“Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.” – Khalil Gibran, On Work
This quote made me quit my job.
I remember exactly where I was when I read it: my weekly flight from New York back to Chicago for work.
It wasn’t that my job was miserable. It was just…meh. Busi-ness. I spent 50-60 hours a week mostly in meetings, emailing back and forth, creating reports, updating statuses, chasing people, pushing information around. Pushing forward a project I didn’t care much about. It was a mild discomfort. But then again, it was “work” after all
Then I read this poem. Soaring through the sky in a metal tube at ungodly speeds, falling asleep in one city and waking up 2 hours later in another — none of that startled or amazed me. But that poem — no, ONE WORD — gobsmacked me: “distaste.”
All things considered, in the quietest hours of my discontent – what did I REALLY have to complain about? I had a good job, was paid well, flew around the country every week doing something that sounded interesting. But this poem, that word, changed it all for me.
Distaste is a mild infliction. So subtle you get accustomed to it over time. So slight your brain has you convinced: this is normal. After a while, you write off the constant distaste for “just how life is” — forgetting how flavorful a fully lived life can be.
The worst part about distaste? It’s not disgust. Or discontent. Or despair. Or depression. The pain isn’t so acute you’re desperate to do something about it. Distaste is the quietest killer of lives and dreams.
The other thing this poem gave me was hope and an aspiration. “Work is love made visible.” Could that be true? Or is this just poet speak? I needed to find these people who supposedly worked with love and figure out how they got there.
I landed and immediately called my dad:
“I need to leave my work! And take alms to those who love theirs!”
He talked me off the quitting edge. And with his encouragement and coaching I did put things in motion to change my life. Not in one giant leap, but in small deliberate steps:
- I laid out all of my potential options and directions. Everything from “quit and take time off” to “move internally.”
- I started a 100 Day Plan. Every day I’d commit to make one tiny action toward a new beginning. Even if I didn’t know where I was going, I’d baby step somewhere. I did it with a colleague and we held each other accountable. (Thanks Terese!)
- I gave myself permission to explore any little thing I was curious about and began launching little projects: Starting a book club in Chicago. Selling alpaca clothing. Going to meetups about long-term travel. Helping a friend build an app.
So I didn’t quit the day I read Khalil Gibran’s words. Eventually I would quit, but only after building a mound of tiny and big steps forward — moving internally into a new department, taking a 7 month sabbatical, traveling, starting this blog, learning to write, and many many more experiments.
But this poem, one quote, put it all in motion.
Is there 1 quote that’s changed your life? Let me know 👇