TWU's Dr. Matthew Etherington releases new book on how work can support beliefs, values and character
“What does it mean to be ‘passionate’ about work, and is this even a good idea? After all, passion is an emotion, and emotions frequently change. ...Sometimes we are fearful to ask ourselves tough questions about what we want in life and how our work can support our beliefs, values, and character.”
—Dr. Matthew Etherington, Professor of Education
While Dr. Matthew Etherington was on sabbatical in Australia in 2017, he came across a message on a school billboard.
It said, “If you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen.”
“Teachers read fables about work to children, such as ‘The Little Red Hen,’ a pro-work story with a message that hard work does pay off,” Dr. Etherington observed.
“The school’s message really got me thinking about hard work, effort, work ethic, and success, and how these should be discussed in light of the many changes to work which we are experiencing today.”
The pursuit of passion and fulfillment
Dr. Etherington’s new book, Perspectives on Working Life, investigates how work can support our beliefs and values and what happens when that is not the case.
In researching mid-career people in Toronto who had changed their occupations later in life, Dr. Etherington noticed a common thread.
Career changers all expressed wanting to find work that was “fulfilling” or work they could be “passionate” about.
This led Dr. Etherington to be curious about, what does it mean to be passionate about work, and is this even a good idea? After all, passion is an emotion, and emotions frequently change.
“I think of the delightful scene in the film Good Will Hunting, where professor Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) asks Will Hunting (Matt Damon), who has a genius-level IQ but chooses to work as a bricklayer and janitor,” Dr. Etherington said, to illustrate. “The professor asks, ‘What do you want? What are you passionate about?’”
“Sometimes we are fearful to ask ourselves tough questions about what we want in life and how our work can support our beliefs, values, and character,” Dr. Etherington said.
Looking into why we work
In his book, Dr. Etherington also seeks to explore why people work. He sees this is as a foundational question.
“I found that various cultures, philosophies, theories, and religions provide different answers,” he said.
In researching for his book, he started asking people, “Do you love what you do?” He found the answers intriguing, with replies ranging from “I work so I do not get bored,” to “I work because my work is who I am.”
Dr. Etherington shares that writing the book also reignited his enthusiasm for 20th century political philosopher Hannah Arendt, who made a distinction between work and labor.
“Work, Arendt said, is fundamental to the ‘human condition,’ but work is different from labor because humans labor not for pleasure but to keep alive. So I explore that concept,” Dr. Etherington said.
The book also taps into Dr. Etherington’s expertise as an educator. He is Professor in the School of Education at TWU, and the Director of the Institute of Indigenous Issues and Perspectives (IIIP). His primary interests are in epistemological inclusion in education, Aboriginal pedagogy, outcomes, assessment and philosophy.
To provide greater value to readers, Dr. Etherington’s book also includes discussion questions for employers and employees to consider.
About Trinity Western University
Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has five campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, Ottawa, and Bellingham, WA. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at www.twu.ca or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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