April 8, 2019 - Robert John Hadfield
Showing Up For Money
What I Learned About Work From Comicon
When you consider the question, “Why do you go to work?” the answer people normally throw out is almost too obvious; money of course. And although that may be a contributing factor, it certainly isn’t everything. Sometimes money has almost nothing to do with it.
Many years ago, while attending a Comicon-type event, I witnessed something that reinforced the truth about why we work.
My son and I have been attending sci-fi and comicon-type events for years. Although those things have never really been a passion for me, I have to admit they are very fun experiences. Thousands of people make pilgrimages from far and wide to attend. People show up in costumes of characters from TV shows, movies and video games. Hundreds of vendors sell almost anything you can imagine related to science fiction, animation and video games.
For my son the highlight of these events is meeting celebrities. Over the years we have met countless movie stars, voice actors and authors. We have met the likes of Carrie Fisher, Stan Lee, and Val Kilmer. But these celebrities don’t show up just for fun, they are there to make money too. These celebrities sell two main things; autographs and photos. We have paid as much as $100 just to get a signature or take a photo with a celebrity.
Depending on the fame of the celebrity, it is possible to wait two hours or more to meet them. It seems a little crazy to me, but my son loves it, so it’s always a big part of our pilgrimage. There is a rule you learn very quickly when waiting in line to meet a celebrity; you cannot take pictures of them. The only time it’s allowed is if you pay for a selfie. So even if you are twenty feet away waiting in line to get their autograph, you are not allowed to snap a picture with your phone.
And there are enforcers!
The first time I attended one of these events I saw one of those enforcers in action, and it spoke volumes about why people work. My son and I were in line to get an autograph of some celebrity and I saw someone take out their phone and hold it up to take a picture. And just as soon as the phone was out, a man in a green shirt pounced into the situation. He abruptly told the person they were not allowed to take a photo, and the person sheepishly put their phone away. As you can imagine, the exchange looked and felt awkward.
I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t want that job being the bad guy going around telling people to put their phones away.” At first I figured is was some handler for the celebrity making sure they weren’t missing out on money making opportunities. And then I noticed something on his shirt. It was the word, “Volunteer.” That’s right, there was a person volunteering to be a bad guy in the celebrity area. A person doing that terrible job for free!
I had to wonder, does he really want that job? It’s possible he didn’t know that was going to be his job before he showed up that morning? He might actually hate it, but he was willing to do it. Whatever the backstory, he was there volunteering to be the bad guy that people get mad at.
As I walked around the event I must have seen over a hundred of those “Volunteer” shirts. There were volunteers in the forums, the vendor area, in front of the building, checking bags, at the ticket counter…everywhere! There was a small army of people who were so passionate about the event, they were willing to do all the dirty jobs free. You can be sure that the people who own the event were making a lot of money, and yet there were hundreds of people volunteering their time to make it possible.
I think all of us have something that we love that much. Something we would volunteer our time to do while knowing someone else is making money. Finding a passion like that and making it a part of your life is a wonderful thing. If your current job isn’t like that for you, there are a few things to try:
• Add something to your job that only you can do. You have talents and skills that are unique to you. Find a creative way to bring one of them to work.
• Find a way to serve another person. One of the greatest sources of happiness and satisfaction helping others. So find someone at work you can inspire or help in some way.
• Focus on your strengths. We all love doing things that align with our natural talents and skills. Generally we enjoy working on those areas because it comes naturally. Take some time to talk to your manager and discuss your strengths. Find ways of incorporating them into your official job in a way that will benefit the organization.
• Focus on the benefit your job already brings to others. Although we don’t often think about it, capitalism is based on service. Companies survive because they add value to people’s lives in such a way that people are willing to part with their money to receive the service. It’s an amazing symbiotic system. Consider the various ways your position provides a real service to another person and try to focus on that. When people ask what you do, don’t tell them your title, tell them what service you add to people.
Interestingly, that is how our cassette-to-digital business started almost twenty years ago. It was something I did without thinking about money. I love audio equipment, digital music and cool technical toys, so I built a little recording studio in the basement of my house. I started doing this analog-to-digital work because it seemed like a fun challenge. And here we are almost two decades later and it’s a legitimate and consequential business.
Amazingly enough, even though it wears on me at times, I still love it. I sometimes have a hard time walking away at the end of the day.
Each of us wants to spend our time doing something that matters, so find a way to focus on those things in your world.