By Ashmi Pathela, Cape Town participant, October 2017
My dad biked to work every day because we couldn’t afford a car.
On Valentine’s Day, he biked home in the rain with a single rose between his teeth for my mom.
He worked long hours in the office and came home to hundreds of emails in the evening.
I grew up seeing this as the formula for success. We were first generation immigrants, working hard to fly on the wings of the American Dream.
Now, my dad is a founder who’s building something he believes in, working even longer hours. But it doesn’t feel like work to him. It makes him feel alive.
And over the years, my view of work and its ‘rules’ changed completely.
I had a dream job. I was learning and growing alongside amazing leaders. I poured my heart into the mission. But this year, I realized something significant.
I don’t want to be an executive at an awesome tech company.
I don’t want to manage and lead a large team.
I don’t want a ladder of promotions.
I don’t even want to be a well-known CEO.
But that’s where my career track was pointing me. After a particular week of working from 7am to 2am the next day to hit multiple ‘urgent and time sensitive’ deadlines, I had my first anxiety attack. I could barely speak or move off the couch for hours.
Despite the stress, I found beauty and tremendous growth in the hustle. When our startup failed, I internalized it like I had failed. But I’d been hustling for someone else’s dream. When it died, I questioned what all of that was for. Even if I’d poured my heart into it, I could never bring my highest self to work because it wasn’t my dream.
But today, I feel terrified to have left the thrilling, empowering, and (relatively) stable life I had working at startups in Silicon Valley.
Now, it’s completely up to me to bring in my next paycheck. Knowing I could fall on my face at any moment is paralyzing.
The future of work is less about work — and more about the future of life.
The face of work is evolving at an accelerated rate. We’ve seen the rise of farmers, artisans, and factory workers to technologists and even 18-year-old founders. And now, machines.
With machines automating more of our work, how we spend our time is changing yet again.
Work already looks a lot different from what I imagined as a kid, observing my parents. I took the ‘9–5’ (which really meant longer, gruelling hours) at the office or in front of the computer at home as the norm.
In fact, the traditional office workday, as we know it, has existed for less than 100 years.
There have been many solutions proposed to technological unemployment, including universal basic income. For those who remain hungry, there will be more room for creativity, philanthropy, and the pursuit of passions. There’s a need for artisans again. There’s more freedom in how we spend our time. And so, more freedom to craft our lives the way we want.
So question is, why do we work?
"To make money."
"To feed my family."
"To survive day-by-day. Because I’d die otherwise."
In survival mode, it’s impossible to think of anything else. Billions of people are in poverty, wondering how they’ll get their next meal.
They’re likely not reading this. And I know I’m too blind, too comfortable, too entitled to even try to understand.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a baseline of income where you can pay for your needs and lifestyle, at least at this point in time, ask yourself, what motivates you?
"To pay off my student loans and debt."
"To save for retirement."
"So I can have a better lifestyle."
"Because I can. Because my mom told me to. To prove something to myself."
"To build something meaningful. To change the world. To create a legacy. For our future generations."
"Because I love my job. I love my team."
"To become a millionaire."
"Because that’s what you do. That’s what everyone does. I’d be bored otherwise!"
"To grow and learn. To lead."
Then ask yourself: But why?
What if you didn’t need to work for money , or for any of the things above? Then, what would you do with your time? Maybe your answers are the same as above. However, maybe they are completely different.
Some of the greatest myths in life are fear-driven. Money is scarce. Opportunities are scarce. Resources are so scarce; we must fight each other to the death.
Where’s your truth? Find YOUR voice.
Distinguish between what you really want and what you say you want. What do you want? Now ask again. Not your ego. Not your fear. Not even your body. What do YOU want? And even if you think you know, you may not know yourself as well as you think. I sure didn’t, and I’m still figuring it out.
Admitting the truth is scary. When guided by fear and money, I forget about my mission.
But then, I remind myself why I did this in the first place.
I want to be free. I want time to live and pursue my passions.
I want to create something from scratch and say, “I built that.” I want to be my own boss. I want to work on projects that make me come alive. To align my daily work with my life’s work.
I want to build and inspire a global community. And meet people who thrive outside the status quo.
I want to go rogue.
Even if it means being a little weird.
I want to invest in health, relationships, experiences, and growth.
I want to be an entrepreneur of my life.
Though I may not work 12+ hour days anymore, I still hustle. I usually start my workdays by 7:00am since I’m a morning person, and there’s no commute. I have calls with clients on various time zones late at night. Most days, I still eat lunch at my ‘desk’.
I try to pursue work that excites me. Not all of it will, of course. But where I focus is a choice, and I’m the only one accountable .
The future of work is choosing how you want to spend your life. It’s when your passions, strengths, and values align and become your unique contribution to the world.
It’s trusting that you can create something that you believe in. Business always will follow the art of your life.
Let abundance, not scarcity, drive your dreams.
The future of work is creating more out of your life.
What kind of work makes you come alive?
This post was first published on Ashmi's Medium page.
Ashmi Pathela is a San Francisco native who is now working remotely with startups while traveling to tech hubs around the world. She's currently part of our legendary Cape Town Unsettled group. She's passionate about writing articles on aligning your career and finding your global tribe.