Why Emotional Labor isn’t Optional

We like the sidelines. The gray area. The safe zone. The periphery. I used to like all of those things too. But there was something about those places that kept me feeling empty. Maybe even a little bit isolated from everything that seemed important. Life, however was relatively “easy.” I didn’t have to think too much. Because, I wasn’t invested in much — which, in the end, left me feeling unfulfilled, and in some cases, uninvited.

I looked on with detachment at the “movers and shakers,” wondering how I might be invited to their game. I really thought it required some kind of invitation. And, since I wasn’t invited, I didn’t think there was any way I could make a difference. Apathetic, disengaged, lacking purpose, and for the most part, going through the motions. And, wondering if this was all there was to life.

But, then I discovered my voice. And, I took a few risks. To my surprise, there wasn’t an echo. Someone listened. And I realized I wasn’t alone.

I soon began to learn that it’s not being invited that makes things happen — at least not anymore. Today, everyone is invited — as long as you’re willing to put in the emotional labor of caring about the people in the ring.

The first step is to invite yourself.

I can say that now, that I have spent some time doing the emotional labor, because I realize how incredible the reward of doing work that matters is. I didn’t set out to be here, writing, sharing, guiding and coaching. But I learned by doing, and inviting myself — something I wish was easier, so that more people might join the good fight.

But, then again, if it was easy… everyone would be doing it — and that would… make it challenging, harder… ?

Wait. What’s wrong with that?

A world filled with people who take it upon themselves to lean in, make a difference, care? Wow, I think that would be wonderful. And yet, you’ll hear things that make it sound like that wouldn’t be such a great thing.

Nice guys finish last. Why bother? Who cares? The ends justify the means, right? It’s quantity, not quality.


What if all of that is a fallacy? What if we bought that from someone who didn’t really know what it took to live life in pursuit of purpose?

This goes with anything, and the question I am emboldened to ask now, more than ever is: Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years?

Sure, you can choose not to do the emotional labor. You can take the easy way.

But at what point will taking the easy way get you where you want to be? At what point do you decide to pursue your purpose?

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Also published on Medium.

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