Dying and the value of our work

Bit by bit, we’re inching closer to our deathbeds. While this isn’t meant to bring anyone down, I am trying to elicit an emotional response. Why? Because without evoking emotions, we tend to forget that we all eventually move on.

This way of thinking has many implications, not least for our work. That overused, heavy but oh-so-meaningful thing we like to think about and spend time doing.

If we really care about our work and what it means to people, we owe it to ourselves and the people whom we think our work is for to pause and ponder (before we can’t):

Is the work I’m choosing to do today going to improve someone’s, anyone’s, life now or very soon in the future?

If not, don’t do it. Choose to spend your precious time doing something else that does make someone’s life better. I believe that ultimately all work is done to achieve that singular end of improving lives.

Journalists write to inform and catalyse action. Elon Musk innovates so that future generations can planet-hop and in the meantime, inspire generations of innovators. Programmers create software to relieve society of the banalities of life and help people (re)connect. Street cleaners sweep the floors to allow fellow city folks to live in a hygienic environment.

We may not do what we do because we love it, but the fact that there’s such work to be done should be enough indication that society, collectively, values it. And if society values it, it means people value it, which means individual human beings value it.

Your work, my work, everyone’s work is valuable. But it can be even more valuable, even more impactful and meaningful if we just pause occasionally to remember that we’re dying, and there’s only so little time left to do it. We don’t have many more days to work.