Long time readers of this blog may know that I’ve tried and failed to create instructional design communities a few times. And, as we’ll examine in a future post, the Dear Instructional Designer show, has a solid base (thanks to all the listeners!) but we’ll probably never be a huge smash hit on the iTunes store. And a recent episode of the Accidental Creative podcast helped me make peace with why. Like so many other people on their instructional design journey’s, I fell into ID. But also like many of the others that I’ve interviewed, I’ve grown really passionate about the craft as I’ve grown. And when you care deeply about something, it can be a real downer to be around other people who don’t seem to care as much. I’m always going on about how I think we should be practicing our craft, even outside of work, and constantly striving to get better. I stand by that. But, fact is, I really, really like what I do. I find it inherently interesting. And I like the idea of growing still farther into roles where I help solve problems, beyond creating just elearning. And one of the things I really miss about my time in higher ed was being around a group of people who were really passionate about their work.
But there are a lot of folks in this vast spectrum of a field who do ID because it pays relatively well, from higher ed to private industry. They come in to work, do what they’re asked to do, and then go home and do the things they really care about nights and weekends. And you know what? That’s okay. There was this great episode of the Accidental Creative, another podcast I listen to regularly, where the host, Todd Henry, talks about how, with all this talk about follow your passion, it’s easy to get caught up in this idea that every job we have should be amazing and we should love going in and it should energize us. And if we don’t absolutely love what we do, we’re doing something wrong.
But Todd challenges that notion. He talks about a continuum of work on the axes of meaningful work, and contributive work. And even more, he describes the meaningful axis as having different levels: There’s work that personally (intrinsically) meaningful to us. This is the stuff we are passionate about, the things we love. There’s also work that’s socially meaningful. This is work that we may not be in love with, but that makes a big impact of people around us or others in the world. And then there’s work that’s economically meaningful. This is work that we may not care much about. It doesn’t get us out of bed in the morning. But it pays the bills. It gives us the freedom to fund the things we do care about. And, as Todd says, there’s nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with doing work that is economically meaningful. And this is just where some IDs or elearning developers are right now. And for those people, my exhortations to make stuff and practice the instructional design craft will never reach them. They probably are making stuff and practicing things; it’s just not instructional design. It’s the things that they find personally meaningful. I can respect that. What that means for me is that I need to know that, of all the instructional designers in the world, my projects on community and making will be limited to those IDs/developers who find this work personally meaningful. That’s a really important thing for me to keep in mind. Both as a maker, and as a communicator, and as a colleague.