Work is not (just) work—why you should take pride in your job

“Small coffee for here?”

“You got it.” I handed my credit card to the barista, who pushed the already-poured cup in my direction. I hadn’t recited my order at my local coffeeshop in months (unless there was a new hire. Those were dark days).

I took my cup back to the table where my laptop, phone, and wallet sat unguarded. Man, I loved this place.

For two years, I worked from home. There were a half dozen coffee shops within a mile radius of my apartment. I had options. Instead, I waltzed through the same door each day at 7AM.

Let’s be clear—it was not the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. The tables were obnoxiously small. I wore multiple layers because there was often a draft. Free wifi was a standard commodity in town, so nothing special to report there. I returned for the people that worked there.

I love when someone takes pride in their job—whatever that job may be. Each time I saw that mug waiting for me on the counter, it made my morning. Even with a line five people deep, I could walk up and grab my cup without a word. A mutual understanding said I was good for it, and would return to the counter once the line died down.

I order a lot of coffee, from a lot of coffee shops. I believe in those magic beans, but I understand those who roast them do not have super powers. My morning is not ruined when a barista does not know my order by heart.

But it certainly elevates my morning when they do.

IMG_1318I work in a co-working space called WeWork. As someone who transitioned from the land of freelance and 1099s back to the nine-to-five, it’s my ideal place to GSD (get shit done). Hundreds of companies ranging from 1-20 employees fill individual offices while sharing a common area of coffee, couches, and pool tables. It’s the perfect combo of start-up grinding and coffeeshop vibes.

When I gave up remote work, I lost my baristas in the divorce settlement. But I gained the best WeWork staff imaginable.

There is one worker, Alex, who is one of the friendliest, most outgoing individuals I’ve ever met. He is one of those people you meet and think, have you ever been in a bad mood in your life? This guy either loves his job more than his firstborn (if he had a firstborn) or is the best actor on the planet.

I hadn’t worked for my company for…ten days when he first greeted me by name. It shocked the hell out of me. Here I was, one amongst hundreds of employees, and he knew my name before I received my first paycheck. I’m not sure I even knew his name.

I once asked how he could know so many individual names, in a sea of breakneck companies with high turnover rates.

“We quiz each other,” nodding at his coworkers, “Sometimes, a new person walks by and someone will whisper, ‘Who knows that guy’s name!?’”

If he hadn’t known who I was, my day would not have been ruined. In no way did I expect to be recognizable on a floor of three hundred people. Yet, it made my day that I was. It probably made me just the teeniest bit more confident, at a new job where I had no idea what I was doing.

I love my job. I love being a copywriter, and I love the people I work with. But after a rough week, a friend will ask, “How was work?” and I respond with a casual, “Work was work.”

No, work is not work. Work is the second largest quadrant of our day, next to sleeping. While it’s easy to accept the direct deposit and think, this is what I do to pay rent, that’s just not the case. There a million ways to make an impact once you clock in. Just because we’re not out there writing for the Times, helping refugees in Lyberia, or founding our own company, doesn’t mean we can’t take pride in our day to day.

If the only people who took pride in their work were board members and CEOs, the world would be a very dismal place. And no one would ever remember my coffee order.

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