Sometimes, You Gotta Love the One You're With

In many of my posts (including "Winning" a few weeks ago) I talk about following your heart, dreams, and passions - especially when it comes to work. The primary reason for this is my own personal experience and belief that there is no amount of money or measure of security that is worth being unhappy for. My own comfort with this philosophy has served me very well at work over the years. They don't always know what to make of me (most people who perform well are expected to be ambitious to the point of sacrificial), but they value me and provide opportunities for me to do what I love. Like all philosophies, however, mine doesn't work for everyone. Parents who work outside the home have a number of unique pressures, not the least of which is the need and desire to provide for the family. There are many unique ways to do this, of course, but in difficult economic times, it is even more challenging to say "take me or leave me, because there are some things I simply will not do."

One of my proudest professional accomplishments was being a facilitator at Dell's Leadership Academy, a week-long intensive supervisor training class for all Operations Supervisors in the US. It was always an exceptional week, but one of my favorite pieces was when we discussed how to keep employees engaged in the company's mission. One of our central ideas was that employees are more engaged when they completely understand how their day-to-day performance helps change the world for the better. You might think that would be hard at a computer company, but it was actually pretty simple: our computers enable hospital patients and their families to get the best care, they help families stay connected, they help soldiers stay in touch with their loved ones. When we trained this, a lot of light bulbs went off as our leaders began to see how their work had real meaning in the world.

Now I work for Life Technologies, a large biotech headquartered in Carlsbad, CA. We generally describe our products as being the "picks and shovels" that scientists in Companies and Universities use to conduct research on genetic sequencing, diseases, drugs, forensic kits, etc. It's some pretty cool stuff; regardless of how you feel about things like bioethics and stem cells, the work we do does indeed save lives and help to improve the human condition.

Now that's all well and good, but sometimes work just sucks. It's still a company, after all, with deadlines, bosses, pressures, hours, politics (less than most companies, but still), etc. The past few days have been pretty overwhelming: as I type this, I have worked 10 straight days, and I've gotten 3 hours of sleep a night for the past three days. This morning, I was pissed. I was pissed at the amount of work, pissed at being away from my family, pissed at the type of work I've been doing, and generally . . . well, pissed.

So, in such a fine mood, I walked into a training room this morning for a 10 hour meeting that I've been prepping for for days. As I rounded the corner to go into the meeting room, I saw this picture on the wall:

Look at that for a minute. Look at the love. Make an assumption about why the head is shaved, like I did. That's what we do. That's what I help every day. That's what my last week has gone to help create and preserve. That's the future and the possibility that I have helped, in some small way, to ensure. I don't pity these two beautiful women, nor am I grateful for all that I have in light of their hard time. I just feel good that I helped it get better, for them and for others.
I love this job and this company. If I didn't, I might be inclined to take a hard week like this one and "follow my passion" to a different path, even in a down economy. But when I see things like this, it reminds me of why I love to work here, and it makes it easy for me to get and stay engaged. And it makes it really simple to love the one I'm with.