Revisiting "Love of Work": How to Be Interested in Uninteresting Work

Yesterday I wrote about “how to love unlovely work,” ending that post with the suggestion: “Focus on one interesting aspect of the work, and see if that motivates you to get through the rest.” But, immediately after pressing the “publish this” button, I realized that begs the follow-up question: What if there’s no interesting aspect to the work? 

First and foremost, I believe there is an interesting aspect to the work. 

It won’t always be readily apparent. But it’s there. I’ll use my recently acquired job as a part-time restaurant cashier as a case study for three approaches to seeking out interesting aspects to work.

A Zoom-in Approach 

This is a lot like the approach I described yesterday of finding one interesting page in a seemingly boring 200-page novel. Like zooming in a camera, this involves looking closely at isolated moments, exchanges, or glimpses that occur while doing your  job. You might think “who, what, when, where” — who’s someone interesting you work with/for/around, what’s something interesting you do/witness, when’s an interesting part of your work time, where’s an interesting place you see/go. By “interesting” I mean not just what we might first think of when we think of “interesting” things but also intriguing (makes you want to learn more), humorous (makes you laugh), or unbelievable (makes you shake your head in disbelief).

As for me, as a cashier, I work with some co-workers of diverse backgrounds who make me want to learn more about them, I ring up orders from some customers (especially children) who make me laugh, and I clean bathrooms that sometimes makes me shake my head in disbelief. (I’m almost kidding with that last one.)

A Zoom-out Approach

This involves looking broadly at the role your job plays in your life and in society. If you’re studying for a statistics test, for instance, the test will help you finish the course, which will help you finish your degree, which will help you enter a profession — and perhaps help others with that profession. As a cashier, I’m earning money, getting some experience, and most importantly feeding upwards of 50+ individuals and families each dinner shift.

The FISH Philosophy

I was first introduced to this during staff training at a previous job. It’s called the FISH philosophy because it’s the workers’ philosophy at a fish market in Seattle. But it’s now become a motivational resource for workplaces and schools all over. The FISH philosophy’s principles are as follows:

  1. Play
  2. Make their day
  3. Be there
  4. Choose your attitude

While the zoom-in and zoom-out approaches were about noticing what’s inherently interesting about your job, the FISH philosophy is about creating something not inherently interesting about your job. Playing with fish, complimenting customers, listening to customers, and choosing to be positive don’t have to be part of these fish sellers’ jobs; they make it that way. As a cashier, I haven’t exactly been playing with customers’ credit cards, but I have been able to tell customers “Welcome home!” when they’ve said they just drove hundreds of miles to get home that day or “Happy birthday!”when they’ve said it was their birthday. We can all offer encouragements like this, smile, listen, and just choose our attitudes. 

For a fun video on the FISH philosophy, check this out:



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