the meaning of cars

rainbow beach sunset

Pat, our 1989 Nissan Patrol is a wonderful car. Like so many objects, it means more to us than its commercial value (not much!) because of the memories and associations. Over this weekend, Pat took us north across lush green countryside and through the Great Sandy National Park towards Fraser Island. Our stop this weekend was Rainbow Beach.

The clear blue skies against the vivid greens and the coloured sands on the cliffs in Rainbow Bay and also as the back drop to soothing sunsets on the beach, were strangely comforting. Perhaps because there have been so many grey skies this year on the Sunshine Coast. The windows-down driving through curvy national park roads, the familiar sound of the ‘old’ car doors slamming behind beach weary bodies, the untidy piles of bags, and weekend away stuff in the back … all better than the descriptions could possibly convey. We love you Pat.

For us, the weekend was amazing. To be able to decide on the spur of the moment to go away for a perfect-ish weekend to such an awesome spot (at its best with cloudless days and slight offshore breezes rendering the expansive bay as a shimmering millpond all weekend) is fantasy living really.

But things don’t always go well and they didn’t for some blokes we met while there. If you’d followed our social media updates you will have seen the heartbreaking images of two 4WDs getting stuck in soft sand and then slowly and painfully getting swallowed by the incoming tide. I have no reason to believe these two vehicles meant any less to the two owners, than Pat means to us. Added to that, the near new Hilux could have bought a couple of truck loads of Pats.

A simple fateful decision can lead to heart shattering consequences. I’m sure both men wish they could rewind to that pivotal moment when they pulled their vehicles beside each other on the beach and discussed whether to try to get around the rocks. It reminded me that a regretful decision is always only a moment away. Life is vulnerable.

So, what does this mean? As I reflect on the fabulous weekend we’ve just enjoyed, it again reminded me to make the most of every day. The privileges of life that offer freedom and choice can never be taken for granted. As we wondered on Thursday, whether to do the ‘easy’ thing and have a weekend at home (nothing wrong with that) or put in a bit of effort and spend a few extra dollars to see a different corner of this beautiful land, we again ended up at ‘why not?’. Not an ounce of regret. While Pat is still with us, we’ll stack the memories as high as we can.

Interestingly though, and importantly really, the pleasure of the weekend does not come purely from the weekend. Tomorrow morning I embark on a month of work effort that, if I achieve what I hope to in collaboration with others, will make a significant difference to tens of thousands of people who currently live with completely unacceptable levels of poverty. Today was rich because of tomorrow. Or maybe, today without tomorrow would be hollow. Or something like that …

Satisfaction in life does not come from the pursuit of pleasure, but from harmonising a meaningful positive contribution to the lives of others, and our own enjoyment of this extraordinarily beautiful world.

meaning and work

“When does a job feel meaningful? Whenever it allows us to generate delight or reduce suffering in others. Though we are often taught to think of ourselves as selfish, the longing to act meaningfully in our work seems just as stubborn a part of our makeup as our appetite for status or money.”


So says Allain de Botton, the wonderful writer whose books I’ve eagerly devoured. With the benefit of hindsight it feels reasonable to say that it was just a matter of time before he turned his attention to the ‘pleasures and sorrows of work

With the inevitable evolution in our economies as we emerge from the current twin crises, climate change and economic, it is a better chance than we’ve had for a long time to ask questions about work and workplaces. We have taken it for granted that work can be drudgery as we participate in the machinery of industry.

Ergo’s development of the concept of generative workplaces has incorporated a variety of dimensions that have been well studied and understood, including workplace wellbeing and organisational health. But de Botton’s straight forward question above is the nub of it for me. A generative organisation is one that facilitates meaningful work.

On one level this is about stakeholder engagement. Especially staff. To what extent do employees experience meaning and joy as people in the course of their work? At another level it is about the meaningful contribution of the organisation to society. The two are clearly related, but the capacity of leaders to keep people connected with the greater social purposes of enterprise appear to be sorely lacking. It goes without saying of course that the tragedy is that many, many enterprise leaders have themselves lost touch with a vision and purpose beyond wealth generation.

I hope that the current climate might prompt more people to ask the meaning question in the prime of their careers, rather than having to walk the well worn path that throws up the questions as wallpaper for a midlife crises.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How would you answer this question?

“What conditions allow you to experience meaningfulness in your work?”