Last week, I celebrated International Women’s Day in one of the best ways possible: with other female entrepreneurs. I went to Dubai for Cartier Women Initiative’s 15th-year reunion and found myself deeply inspired by the women I met. From reconnecting with the other women in my 2018 cohort to exchanging new ideas and ways to see and build the world with speakers and other participants from around the world, I felt a sense of presence and belonging.
This week, I’m wrapping up an incredibly enjoyable 2 months in Chicago. From spending time with old friends to catching up with people I hadn’t seen in years to expanding my mind through school, I’m feeling incredibly grateful for this time and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Today, I’m sharing a reflection on fulfillment and work.
The Self (on Fulfillment)
Viktor E. Frankl: “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”
Earl Nightingale: “The more intensely we feel about an idea or a goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfillment.”
Osho: “Buddha says: Look into the nature of desire. Watch the movement of desire; it is very subtle. And you will be able to see two things: one, that desire by its very nature is unfulfillable. And second, the moment you understand that desire is unfulfillable, desire disappears and you are left desireless. That is the state of peace, silence, tranquility. That is the state of fulfillment! People never come to fulfillment through desire; they come to fulfillment only by transcending desire.”
The World (on Work)
The r/antiwork subreddit jumped from ~100k members at the start of the pandemic to ~1.8m as of March 2022.
59 million Americans — about 36% of the entire labor force — did some kind of freelance work in 2021.
The frequency with which CEOs talk about issues of equity, fairness and inclusion on S&P 500 earnings calls has increased by 658% since 2018.
Ideas to Action
Today, there is an emerging undercurrent that points to a growing movement of economic and social unrest. One way the undercurrent manifests is through a broad rethinking of work and what drives fulfillment.
On the extreme end, a rethink can be seen in the growing ‘anti-establishment’ movement, which ties the existing system to the growing inequality. According to a World Inequality Lab report, the top 1% captured 38% of global wealth growth between 1995 and 2021, while the bottom 50% secured just 2%.
As income disparity grows in ‘free economies’ around the world, some members of the ‘proletariat’ are seeking to build an alternative system that increases fulfillment (and hopefully decreases burnout), decreases the rewards gap, and increases fairness. This means rethinking the labor market, who has the power, and how people are compensated for the value they create. This means a broader shift to new types of ‘respectable’ work like freelancing.
But in this transition, some notable questions have emerged:
- How do we know whether the shift in power is actually happening broadly? Are the rich moving in to define this system or are there truly new faces rising? What will the new version of FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) be in this emerigng system and who will create them?
- How do communities funded with traditional capital (like VC) not drift from their mission? How do they make decisions that drive growth while keeping true to their values?
- How do creators and freelancers organize their work by working on the business and not just in it? (Even as a one-person business)
- What are the true tradeoffs emerging in a world that compensates and incentivizes creators fairly? How is the quality of work/creations impacted by incentives?
With work and fulfillment becoming interchangeable, another key question is whether work is truly our source of fulfillment. Buddha taught that true fulfillment transcends desire. As much as we can allow curiosity to guide us, the challenge emerges when curiosity becomes desire. And work is often a space embedded with multiple desires. So perhaps staying curious, not expecting an outcome, and maintaining a state of peace through perspective is what will lead us to live the most fulfilling life we can have.