When does a job demand too much sacrifice?

Even the people who own the skyscrapers in the background will find themselves buried in the ground. Find what's worthwhile and stick to it.

Even the people who own the skyscrapers in the background will find themselves buried in the ground. Find what’s worthwhile and stick to it.

“When does a job demand too much sacrifice?” This question stuck in my head after enjoying coffee with an accomplished person who recently made a difficult choice. Despite success and admirable dedication, this woman chose to leave a lucrative career with a well-known company after 15 years simply because it dominated her life.* Her story is not uncommon. Increasingly, Denver is filled with those who’ve left traditional career paths and pursued more daring adventures. Their courage begs us to ask, “When does a job demand too much sacrifice?”

First, what is the point of a job? Solomon, one of the world’s most famed philosophers, stated, a wise person “can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work,” but “a fool’s work wearies him.” I know that I have often played the part of a fool. By concerning myself too much with tasks that need finishing, I often miss out on the wonderful events and people unfolding in my daily life. If what Solomon says is true and there’s no point to work other than to enjoy life, then why work at a job that robs us of the ability to love and invest in what’s important? This question brings us to the second point

How does a job contribute to happiness? General consensus states that happiness cannot be tied to material success—there goes the American dream! Smarter folk like Aristotle conclude that happiness “requires a complete life” able to weather the “many reversals of fortune, good and bad.” While working hard at a worthy project is an integral part of that completeness, it is not everything. We cannot find true happiness from a job, but rather, a career can offer us rich potential for satisfaction.

Finally, This satisfaction does not come cheaply. Indeed, it requires sacrifice. For example, it’s really sunny outside and I want to hop on my bike to get a beer with friends. However, I’m willing to make a temporary sacrifice to write this blog and prepare for an event next Wednesday because it brings me joy and benefits people I care deeply about. Yet, if this grew into a destructive pattern and robbed me of friendships, that would be too steep a price to pay.

Basically, Sacrifice is inevitable—we are all writing an ongoing story and sacrifice is the dramatic juice that keeps the plot moving forward. Why we sacrifice and what gets sacrificed is, very fortunately, up to us. May we make brave choices like my friend who left her impressive job so that our stories will inspire others to do the same.

Have a counter argument or do you like these thoughts? Leave a remark! I look forward to continuing our dialogue.

*Let me assure you that this is not a rant against corporate careers. While that’s not how I choose to make my way, many people who I love and admire find fulfillment in that setting. Rather, I am asking a frank question that is highly relevant to anyone who takes pride in their work—especially entrepreneurs.


Sam Pike is the founder of the Forum: Stories That Create. He believes that by spreading the stories of admirable entrepreneurs, artisits, and creatives, the whole community will prosper. You may follow him on Twitter at @tfstories and Facebook at facebook.com/theforumstories

Quotations are taken from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and Solomon’s Ecclesiastes.