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Wow an ex-colleague of mine was just telling me to day how unfulfilled she was feeling at work. I'm going to send her your blogpost for encouragement.

Oh and to your question, I think when zenployment, fulfillment and how work is organized, I think of how I feel when I am focused and as many men would way "in the zone". Since I'm in the Creative Field, there is this "creative high" that designers get and you literally feel like you are focused, sharp, creative and very productive.

peter vajda

Hi Steve,

"William Nelson, of trend analysts the Future Foundation, said: "This research is further evidence that we're entering a new era, with a society that is less selfish and increasingly focused on personal fulfilment."

Hmmm..is this a rapid leap up the "ladder of inference?" I'd like to see the data that create the nexus between "less selfish" and "personal fulfillment". I see lots of folks who lust after the "personal fulfillment" goal...but as much driven by ego, greed and image (needing to be seen as "somebody" who has made/is making it)as much as, for example, Maslow's "self actualization", or a person's more spiritual intentionality to "serve" or have meaning in their work. I'd like to know folks' and Mr. Nelson's definitions of "personal fulfillment".


When you really love what you're doing, you're zen-employed. The job is part work but it's also part play, part hobby and passion ... 9 to 5 never did apply to those things.

A friend of mine just took a position with a reduced salary. It's where he wants to be. He knows he can really add something there. And he's getting a lot of zen out of that.

Steve Roesler

Holly, Peter, and Shane,

Please excuse the all-in-one response; am a moving target today.

This is turning into a fascinating conversation. Holly points out the "creative high" as a source of fulfillment and Shane, from his entrepreneurial position, looks at his work as part play, part hobby, and part passion. Kind of a holistic approach, if you will. And Shane's friend opted for what appears to be "helping others" as a more satisfying alternative than garnering a higher salary.

In the midst of all this, Peter explores SELF fullfillment and SELFlessness, wondering where the two meet up or, in fact, where one satisfies one's self at the expense of others.

And all of this as a result of looking at "meaning" and "work."

We have, indeed, entered a new era, don't you think?

Wally Bock

It's worth remembering that not everyone who leaves the corporate world in search of "fulfillment" finds it. I think this issue splits into a couple of areas.

First, are you doing the right work? Peter's point is well taken that you're zen employed if you love what you do. But that's not enough. You also have to make enough money doing what you do or what you and your spouse do.

There are several tips on how to find this. Fr. John Davitt, one of my college professors, told me that you have a vocation (in the Roman Catholic meaning) when you're willing to do the scut work that goes with your work. Marcus Buckingham has done a good job of describing strengths as things that you love to do and do well. These can be the start of a career choice.

The second part of the question is how you organize your day or week or month. Are you a lark to a night owl? What do your energy flows look like? How do you find the large-enough blocks of time to do serious work on a project? How and what kind of breaks do you need? What about days off and vacations and other times when you lie fallow?

Steve Roesler


Indeed, those are all questions that have to be considered. Father John showed wisdom in his statement about be willing to do the menial that allow you to fulfill those things you love to do and do well.

I'm wondering if, in this age, the search for self-fulfillment is somehow glossing over the reality of the nuts and bolts that really can't be ignored in order to live out "the dream."

The literature--and even those of us who write (myself included)--tend to speak about passion and talents. We don't often get down and dirty and talk about what it may take to "get there."

Any thoughts?

Timothy Singleton

I really cannot come up with the name of a person who has been outstandingly successful in business who only worked 9 to 5.

But then again, I suppose others who consider themselves successful may argue that point because they consider themselves successful. I knew a General Agent who was fairly successful with Northwestern Mutual. He had a hunting buddy who drove a pulpwood truck and was proud of the idea that he was the best pulpwooder anywhere. In his mind he was a success. In my mind, I am sure his life was a nightmare. Still, at that point he was happy in his life and I was miserable in mine.

Happy(er) now, I suppose it simply HAS to depend on your definition of success.

I cannot see my personal definition being squeezed into 9 to 5, though. For me, the answer is no.

Steve Roesler

Hi, Timothy,

Thanks for weighing in on this one.

You hit on an important factor: one's personal definition of success. If a person decides how (s)he wants life to be--and then lives it out--how much more success could one have, regardless of what everyone else is doing?

Like you, I'm just not a 9 to 5 person but I don't begrudge anyone who is.The whole idea for this post was prompted by two things:

1. The fact that I see people working or "on call" 24/7 in most of my client companies.

2. The fact that there are lots of people going out on their own because organizational life just doesn't provide enough satisfaction, challenge, or reward for the demands made on their time.

Hope to see you back again with additional thoughts!

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