model. One thing stuck out to me about Shirley, though. This woman LOVES her work. Not because it’s glamorous or easy. Not because she made money or gained the respect of her peers in the industry. She loves it for its own sake. As she puts it, “I did work seven days a week. I did sleep occasionally. I did very little else. So the business began to take off. I love business, really. I mean, because most of my contemporaries are playing bridge or golf, and that’s not me. [To me that seems] irrelevant.”

She said what I have felt so often but have failed to put into words. I often tell people, “I love my work.” I mean my traditional office job, but also my work at home on projects…concocting strategies for child-rearing…schedule-making and errand-running…planning a special dinner for my husband…writing this blog post. The purpose behind much of my work is to facilitate the success of others. At times my goal is just to honor God and my family with my time. Some of my work may look boring to outsiders. But accomplishing what I know I’m meant to do with my brain, my body, and my life make me feel great. Like Shirley says, “I feel I’m so lucky because I have done what is in me to do.” She really is “livin’ the dream.”

Shirley was one of the Jewish children who managed to escape the Nazis and find refuge in the UK during WWII. She says that in the wake of this difficult transition, “I decided to make mine a life that was worth saving, and then I just got on with it.” Isn’t that a beautiful sentiment?

I want to make mine a “life that was worth saving.” As a believer in Jesus Christ, I believe my life has been saved so that I can honor God with it. Still, I think that turning our lives into the kinds worth saving may sound like a big responsibility. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s what makes us human? Shirley says, “[…]there’s a passion involved in doing a really good, quality piece of work that’s better than you’ve done ever before. This really gives a drive to the individual. It’s what makes us human. Animals don’t work.”

This incredible trailblazer of a woman ended with:

“I believe in the beauty of work when we do it properly and in humility. Work is not just something I do when I’d rather be doing something else.”

I couldn’t agree more. Are you “livin’ the dream?” What motivates you to do the work set before you? Is it simply a need for money, physical health, and shelter? Or is there something in your soul that fuels a passion to make yours a life worth saving?

WORK meme

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One Comment

  1. Excellent writing and insight!

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