Labor Day Note to Entrepreneurs

Luke Dooley

Luke is President at OCEAN Programs.

On Tuesday, September 8th, the OCEAN team will pull back the curtain on an idea that we’ve been working on for months. This new opportunity pulls together years of insights on how to effectively train entrepreneurs and creates a more effective, affordable, and accessible pathway to start, grow, and develop strategies to lead the businesses they love. It’s not lost on me that we’re introducing this new tool immediately after the Labor Day weekend.

It begs the question, ‘Why do we even care? Why does OCEAN care about new workplaces and the cultures they give rise to?’ Below, I’ve captured a bit of our heart and perspective as it pertains to the importance of work in our world.

 

Labor Day is one of those freebie holidays — not a whole lot of fanfare, little expectation. Frankly, not even a lot of clarity on just what we are celebrating. But hey, who am I to question a day off work, a long weekend at the lake, or an excuse to fire up the grill with friends?

May I propose we take a closer look at Labor Day in 2020? What if we stopped to inspect our paradigms, postures, and practices surrounding work? What if we pause in the midst of the frivolous celebration to reframe our personal and cultural approach to work?

The U.S. Department of Labor says that the holiday is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Social and economic achievement…that’s a loaded statement, isn’t it? And don’t even get me started on “strength, prosperity, and well-being…” Was this written by a preacher?

These are distinctly restorative ideas. That is to say, ideas rooted in the heart of God who is relentlessly restoring this broken world, making all things new.

You see, work is part of God’s plan. Progress is part of God’s plan. As many teachers have pointed out, the story of Scripture (and the universe) begins in a Garden and ends in a City. Progress. Movement. Growth.

If you don’t profess to be a Christian, don’t get hung up here. Yes, I believe that God has a design and a plan for our work. But if you don’t agree with that, I believe there are still some principles outlined below that can transform your attitude and perspective about work. You may not be on board for the “Kingdom Good”, but I can only assume you want to champion the “Common Good”… that is to say that you want your work to be a contributing factor in the betterment of culture and society, not only for you, but for your neighbor.

In that garden referenced above when God made the first man and woman, he was clear from the beginning their purpose was to rule over the earth, to subdue the earth…to have dominion (Genesis 1). Work is good. It’s part of the plan. At least it was supposed to be. There’s a temptation to start with the part where Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, and work becomes cursed (Genesis 3). In scripture and in life though, it’s important to remember the beginning. When you forget the beginning, bad things tend to happen.

If you and I operate from the perspective that our work is nothing more than cursed, we have no hope in our work, no purpose. It’s simply a means to an end or worse, a necessary evil. What is the “end” anyway? A healthy 401K? A commemorative plaque and gold watch upon retirement? A subpar sheet cake shared on our final day in the break room? Not exactly a compelling vision is it? If that’s the end goal, then the process is going to be a real struggle.

Besides, what an incomplete and exclusive vision. What about those laborers who don’t have a fancy title, traditional workspace, or retirement match? What about stay-at-home parents? What about freelancers, hustlers, and gig economy gurus? What about those laid off due to a global pandemic? Not so easy to put work in a tidy little box, now is it? This is why we need a more complete vision of vocation, purpose, and our invitation to play a role in God’s restorative work.

This message should ring especially true in the heart of entrepreneurs. The dream in your heart is to bring something new into the world. To solve a problem for a certain group of people. To create a better future. Entrepreneurs are on the front lines of shaping and forming culture, economies, communities, and cities.

I could write 10,000 words about work, but it’s a Holiday Weekend, and you’ve got a cookout to get to. So let me summarize with three simple thoughts and a recommended reading:

Paradigm: Why do you work? Is the root motivation or purpose for your work that is less true or compelling than the truth of your identity as an image-bearer of God, invited to co-labor with him for the restoration of the world?

Posture: What is your mental model for work?What is your heart’s approach to work? Does there need to be a shift in your attitude about work that sees the posture move from “means to my end” to “opportunity to serve my neighbor?”

Practices: Are there practical changes you can make to the regular rhythms and patterns of your workday that could redeem the time and realign your priorities to match the desire of God’s heart? How could you better prepare for meetings to respect the time of everyone involved? How could your email etiquette improve the life of those with whom you’re communicating? How could your commute time be used in a more imaginative way to seek the voice of God for your workday?

There’s so much to say on all of these ideas. Entire books and scholarly volumes have been written on this topic. There’s a reason so much ink has been expelled on this conversation of faith, work, entrepreneurship, and the impact on our personal and communal lives: Because it’s central to the heart of God. Because a robust theology of work changes everything in terms of our view of identity, purpose, worth, calling, and love of neighbor.

It’s a massive topic. I’m grateful for a lot of really smart people who have tackled the topic well in the past. Here are a few of my favorite resources:

If you’re ready to start your entrepreneurship journey, and you want to get these paradigms, postures, and practices right from the start… check out OCEAN’s Genesis Entrepreneurship Training course.

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