In Our Work, Satisfaction

How can you be satisfied in your work? Fred Smith works through one phrase of William Barclay’s prayer.

By Fred Smith

"Lord , grant us:

In our work, satisfaction;

In our study, wisdom;

In our pleasure, gladness;

In our love, loyalty."

William Barclay constructed a powerful prayer with minimum words and maximum impact. I want to think with you about the phrase: "In our work, satisfaction."

We all have to work, but unfortunately we all don't receive genuine satisfaction. The management guru Peter Drucker in a conversation with Christian leaders opened his first lecture by saying, "Gentlemen, let the task be the reward." He was saying that pay is never the full reward for our work. It is a necessary secondary, but not the primary satisfaction.

I played golf with a CEO who lost some eighty million dollars in the corporation but he said, "I wasn't in it, really, for the money and what I have done will live on in the industry. What a pity if he had been in only for the money. Mothers raising children understand this. I think of the little kid who came away from the playground at Blowing Rock, N.C. saying to her mother, "I don't like you any more." The mother quietly

replied, "I will always like you but we're still going home." That's hard work but there's satisfaction in it.

We who spent a good part of our life building Genesco lost a great deal of our personal money that we invested in the stock, but we don't talk about that when we get together. We talk about how "we did it" - going from 75 employees to 83,000. We took the volume over $1 ,300,000,000. We were a bunch of Southern boys invading New York and the world of apparel successfully. When we got into the shoe business some of us had to learn to "wear 'em as well as make 'em!" Often we would go to the plant and work all day, then call each other at night because we were excited about building a great corporation. That was satisfaction.

Professor Young at the 150th celebration of Guilford College stood and watched the procession of classes move through the auditorium. He was looking at forty years of students whose life he had influenced. He knew true satisfaction in his work. Our host at this prestigious event was Seth Macon, chairman of the board of Guilford and recently retired Senior Vice President of Jefferson Pilot Companies. When I asked him what he considered to be the satisfaction of forty years, he replied, "the present leaders are men I selected and trained." He, like the great dancers, felt that he had left something on the floor. Like a great artist leaves something great on the canvas, executives and teachers and parents leave something in people.

The requirements of a job that provides satisfaction seem to me to be:

(1) that we have a sustaining income, for money is important. But it is not the primary reason to take a job.

(2) that we serve the common good. As you know, I do not believe that God has a specific plan for each one of us (i.e. , a specific job or specific town or specific spouse), but, rather, when we serve the common good we do what the puritans used to call "fulfill our calling. "

(3) that we can be sure the job has meaning for us. Viktor Frankl wrote the book Man's Search for Meaning. He felt that this was fundamental. We have to feel that what we do has meaning and that we are making a difference through our work.

(4) that it uses our uniqueness. The right job fits us because it is based on our talents, gifts and design --- on our uniqueness. If we do not make our contribution through our uniqueness, then there is little reason for our having been born.

"In our work, satisfaction." I join with Barclay in praying that our work be a source of profound satisfaction.