Finding meaning—and fun—at work

How many of you have been told at some point to “pursue your passion” so you can “do what you love” because “work is not work if you enjoy it”? How many of you then immediately dismissed that advice because you believed that only the few lucky ones get to do what they truly love and make a living doing it? I know I did when I first started job-hunting (unless I somehow figured out a way to monetize TV-watching, restaurant menu reading/analysis and pop culture trivia).

However, I’m happy to report that I have found a happy medium where work can be extremely enjoyable without being my absolute most favorite thing to do in the world — because really, how could work beat a Downton Abbey marathon with a pause for perusing takeout menus for dinner and debating the merits of the Kimye engagement for San Francisco?

First, I found a job where I could leverage my strengths (which I previously wrote about here). Second, I found meaning in my work — by learning more about the company I work for, what it stands for, and how it became the company it is today. As Pearl S. Buck said, “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.”

As a summer intern in 2006, I joined my fellow interns at the Wells Fargo Museum, where I learned just how closely the history of our 160-year old company was intertwined with American history, and even more so with San Francisco history and the Gold Rush. As a grad student, I chose to write my final paper on Wells Fargo’s Vision and Values and how that drives the company’s strategic initiatives. More recently, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful 72-degree weather on a Friday afternoon by organizing a historical walking tour of the Wells Fargo store and ATM network near our office in downtown San Francisco. We were guided by a fellow team member who had been with the bank for over 25 years and happily shared fascinating tidbits about the Crocker location (just the building architecture makes it worthy of a visit) while pointing out restaurants, hotels and convenience stores that used to house Wells Fargo locations.

By immersing myself in the corporate values and history, I found the greater meaning of my work and an understanding that I don’t just work in the online division of a bank. What I do is to enable Wells Fargo to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially – and this knowledge allows me to have fun doing it.

What do you do to find meaning in your work?

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