The Work is the Reward

One of my favorite sites these days is They’ve got all kinds of video courses covering any and every aspect of the creative life. You can view the courses for free when they’re live, or you can purchase unlimited access. I’ve taken courses from nationally famous photographers, podcasters and artists. I’m currently enjoying Discover your Creative Purpose with Ann Rae (whom I was introduced to in Alex Blumberg’s Power Your Podcast With Storytelling – another awesome course).

The first day was today. It featured a panel of people who are living their creative purpose – and are financially successful. One of them – I can’t remember which – said something that resonates with me. (Now, please bear with me as I’m paraphrasing from memory…) He was talking about some common obstacles that stop artists from living this life they dream of. He said that often we begin to believe that the work is a means to an end – that we do it for a reward, and that reward will make us happy.  People appreciating our work, a fat paycheck, an award, a mention on a huge website…these things become the motivation to show up for work.  This is no good. It leads to discontent and resentment. Instead – work for the joy of the work. The work is the reward. He told a story of a track team that won a big meet, came back home on the bus and celebrated their success by running laps. Their work was their reward.

I love this. I love doing what I do. Making pictures that show beauty and talking to people in coaching conversations are at the top of my favorite things to do list. I get lost in what I’m doing, time flies by and I feel a pretty deep sense of satisfaction. I feel like I’ve made a valuable contribution. And yet it’s easy for me to believe that this work I love doesn’t really count unless I’m paid – and paid well. I believe the paycheck is the reward. The disguise on that trap tricks me repeatedly. The truth though? The truth I heard this morning is that the work – the fun things I love doing, and that I love doing well –  is the reward.

The panelist took it a step further, saying when we put the reward off into the future, we stop enjoying the day. Life becomes about something out there that we’re reaching for.


When we enjoy the work, when we take time to enjoy the little aspects of our work, we end up enjoying our life. We enjoy our life by living in the moment and taking in the joy that is available in it.

The motivation comes from the work, is not hiding in someone else who decides they understand and appreciate what you’re doing. The work is the reward. Take pleasure in what you’re doing and you’ll do it well.

Enjoy the work, the moment and ultimately –  life.

The work is the reward.


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