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March 4, 1997

Going Solo

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There was a man all alone; . . . “For whom am I toiling, “he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” ECCLESIASTES 4:8
Some people work alone because they just don’t have anyone to work with. Others work by themselves because they have a “leave-me-alone” orientation to their work. But whether by circumstance or choice, Solomon offers three possible consequences of doing life solo.
The first consequence is that you might become a workaholic. Why? Because no one else is around to share the load. You have to do it all yourself. It’s tough to take a vacation. You can’t seem to take Sundays completely off. You travel more than you should. Basically, you work too hard.
The second possible consequence is that you might fall into the trap of always wanting more. One of the upsides of working for yourself is the connection between effort and income. If you just get another contract, if you only work an extra day, if you are able to secure that one last meeting, then you will have that extra bump of income that will get you what you want. But the benefit of being able to earn extra cash can quickly become a liability if what you are craving always costs just a little bit more than what you have. Or if you become fixed on what your work will buy instead of what your work is accomplishing. Or if you live in a state of perpetual discontent because you want too much.
The third consequence is that you might become bitter. Someday you might wake up only to realize that you have spent a lifetime working hard and accumulating possessions only to amass a fortune that will be handed off to someone else. In fact, you have worked so hard that you have never taken time to enjoy the result of all your efforts. What’s wrong with that picture? Solomon’s conclusion, which comes repeatedly in Ecclesiastes, is to reconsider the priorities of life so that you can enjoy both your work and the result of your work. What a concept!

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