The best jobs in life are challenging

The best jobs in life are not the easiest ones. The best jobs are the most meaningful ones. They challenge you – and make the most of your skills. The best jobs give you a chance to make a difference in the world. (And often great jobs also involve working with awesome people that also motivated by making a difference.)

Through exhaustive analysis of diaries kept by knowledge workers, we discovered the progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.
Harvard Business Review

I’ve seen a trend in how people talk about vacations. Actually, maybe it’s not a trend as I’ve heard it for the past 20 years. People want to go on vacation and sit at the beach. Lie at the beach. In the sun. Doing nothing but reading. Relaxing.

Now, I love reading. Not in the sun, but I do love reading. I could probably spend a whole vacation, a week, several weeks, maybe even months, just reading.

But the best vacations I’ve had are the ones in which you try new things, are challenged in new ways and succeed. Sailing in the BVI, as the person in charge for the first time, was way more fun than any day I ever spent at the beach. (And, to be sure, I’ve found plenty of friends willing to go on these fun and challenging vacations!)

Same goes with work. You could probably pay me a lot of money to do nothing very challenging. Every time I see what someone pays to sit in business class, I think you could pay me that amount to not sit in business class! Just think, you pay $5,000 for business class on a 10 hour flight. For $500/hour, I’d happily sit in an economy seat! I can’t sleep, but I could read my book or talk to my neighbor. Things I’m happy to do for $500/hour. But it wouldn’t be a very rewarding job. I wouldn’t feel like I had accomplished anything (other than earning $5,000!) I wouldn’t feel like I had used any special skills or learned any new talents or made a difference in the world.

Now imagine a job where you had a meaningful challenge. A purpose like making sure the next billion people coming online have the ability to create their own content. Or a purpose like making sure people creating the apps of the future could focus on their apps instead of the infrastructure. That would be a meaningful challenge. And if you were doing it well – especially if you were doing it well with people that were equally motivated and fun to work with – you’d be having fun.

So next time you see someone having fun at work and you feel a little jealous, ask yourself:

  1. Is your work meaningful?
  2. Is it challenging?
  3. Do you enjoy the people you work with?

If not, what are you waiting for?