'But then I had an epiphany. That was the only reason I hated the job was because I was doing it the way people had always done it. Badly.'
- James Risen, Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist
One of my early Air Force bosses called me into his office one evening after I'd stopped by to say that I was going home.
'You need to think about whether you should be working back,' he said as I stood in his doorway.
I looked at my watch. It was 6pm. No Air Force Officer in Headquarters worked back after 4.30pm. Just ask any Army officer.
'It's...6pm, Sir...' I said from confusion rather than insubordination.
'I mean working back on work that you don't enjoy...' he replied.
This was years before George Constanza said: 'When you look annoyed all the time, people think that you're busy.'
Being busy is synonymous with working hard. Working hard means that the work is important. Only important people do important work. We want to feel important. We want to feel that we're spending our lives doing something worthwhile.
Scan the faces at a meeting and expressions from a dentist's waiting room.
The more sombre the expression, the more serious the work.
Another of my Air Force bosses was asked why Legal Officers don't wear a distinguishing badge on our uniforms. 'Our hang-dog looks are the giveaway,' he said.
If we laugh or are animated, we can't be taking our job seriously.
Like too much behaviour in workplaces, stony demeanours are theatre. Performance Art. Marketing.
If a worker directing the filming of a rock concert for a DVD that's also beaming live to an audience of millions can dance and cheer and clap in his office, then I can crack a smile in mine.
If a worker who's saving burn victims' lives can show passion as she assesses one of 28 bombing survivors queuing to be treated, then I suppose I can engage with others in meetings.
But if I smile, laugh, joke - what will people think?
Hamish Hamilton doesn't care. He acknowledged his critics' opinions about his directing and went back to work at the Oscars. He loves his job. It doesn't matter what others think.
Dr Fiona Wood doesn't care. She focusses on her Widget and the 99% of good news stories in the world and concentrates on her goal of scarless healing of patients.
As the actor and comedian Paul Hogan said in an interview:
'When you go into this business you very quickly learn that there's a lot of people who like what you do and they're entertained by it. There's a lot of people, for reasons best known to themselves, really can't stand you and have got it in for you and want to see you fail. But the thing to remember is that the great, great majority in the middle...don't even think about you. They see you on stage...entertaining...and they think 'Oh, that was good'. And then get on with their own lives. There are some people in this business who obsess over the ones who...now the trend is to call them 'Haters'. Anyone who doesn't love what you do is a 'Hater'....What's that poor kid, Justin Bieber? He talks about 'The Haters'. No Justin! They're not 'Haters'. They just don't give a shit about you.'
Who is this audience for our pout, frown, sneer, or hang dog look?
Maybe the lack of joy in our work isn't the boss's fault after all. Maybe it's because we're doing our job badly?
We really should seek joy in our work.
Because where Joy, or 'gladness' intersects the world's deep need - there's our Vocation.