Business, Content, inspiration

Finding the Meaning in Menial

It was the day before my sister’s baby shower. My mom and I scrambled to organize the flower arrangements, party favors, game cards and a million other details to ensure those months of planning came together just right. At the last-minute, we decided there wasn’t enough pink decor (because you can never have too much pink decor), so an impromptu order was placed at the local Party City for a couple dozen pink helium balloons.

The employees – mostly teens – were visibly disillusioned by their “menial” summer job of fulfilling helium balloon requests and appeasing panicked moms in search of  Frozen party poppers. After speaking with one of the employees, my mom was told that the balloons would be ready that day and guaranteed to last through the weekend.

By the next morning (day of the shower), the balloons were deflated, sickly hovering inches from the ground. The order wasn’t even correct to begin with, and by now it was too late to rectify. But, who cares, right?! They were just balloons. Those employees had better things to do than put forth 100% into such a “menial” job. It’s a temporary occupation in their career path that doesn’t count for anything more than a paycheck…right?

Even a task as seemingly menial as accurately fulfilling balloon orders has meaning. These employees are helping to bring color and fun to events that commemorate life’s greatest celebrations – birthdays, graduations, weddings and baby showers. Suddenly, that lowly summer job at Party City is something much more significant.

I’d argue there is no task or job that is menial, as there is meaning in everything. It simply depends on your outlook. 

It’s not just teenagers working a summer job that struggle with finding meaning in the menial. If you’re a manger, director or even a corporate executive – at some point in your every day, I’m willing to bet you execute a task at the office or at home that might feel “below you.” Or perhaps it’s your career that feels trivial. “I manage a gas station – where’s the meaning in that?” I’d reply that you’re ensuring hundreds of individuals and families can continue their journeys and safely arrive to their destination.

Because there’s meaning in everything, that’s reason to give everything your 100%. Every time. You never know who you might impact or whose day you could brighten with something as simple as correctly filling that balloon order. So go ahead, find the joy in reorganizing the status template, sorting the mail or delivering every McMuffin with a smile. And mean it.


Have you ever had a “menial” job that you turned into something satisfying and significant? Share your story!


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Pursuing your passion is not bullsh*t.

The top two regrets of the dying, according to nurse and author Bronnie Ware:

1) “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

2) “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”

After six years working for a (truly) amazing company, but in a job that didn’t exactly have me bounding out of bed every morning – admittedly, this revelation about late life regret struck a chord.

But it wasn’t just the thought of dying unfulfilled and regretful that was reason for concern. When my cardiologist proclaimed I was officially the youngest female he had ever treated for severe hypertension, I knew I needed to formulate an exit strategy.

So, I quit my job.

I then made the conscious choice to not spend another minute building a life I knew I’d one day regret. I decided to turn my passion for marketing communications and consumer strategy into a career where I could enjoy more flexibility. Now as a freelancer, I do what I enjoy every day, with the ability to work my own terms. Those terms? Work smarter, not harder.

DREAMY MILLENNIAL BULLSH*T, screams my fellow LinkedIn peers and elder corporate comrades.

I’ll paraphrase one professional’s comment on LinkedIn, in response to an article about building the life you want by turning a passion into a career:

As a kid, I didn’t exactly dream about being a mortgage lender, but guess what? Someone has to do it. If everyone just decided to quit their job and pursue their “passion”, the real work wouldn’t get done because everyone would be skipping around as an artist or writer. –Negative No-shenanigans Nancy

Calm down, Nancy. No need to worry about everyone jumping ship to become hipster artists (the horror!). Why am I not worried? Because there will always be people in the world (like Nancy) to fill in where others decided to take a leap of faith.

Some people are content with “good enough.” Not miserable at their job, but not happy. Some people really are miserable, but make the best of it, and find contentment in that approach.

Unfortunately (or, fortunately?), I am not either of those people. (And yes, understood not everyone has the luxury to drop everything and pursue a new path – just keep reading, my friends.)

I strongly believe following your passion is not bullsh*t. Here’s why.

Studies have shown that those who are passionate about what they do tend to be more successful and productive. In fact, passion isn’t just a factor, but the factor, for success, according to the field of positive psychology. Makes sense. If you like – no, love – what you do, you’re going to pour your heart and soul into it, not because you have to, but because you want to.

And guess what else? People who pursue their passion, in any capacity, are happier than those who don’t. For some, pursuing their passion can be turned into a lucrative career. For others, not so much; however, accumulation of wealth is not indicative of a “happy” person. As the precursor approach to Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in”, I believe Arianna Huffington’s “lean back” view is more reflective of a profound priority shift in American society:

“Ultimately, success is not about money or position, but about living the life you want, not just the life you settle for.”

Now, pursuing what makes you happy doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. Do you enjoy cooking? Carve out time on the weekend to put your grandmother’s recipes to the test. Do you find that you not only enjoy cooking, but you’re also pretty good at it? Great. The intersection of passion and talent is success. Pursue your passion every chance you get, and you may find that success comes to you naturally.

Maybe turning a passion into a career isn’t for everyone. Maybe it’s better that it’s not. But for everyone else? Go ahead. Get out there and turn those bullsh*t dreams into your own success.