Detective Note

Vol.021 – What is the meaning of working?


Theme:What is the meaning of working?

Interviewer: Yuhang Zhong

Yuhang:Today I`d like to talk about “working.” I become a member of the workforce four years ago and I continue to struggle with the question “Why do we work?” One reason I went to graduate school was not because I didn`t want to work, but I couldn`t comprehend the reason for working. At that period in my life I was able to prolong working and escaped to graduate school.




Mende:So going to graduate school was kind of like a suspended jail term.

Yuhang: Yes, maybe something like that. Do you ever question why you work?

Mende:When I was younger, I really liked to work. I was one of those people who didn`t question why I worked, but also after four years of college I felt a responsibility to work.

Yuhang:Four years goes by really fast and I really didn`t take much time to reflect on my life. At graduate school, I was soon forced to face reality and start the process of looking for a job. At interviews I was repeatedly asked “What do I think about having a job?” I memorized a pretty phrase and got by, but I couldn`t envision myself working five years or ten years down the road. When asked about my motivation for working, I keep coming back to the original question, “Why do we work?” Here is this question, again and again.

Mende: In old Japanese society the accepted social norm was men worked and women stayed home. What you might call a housewife who concentrates on housework and taking care of the home. I have the feeling that about half of Japanese women still think this way, but I think it is complete nonsense. Chinese women have a family and work, don`t they.

Yuhang:Yes, they work outside of the home, but there are many, many housewives, too.

Mende:If one had the financial resources to live well the rest of their lives, not just women, but many men might opt not work. But, just because you have money and don`t need to work, doesn`t make you a rounded person. We work to create great things and feel purpose in life.

Yuhang:I think for you working is an extremely fun experience, even though there are always hard times, too. Is work a fun experience taking the good with the bad?

Mende: I`ve never felt that I didn`t want to work. By chance, we are designers. As designers, our designs help people and we have to continually challenge ourselves with new things and ideas to continue evolving or this occupation would collapse around us. We are lucky in this respect, since we always need to be aggressive and bold.

Yuhang:In the long run, working, in itself, polishes oneself?

Mende: I don`t know if I am polished, but I have experienced many, many things throughout my career, if that is what you mean. For example, it you are a dishwasher at a restaurant. You might think “I just need to wash the dishes, right?” If it was me, I might think “How can I wash the dishes effectively, beautifully, and in a fun way?”

Yuhang:I think you really have to love working to think like that! I don`t know if I could ever achieve your mindset for working, but I do have an interest in and curiosity for many things. The reason I wanted to work at LPA was mostly out of curiosity. I have only been working here for 10 months, but I am always stimulated by new things and feel I have grown in many ways. I am really enjoying my work as a project coordinator in my own way. It is especially rewarding to close a deal on a project after a long negotiation process. Did you find a job you liked right out of graduate school?

Mende: I really wanted to work in environmental design, but it was a little progressive for my time. My professor suggested I try lighting design. I thought a lighting designer sounded like brutal work, but I joined the company anyway. At the time, I thought this job is not for me! But I was there, so I applied myself to find ways to make the work I was handed fun. So it doesn`t matter the work, if one applies themselves to make the work interesting, it usual is. I think every job has some way of making it more interesting.

Yuhang: I see. Motivation comes from applying oneself to a task. I always thought motivation came from whether one had an interest or not is the subject itself. Applying oneself to making a task fun, whether or not you have an interest or find it boring. I think I will look at working from a different angle from now on.