The LEGO Theory of Job Fulfillment



Who doesn’t love Lego?

When I was a kid, Lego was my ultimate, favorite toy. After I would unbox a set, I would first try to build it as designed. But this wasn’t the fun part yet! This is sort of the boring requirement.

After some time, these new pieces would gradually fall into my BIG PAIL of Lego blocks. Playtime commenced when I would pour the pieces on the floor – one big mess.

Then, I would just…create.

Cars, knights on steeds, robots with several points of articulation, you name it, I built it. Fun!

Decades after, Lego is bigger than ever.

People buy the stuff in droves (even if it hurts the pocket) – fuelled especially by licensing everything cool. (Marvel AND DC, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc…) There are Lego amusement parks, TV shows, movies (Lego Batman movie FTW!), Lego copycats, corporate training programs (!) and typically, a whole section of your nearest toy store devoted to all things Lego.

When you think about it, the timeless appeal of Lego is easily explainable.

People want to build. 

I remember just getting LOST in building stuff. Like when I created my own Mazinger Z (complete with attachable Head-spaceship), and then letting it last a few days (savoring what I built?) before destroying everything and starting anew with another idea. It was Play-doh on steroids.

You can imagine millions of kids letting their imagination run wild in creating something that was truly theirs.

What are you passionate about?

When I get asked this question, sometimes, I get flummoxed. Am I super passionate about flexible benefits? About HR?

When I really think about it, the answer is no. I don’t think about it in all my spare time, nor do I devour books on it as pleasure reading (unlike say, some business books). I AM highly interested in it.  But I’m not prepared to say it’s a passion.

So that does that mean I’m not passionate about building my HR Benefits firm?

Of course not. That’s a passion that runs very, very deep.

Pondering on it, I then realize that what I am passionate about is building.

Building things, building the firm.

I’ve almost complete control of my blocks – who I hire, what direction I choose, what color scheme, what market, what tools, what culture.

And when I take a step back and see what I’ve helped built, it is something that gives me immense satisfaction and joy.

Isn’t this true with everything else we build?

The scripts and blogposts we write? The architecture we’ve drafted? The recipe we masterfully whipped up? The clothes we design? The app we coded? The training program we drew up?

You can almost hear the pride and joy a person has when they can point at something and say, I did that! or I contributed to that! 

That’s my Mazinger Z!

A lot of the people I know in jobs and careers where they CREATE are happy. Sure, they may find themselves in a crummy job or two once in awhile, but they love what they do and this ultimately leads to a fulfilling career.

The problem occurs happens when we choose jobs and work which REMOVE the opportunity to build something. When we’re just maintaining something. A cog in the machine.

I find that there is also a radical difference in learning when you’re building something, as opposed to merely maintaining. There is more engagement. There is more purpose.

Just ask any programmer you know: what’s more exciting – developing something new, or maintaining something that’s already running? The difference will be a chasm.

This is what worries me.

I’ve a son now in a traditional big grade school. The coursework has barely changed (since my own time there). Letter grades in 5-6 classic subject matters.

Most of our schools are still stuck in Industrial Age-type of teaching and thinking. Standardized tests. A single path to success. And, while there are notable exceptions, most of the coursework is still geared towards maintenance. Just take a look at how we NAME our courses…

Human Resources Management

Business Management

Management of Financial Institutions

Management Information Systems

Business Administration

Legal Management

Why merely manage, administer, or maintain, when you can create, improve, and build?

A New Paradigm

While this is something we have to institutionally change, especially with the Digital Age having a whole new set of rules (a heated topic for another day). Still, there are a lot of things we can do if we find ourselves in a situation where are not able to create and express.

1. Find the part of your job where you can build

What I find is that even if you’re in a blatantly “maintenance” type of job, like let’s say, accounting – there are still many ways to  try to exercise your creativity. You can for example volunteer to improve processes, or offer to do a cost-benefit analysis on an area which it has never been done. The caveat here of course is that your current work is done at a level where your boss is comfortable letting you tackle other things. If you pour your heart at this new task, though – you will probably do great work, which your boss will appreciate.

2. If there isn’t, leave

Of course, not all bosses and cultures will tolerate this. Some people will simply think you’re over-stepping boundaries. Some people will want you to really just fulfill your job description, nothing more, nothing less.

If this is the case, prepare your resume already. Don’t let your soul get slowly crushed maintaining and being a cog. I guarantee, a few years of this WILL result in you being effectively turned into a zombie afraid of change, just looking for the highest paycheck.


3. Engage your childhood hobbies

When I do recruitment, I try to see beyond the resume and the credentials in placing the person in a role. A critical question I ask is: what were your hobbies growing up?

I’d get different answers: acting, drawing, painting, singing, designing, writing, and so on.

The sad thing is, for a LOT of people – they let go of these hobbies when they “grow up” and start working.

I would normally ask them, “Hey, have you ever thought about a career in __________? (writing, design, whatever the hobby is…).

The most common answer is no, and the most common reason is a lack of practicality.

Very typically during the interview, I would normally try to convince them to try it out, and the applicant, sensing that I might not be interested in hiring her because I’m suggesting another course of action, would then underline even more how impractical that would be. Sigh.

Don’t kill the Lego Builder in you. Keep these hobbies alive. Use what God has blessed you with. I’m convinced these can offer also you clues as to what your Purpose really is.

4. Consider being an entrepreneur

Of COURSE I’m biased. This IS a startup-themed blog, after all.

For the Lego-Builder in you though, this is the ultimate choice  – to bring something out into the world with your unique DNA draped all over it. Your very own Mazinger Z.

There’s no better time in history to be an entrepreneur. Everything you need is a Google search away. Start small.

So, what are you building now? What are you up to?

If you’re not building anything, it’s never too late to start.

Peter Cauton

Entrepreneur, writer, speaker, startup advocate, HR guy. Husband, father of 6, teacher, unabashed follower of Christ.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I love this post. I hope you continue writing.

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