The duty trap

Every education system rewards duty and tends to encourage us to forget our true desires. After years of school and university, we often can’t conceive of asking ourselves too vigorously what we might in our hearts want to do with our lives; what it might be fun to do with the years that remain. It’s not the way we’ve learned to think. The rule of duty has been the governing ideology for 80% of our time on earth – and it’s become our second nature. We are convinced that a good job is meant to be substantially dull, tedious, and annoying. Why else would someone pay us to do it?

This dutiful way of thinking has high prestige because it sounds like a road to safety in a competitive and alarmingly expensive world. But, in fact, success in the modern economy will generally only go to those who can bring extraordinary dedication and imagination to their labors – and this is only possible when one is, to a large extent, having fun. Work produced merely out of duty is limp and lacking next to that done out of love. In other words, pleasure isn’t the opposite of work; it’s an essential ingredient of successful work.

Yet we have to recognize that asking ourselves what we might really want to do – without any immediate or primary consideration for money or reputation – goes against our every, educationally-embedded assumption about what could possibly keep us safe – and is therefore rather scary. It takes immense insight and maturity to remember that we will best serve others – and can make our own greatest contribution to society – when we bring the most imaginative and most authentically personal sides of our nature into our work.

Duty can guarantee us a basic income. Only sincere, pleasure-led work can generate sizeable success. 1 #

 
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