University of Bedfordshire, 1994
The power of your Why
It’s my first semester at University when I stumble across a noticeboard advert for a charity parachute jump.
Signing up for it would have meant eating into about a month’s worth of my meagre living allowance. So I had to find a way to scrape the money together.
I dropped into a high street recruitment firm and said “I’ll do anything”. I should have been more fussy! Since I found myself on the nightshift at an abattoir!
I did all sorts of crappy jobs when I was younger, but this was by far the crappiest. I remember being picked up by a packed minibus at some ungodly hour, which sped across the Bedfordshire countryside so that we could put on our hairnets, overalls and wellington boots and prepare meat for a supermarket.
Cows and sheep were walked into one end of the building and little packs of mince and lamb chops destined for the meat counter walked out the other side. I’ll spare you the details, all I’ll say is that it was a grim place to work. But I also found it fascinating, because, unless the whole world turns vegetarian overnight, somebody has to do it. It was a peek at an area of the economy that most people would prefer to ignore.
I think I did 3-4 shifts in total, and every time I turned up for a new shift I got placed further up the assembly line. I started overseeing the conveyor belt of styrofoam meat trays and ended up after a few shifts being closer to the slaughter and butchery parts of the operation.
The thing I can still remember to this day was the dead eyed look of the other people working there. Maybe it was because it was the night shift, maybe it was because they had mentally checked out.
But I raised my money, got trained, did the parachute jump and got my few seconds of free fall and crossed a truly amazing experience off the bucket list.
Would I have gone anywhere near an abattoir if I hadn’t been driven by my goal? No. But as Friedrich Nietzsche said “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”.
Brecon Beacons, 2022
I was walking in the Brecons last weekend and got chatting with a guy who had just completed the Marathon de Sables, the equivalent of a mind boggling six marathons across the Sahara desert. I asked him, “How on earth did you keep yourself going? How did you keep yourself motivated?” Surprisingly, he said it wasn’t a case of whether I keep going or not. He wasn’t mulling over whether to stop. Instead, what was on his mind was how do I handle the pain? How do I manage the pain that I experience? He was running for a charity very close to his heart. That was his Why.
The power of your Why
My point is that work tapping into your Why, your true calling, provides an enormous supply of motivation and determination if harnessed correctly. I would also argue it leads to better mental health, less stress and more joy.
Why would you want to ignore that? Why would anyone want to ignore the power of your Why if given the opportunity?