Emotional labor

I’m about 1/2 way through Linchpin by Seth Godin and I need to thank him for putting into words what I have felt for as long as I can remember.  Doing the emotional labor that he speaks of has always come naturally to me. I just never had the words for what that work was.

I can relate to what Seth speaks of regarding the “factory” mentality that pervades our school system.  But, instead of trying to squash out the desire to create art in me, my teachers would more often try to stop me from expecting my friends and peers to invest in the same emotional labor that I did.  I constantly heard that it was unfair for me to expect others to commit to the same level because I was “special” in some way.  That always struck me as completely false and entirely unfair to everyone that it subjugated.

“Emotional labor” is the perfect label for what was missing in many of my peers in school and what, to a large degree, is missing from most of the people we come into contact with every day.  The trick is, doing the emotional work is not a difficult decision to make, it just takes practice to get into the habit.  My dear friend, Kathy Janich (an excellent journalist and burgeoning marketer), said yesterday that I had infected her brain.  That she was heading to a meeting that might have intimidated her previously and, instead, thought “this is an opportunity, not a burden.”  The fact is, I didn’t really do anything except commit my whole self to the work that we did together.

It is far too easy to succumb to the indoctrination of “everyone is out to get you, take advantage of you, and cheat you” that society keeps throwing at us.  I find that notion to be the farthest possible point from the truth.  The more you give the gifts (as Seth puts it) of your trust, respect, and knowledge, the more more people who value those gifts and have them to give in return are brought into your life.  I’m a strong believer in the law of attraction and find that the less time I devote to thinking about those would-be cheats and saboteurs, the fewer I meet.  By focusing on the possibilities inherent in her meeting, Kathy kept herself open and left the interaction with exponentially more than she would have otherwise.

I’m hoping to redouble my commitment to investing in the emotional labor of the work that comes into my new life here in Richmond.  Perhaps I can get so securely in the habit that when various forms of employment come my way, I won’t be easily seduced back to the grind of busywork that makes us think we don’t have time for the emotional labor that makes our lives worthwhile.

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