There is always a special excitement in starting a new project whether trying to make a fitness plan, learn a new language, improve a character trait, explore a new relationship, or become a better partner/parent/child. How many times have we taken oaths, made self-resolutions, and how long do they last…a day, a week, maybe even a few months? maybe just a few minutes…
This week’s Parshah starts with the lighting of the Menorah in the Holy Temple: “Aaron did so; he lit the lamps toward the face of the menorah.” Rashi is bothered by the superfluous “Aaron did so” and so explains – based on the well-known Midrash – that this phrase illustrates Aaron’s virtue, because he did not deviate from fulfilling his task.
What is his specific virtue? The Sfat Emet explains that usually when a person starts something new, he feels very enthusiastic about what he is doing. He is excited about the potential good he can do and feels very motivated. But after some time, once the input to output ratio starts decreasing (aka, the graph starts flattening out) the enthusiasm and excitement often get lost.
The special praise of Aaron was that although he had to light the lamp every single day in the exact same way, each day he did so with the same great commitment and enthusiasm. That’s big.
The secret to Aaron being able to do this task well and with such vigor all the time is that he felt connected to a “holy” ask. Aaron had no doubt about the importance of his job and there was clarity about what the right thing to do was.
Finding a job that has a higher holy purpose definitely helps. But what should we do when things are not that clear, when Gd is not appearing on Mountains and speaking directly with your brother?
The co-founder of positive psychology, Csikszentmihalyi (welcome to Hungarian names), tells you the secret to staying enthusiastic is to get into “the flow” (his definition of happiness). The flow is the state we occupy when completely absorbed in a CHALLENGING BUT DOABLE task. He suggests we need to find that narrow zone that winds between activities that are boring (i.e., not challenging enough) and those that create anxiety (i.e., too challenging). Any pop psychology book will tell you that the age-old secret for navigating this path is to find and do the things you love.
Two legendary leaders Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs, although they strongly agreed on the potential of the Apple stock, (Buffett being one of Apple’s largest shareholders) had very different advice for finding such work.
Buffett’s advice is to make sure you “take a job that you love”. However, we know that not everyone is so lucky to match business with pleasure and anyway, circumstances constantly change. Thus, this may actually be only half of the secret sauce.
Jobs’ approach is seemingly coming from the opposite perspective. He says: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Whatever it is you are doing, bring your love, passion and attention there, then your work is sure to “flow” with life and success.
Is the advice of these two visionaries really the opposite? Just as the value of Buffet’s holding were dependent on Job’s products, they are actually connected and even dependent on each other. In order to merit as Aaron HaKohen, we must pursue what gives us life (what brings us “flow”) and then bring that life constantly with us back to the task at hand, no matter how repetitive or seemingly mundane. The best outcome is when we can feed these two poles in a cycle – in a perpetually lit Menorah- or in other words:
Do what you LOVE what you Do 😉