Meaningfulness in work, how to read a book & writer's block

The High Five - Edition #24

Hey y’all,

I welcome all the new subscribers of ‘The High Five’. If you received this as a forward, please do subscribe so that this weekly curation of interesting pieces make your Sunday reading worthwhile, hopefully :-).

In this 24th edition, here’s what I have got to share:

  1. What exactly is meaningfulness in work?

  2. How to read a book?

  3. A perspective about ‘writer’s block’

  4. Focus dimensions for beginners, intermediates and experts

  5. A book I am reading currently

Career: What do we mean by 'meaningful work'?

A recent study by MIT Sloan Management Review threw light on some insights that answer the one question that many people often think about, but do not articulate to the depth: "What do we mean by meaningfulness in work?". In essence, 'meaningfulness' translates into these dimensions, which are more sensory and also asynchronous:

  1. Self-Transcendence: Individuals tended to experience their work as meaningful when it mattered to others more than just to themselves. Some of us might be familiar with Maslow's pyramid of human motivation. However, most descriptions and illustrations of this pyramid stop at self-actualization. Maslow's theory positioned one more element - self-transcendence, at the apex, beyond even self-actualization in importance.

    People tend to experience more meaningfulness when they feel the relevance of their work in larger contexts of groups or the wider environment.

  2. Poignant (Challenge): Meaningfulness is not only a source of joy but it also arises out challenges. Meaningfulness is not always a positive sensory experience. Challenges and difficult circumstances often lead to the sense of meaningfulness, as people reflectively derive appreciation from the experience of coping with those challenging conditions.

  3. Episodic: People experience meaningfulness in episodic bursts rather than in sustained streams of thought. Strong experiences generate a feeling of meaningfulness in work and these have peaks and troughs. Also, the moments of these experiences are not manufactured; people tend to associate meaningfulness with memorable experiences that become part of their life narratives.

  4. Reflective: Lastly, the act of experiencing meaningfulness is mostly a delayed epiphany. It is usually not experienced in the moment, but rather in retrospect and on reflection when people zoom out and make connections between their achievements and their sense of their life. There could be a sense of accomplishment on the successful completion of a task or project on a day, but broadly, it is through reflections and retrospective thinking that people tend to attach meaningfulness as a dimension to their life experiences and satisfaction.

Almost all organizations have this ambitious intent of helping people find meaning in their work. But it is a complex task that requires going much beyond the employee engagement initiatives. Moments of profound meaningfulness arise when personal/work/life experiences coalesce with the sense of recognition, appreciation and connection to big picture and purpose.

Habits: How to read a book?

This article provides a clear outline of different types of reading (a book) and what type of reading needs to be deployed depending on the content and objective. Here is a visual summary of the 4 types of reading, the mechanics involved and the objectives.

An idea that reframed my thinking: I am wondering if ‘writer’s block’ is probably a myth. As Seth Godin says:

Good ideas are easy to write, bad ideas are hard. The difficulty is a quality signal, and writer’s block usually indicates more about your ideas than your writing.

A quote that impressed me this week: If you are a beginner, focus on execution. If you are intermediate, focus on strategy. If you are an expert, focus on mindset. - James Clear

A book I am reading currently: Masala Lab - by Krish Ashok

They say cooking is both - art and science. While we get to see the art of it mostly, this nice little book explains the science behind it. I have not completed reading it yet but I am liking it so far. More on it when I finish it.

The news about the passing of Jazz legend Chick Corea brought back memories of my mid-twenties when I explored his music. After discovering John McLaughlin, I went down the rabbit-hole of Jazz fusion genre and ended up discovering artists like Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, Pat Metheny and many more. Chick Corea was one of the most formidable artists in that galaxy of jazz and I enjoyed many of his albums, including his collaborations with other legends. The one I revisited today is - Native Sense, his collaboration with Gary Burton.

Until next week.