My favorite question to ask lately is “why do you do the work that you do?” Most people look at you blankly, as if this question has never been considered. Not wanting to appear shallow, they quickly recover and explain that they work to pay their bills or put their kids through college, of course.
But every once and awhile I meet someone who has a prompt and enthusiastic answer to this question. Their eyes light up and the meaning of their work tells you everything you need to know.
“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”~ Viktor E. Frankl
My hairdresser is one of these people. When I asked him why he chose his career, he spent a few minutes explaining the logistics of deciding to go to beauty school after graduating from high school. But right after that came the real answer to my question. He told me what he loves about his work; what gives it meaning.
For my hairdresser, every hour someone arrives, flops down tired and stressed into his chair, and proceeds to share their stories while he diligently cuts their hair. But this hairdresser does his work with an enthusiasm you rarely experience.
For the hour you sit in his chair, you are the center of the universe. He gives you a neck and shoulder massage. He asks you to tell him whats on your mind. He finds a way to mention how interesting you are and how much he enjoys visiting with you.
He takes a few extra minutes at the end to style your hair as if you were leaving for an important appointment. He hugs you when he says goodbye. At the end of this hour, you look in the mirror, you are refreshed, you have new kind of confidence, and you leave with a lift in your step.
The meaning of the hairdresser’s work? He transforms your day while he cuts your hair. And he goes home at night knowing that he is doing meaningful work. No surprise, his schedule is booked weeks in advance. Because people who know the meaning, the purpose of their work, are amazingly good at what they do.