Finding Great Work …….Utopia or Reality?

Abhishek Paul
3 min readOct 2, 2022

Josh Brolin plays the role of fire captain Eric Marsh in the movie “Only the Brave” based on the true story of a fire fighting unit. Towards the middle of the movie after successfully putting out another fire, he looks at the vast greenery in front of him that his team had saved and simply states, “If this isn’t the greatest job in the world, I don’t know what is.

Something about the simplicity and genuineness of that expression at the end of a hard day’s work made me look at my own job and how I’ve been feeling about it recently. In the busyness of increasing responsibilities the reason why one got into this line of work is easily lost sight of or worse, it is no longer thought to be important. But the story of the firefighters shows that there is something deeply fulfilling about doing work that matters and that too with a group of people with a similar perspective.

This is of course not to say that work becomes the most important aspect of one’s life or that it gives one meaning in life, but that one’s calling and talents when expressed through one’s work does make it more enriching. This in turn does add to one’s overall quality of life, which is also how one can integrate work and life without having to seek that elusive balance (which has become more about counting the hours than anything else).

One reason that I call this out is the unspoken feeling/belief that permeates offices today that work is merely a means to an end (a better lifestyle), ie the ends are what you can enjoy and the job is the tax one pays. The other belief that comes in the way is that it is too idealistic (maybe naive) to expect or prioritize anything more than tangible rewards (money / promotions) — and to be honest, even if they’re right, I don’t think I’ll accept it.

But while it is true that saying any work can be meaningful to anyone is stretching things too far, I do think it is fair to say that everyone can find some work that is personally meaningful even if it isn’t for most others. Maybe we haven’t found this yet, but is it really too late? The other thing we can still do is to help those in the early stages of their career to orient their careers around this perspective — let them find work that is in line with what gives them meaning and maybe not have to make the compromises some of us have made, so they will have more enriching careers and in turn lives too. Maybe we can do both.

I’d love to pause every now and then and be able to say “If this isn’t the greatest job in the world, I don’t know what is.”

PS: This song from the movie, “Hold the light” stands out. I would recommend listening to it after watching the movie though.