September 20th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

LETTERS TO THE PRESIDENT: #609 'I love my job...even when I don't'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

I used to love the song Manic Monday by the Bangles. (Actually Prince wrote it, so that’s another great reason to like it.) But when you’re President I suppose every Monday is exhaustingly manic, even with a letter from me to look forward to…

Dear Mr. President,

Aghhhh! I almost can’t stand that it is Monday again. I have clearly not taken enough vacations this year. And now with the mid-term election underway it’s even harder to catch a break. Ah well. Like I’ve said before, there is no point in complaining about work at a time like this. Everyone I know is either working too hard, or not at all, and that’s the devil and the deep blue sea, isn’t it?

When it comes to work, I try to keep an even keel as they say in the sailing business. (Of course, they also say things like “Avast, ye maties,” and I don’t even know what that means!) Many years ago I read a passage in the Bhagavad-Gita (I went through a period of time when I read a wide variety of religious texts…it was called “college”) which says something like “You have a right to your work, but not to the fruits of the work.” I know I am misquoting, but it’s from memory, so give me a little latitude.

Anyway, I was puzzled by that when I was younger. I mean, what’s the point of work if it’s not a paycheck, a result, an accomplishment? But over the years I have come to see those words as inspirational, and never more so than when I am feeling overworked, overtired, and under appreciated; all of which every president must feel at times.

What it says to me is, “embrace your duty, whatever it may be; don’t fret over the rewards; the work itself is a reward.” I’m sure that I have hideously misinterpreted, but like I said, I find the thought comforting. I’ve used to get through some of the most dreadful, smelly, hot, disgusting, low-paying jobs you can imagine, and I use it still. It helps me dismiss the stings of unfairness we all feel from time to time. It helps me endure long hours. And it keeps me happy, because it helps make each moment of work a reward in its own right.

I’m sure this all sounds like something from a self help book, and I’m sorry about that. But I often think of it when the work bears down, and with this latest election season steadily cranking up, I thought it might be something nice for you to ponder as well on a busy Monday morning.

Call if you can. I’ll be at the office most of the day. And happy to be there.



soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Ronnie

    So what's wrong with "Self Help" books? I spent years reading them after they first appeared and they did me a world of good. Much much more than therapy ever did!
    And yes, Obama must be feeling as if he fell down the "rabbit hole!" Everything political has become so bizarre that I don't recognize it and to me it's very frightening because I DO recognize bullying, manipulation,lying and meanness as political tactics. It's not that those traits are new to politics – but the enormity of their overtaking is scary.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  2. Antoinette A

    I learned last night that my work, my gifts, and the fruits of the work are for the common good. That was in Paul's letter to the Corinthians 1, chpt 12 (the Bible).

    September 20, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  3. Chi

    Manic Monday by the Bangles. Really good song for Monday, Dr Tom 🙂 Must read your letters everyday. There is always something good to keep in mind 🙂

    September 20, 2010 at 9:32 am |

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