Is there meaning in what i do?

//Is there meaning in what i do?

Is there meaning in what i do?

In about an hour or so i am going to head off to a local school to read a Maths exam to a pupil with a learning disability or challenge.

While for me it is largely about having some kind of way of bringing in some money in, during a time when i have been mostly unemployed [since about November when i stopped the official freelance writing i was doing for that awful ‘Christian’ online mag that treated its writers like garbage] it also does feel like quite a significant occupation of my time.

There is a learner who struggles to write exams on her own and i am going to assist her. i could definitely be doing worse things with my time.


The previous two weekends before this past one [my friend Fezile would probably say “last of last weeks”] i was super fortunate to be part of two incredible camps that both took place at Cape Town’s premier campsite, Rocklands, in Simonstown.

The first was with BottomUp who are a small group of leaders who are doing incredible things in a number of schools in the Cape Flats [you can read about some of my connections with there over here and here] and it involved about 50 high school pupils who are members of their school RCL [Representative Council of Learners] bodies from four different schools who came together to be equipped and challenged to be more effective in their schools [just hearing stories of what has happened in two of the schools since camp, this definitely made an impact!]

The second was with another incredible organisation called Life Matters and this time was with about 120 grade sevens from three different schools in the Flats working more specifically on life skills such as choices and integrity, while also dealing with personal, family and community issues they were being faced with. Ah, i just saw their slogan for the first time – We make the things that really matter, matter. That is so great.

Two very significant weekends and definitely felt like i was being used in a small way with a bigger team of people who were pouring such goodness into our present and future leaders and helping provide greater hope and opportunity for children in areas that are often discounted or discredited or avoided altogether.

Killing the Powerpoint

Tomorrow is the last training session that i will be doing alongside my friend Charles [until someone else hires us to do some more] and that has been a lot of fun. Charles is a recruiter for the mining industry and runs his own company This particular job involved training some IT and Telecommunications people and typically this kind of training has been done on Powerpoint and so is pretty monotonous and can get boring. Charles brought me on board to add some Improv and youth games experience into the mix so that we could make the training more engaging and even fun [it has been a lot of fun!] and we worked really well together. He brought the content and i brought the zing!

Some significance in this in terms of helping Charles out in his relatively new business [he has been doing this stuff for decades but recently branched out into his own company] and we are helping people do their jobs a lot better and so that feels good too. Not as transformative in terms of some of the other stuff, but at the end of the day has helped pay some bills which is always one of the things you gotta do.

And then there’s the stuff ‘n things

Then there is a whole lot of other stuff i do – conversations online and offline, dinners, engagements with people on topics of race and poverty and looking after the planet and a whole lot of other stuff that really feels quite significant but completely doesn’t pay any of the bills. How do i find paying work without sacrificing the space and time to continue to do the things that feel meaningful?

As i sit in a space again of needing to find more things that do pay the bills, i am wrestling with this idea of significance. Is there meaning in what i do? Will i be able to find paying work that also contains significance?

How about you? Do you find your paying work significant in any way? What about other things that you are involved in? Is significance something you think much about? 


By |2018-05-28T07:11:35+00:00May 28th, 2018|life|5 Comments

About the Author:

Brett Fish is a lover of life, God, tbV [the beautiful Valerie] and owns the world's most famous stuffed dolphin, No_bob (who doesn't bob). He believes that we are all responsible for making the world a significantly better place for everyone.


  1. Yacoob May 28, 2018 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Fortunately, yes, I do find the paying job significant…because I’m out of a corporate environment (I detest ‘business’). The pay isn’t as good as it could be in the corporate world, but I love the cause of the institution I serve (education), and ultimately that goes towards goodness in the end. Specific projects – such as social responsibility work – is also very fulfilling.

    Other than that, other endeavours are very fulfilling – particularly writing.

    You raise a good question, because we should always aim to make our tasks in this world significant – of value…and not just live a mundane, self-serving, meaningless cycle.

    • brettfish May 28, 2018 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks Yacoob, so great to hear that you find significance in what you do, especially as it sounds like you have moved away from the money you could make to find that. i absolutely believe that we should engage in activities that give meaning but i don’t know if every single vocational job can be that and so sometimes perhaps it is finding meaning within what you do as well as pursuing things that bring significance!

      • Yacoob May 28, 2018 at 2:51 pm - Reply

        I don’t think every vocational job can give us the feeling, but they all do have meaning – even if that meaning is boring and seemingly minute. Ultimately, a minimum base must be to recognise that our work is a means of acquiring our sustenance – which is definitely meaningful and noble (assuming it’s not a morally questionable occupation). But beyond that, I really feel for those who are stuck in dead end, monotonous positions that provide little inspiration or personal motivation.

  2. Aphiwe May 31, 2018 at 8:39 am - Reply

    “Is there meaning in what i do?”

    Quite frankly, No. Spending one’s time online and over meals “chatting” about race, gender and social justice is about as meaningless as it gets. If you want to be taken seriously, find a job or start an NGO that allows you to put your ideas into practice. You might find that it helps pay the bills too.

    “Will i be able to find paying work that also contains significance?”

    Well done. You’ve just encapsulated the essence of “privilege” in a single question. For the vast majority of us, our work is how we provide for our families, and we find meaning in that. We don’t have the luxury of even contemplating about finding work that is personally fulfilling. Your whole blog post reeks of the idea that working class (or even white-collar) labour is beneath you and would rob the world of your talents elsewhere.

    To be honest, nobody without personal responsibility is taken seriously when he speaks about political, social or economic issues. Without dependents who rely on you, or a long-term commitment to a job or organisation, even the non-paying “work” that you value so highly lacks meaning in most people’s eyes.

    I’d suggest finding a humble job that allows you to serve people in a concrete way–cleaning, building, caring–and helps you to support your family financially. Quit the bourgeois and privileged quest for “meaningful work”.

    • brettfish May 31, 2018 at 8:59 am - Reply

      Thanks Aphiwe. A lot of sense in what you say. But at the same time it is coming from someone who doesn’t know me or my journey – i have done a lot of ‘working class’ labour in my life including five years as a Spur Waiter, a cashier, working in a mechanic’s shop as pretty much a skivvy and so on. i have helped to build houses and i have made dung floors for huts in Umtata. i have made beds and cleaned homes and so on. i think you get the point. At the moment i am busy helping with training of recruiters using my improv skills and sitting with children with special needs as they write their exams.

      If online chatting and meals is all you are doing then i would agree with you that is not enough but it is not. Because some people pretty much reside online and because other people are not having these kinds of conversations that can and do lead to changed lifestyles and attitudes i see both of those as necessary and significant things and will continue to engage in them, while at the same time seeking work that is significant. i have friends who i have been privileged to do some work alongside who are working in education [which is my training actually] in Cape Flats schools which is highly significant work and so finding something like that [but which also pays the bills] over something that might be purely seen as just a job is something that i can and will seek.

      What work do you do and do you find significance in it or do you see it as merely something that pays the bills?

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