“I realized that my job is to awaken possibility in others.”

From Beethoven To Billionaires, An Ode To Joy And Love At Work

Diane Brady - Forbes
Articles — February 14, 2023

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I grew up thinking today’s holiday was a construct of the greeting-card industry until I realized its origins date back to a third-century Roman festival in which young women would allegedly be slapped with the hide of a sacrificial goat–to enhance fertility, of course–and then be paired with a random bachelor. That pagan tradition became a decidedly different affair when the Catholic Church rebranded it to honor a martyred saint, or saints. Like Christmas, its history has been muddied by mythology, multiple parents, and the marketing sensibilities of companies like Rankin/Bass. Whatever its origins, Hallmark Cards stepped in more than a century ago to make it a moment to profess your love for everyone through mass-market cards.

Love has become a gauge by which we’re now encouraged to also measure everything from cars to careers. Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner once told me that the last time he “worked” was his final day of college because he never again had to do something he didn’t love. (In keeping with the season, we’ll let that one pass without comment.)

Loving our jobs doesn’t always work out well. As author Sarah Jaffe noted in her 2021 bestseller, Work Won’t Love You Back, doing what you love can be a recipe for exploitation. Enjoying a task doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be well-compensated for doing it. On the other hand, expecting love can also stoke the kind of resentment that leads to quiet quitting and “acting your wage..” The disappointment from feeling trapped in a loveless relationship with your employer can also lead to a messy public split.

Joy at Work

The factors that fuel job satisfaction are much like those that make for a satisfying relationship: respect, shared values, communication, emotional connection, and a sense of shared purpose, among other things. Studies have also found who you work with matters more than what you do.

On a personal level, it’s also about finding growth, passion and meaningful work. I spoke to two people this week who epitomize the kind of love for their work that many aspire to find.

The first is Ben Zander, the legendary conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, who will be performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at Carnegie Hall on Feb 26th. Some of you may know Zander by his Ted Talk or his bestselling book with Rosamund Stone Zander, The Art of Possibility. (Zander has said he feels his job is to awaken possibility in others.) Now celebrating his 50th anniversary in leading the Boston Philharmonic, Zander remains a passionate student and teacher of music. Whether talking about his work with the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra or his lifelong quest to understand Beethoven’s intention with the metronome in his ubiquitous Symphony No. 9, Zander exudes joy. As a result, it’s a joy to speak with him.

Here is a link to our interview on Forbes Talks. I’m inspired by Zander’s 45-year quest to understand and interpret Symphony No. 9. “Beethoven was the greatest teacher we ever had,” Zander says, “writing the single most optimistic, positive piece of music ever written.” The composer had contemplated suicide when he realized he was losing his hearing. He was isolated, ill, unhappy with the politics of the time. And yet he also had a driving sense of purpose.

Zander has that same sense of purpose. As leaders and teachers, he says, “we have a job to enable the people we are leading to be more expressive, more engaged, more happy.” Zander notes that it will cost $650,000 to bring the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra to Carnegie Hall for a 65-minute concert on February 26. In my view, that’s money well spent.

The second person I want to mention is at the starting point of his new career. Harry Martin just opened The Roller Wave roller-skating rink this past weekend, a few blocks away from my apartment in Brooklyn. What motivated the former personal trainer to invest his savings and time in this venture was the joy he found at other roller rinks. Now 34, Martin says he discovered the power of roller skating at 26 and set out to recreate that blend of music, fitness and community in his home borough of Brooklyn.

“I was going through depression and anxiety at the time,” says Martin. “When I went to a roller rink, the experience of gliding around the rink felt so good and meditative. It just connected with me. I wanted to bring that here, so others could feel it, too.”

Now, he has. That’s how you find joy at work.

And On The Romantic Front

Here’s a look at America’s most eligible billionaires. I noticed that a fresh-faced Jack Dorsey made the list a decade ago. Now the cofounder and former CEO of Twitter, who’s currently running Block, is back with a new look and approach to life. Successor Elon Musk is technically available, as is Kim Kardashian. Whether you’d want to date these folks—or they would want to date you—is a topic to be contemplated over a candlelit dinner tonight. (I shall be dining alone, with beautiful music and a single glass of wine, thanks to the new draconian guidelines from my home country of Canada.)

And I’d be remiss not to mention the perils of the office romance. The latest casualty is Toronto Mayor John Tory, who resigned last week after the Toronto Star revealed that he’d had an affair with a former staff member. Former ABC anchors T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach also lost their jobs when their affair was exposed in the news. Maybe that’s why a study found 82% of people engaged in a workplace romance keep it a secret.

Have a great week.

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