Meraki

When I discovered the word “meraki,” I could not stop saying it. “My food may not be 5-star, but I always cook with meraki!” I love the way it sounds, but even more I love what it means. It loosely translates as “doing something with such passion and care that you leave a piece of you behind in your work.”

It’s a Greek word that is often used when talking about creating, cooking, art, and design. Interestingly, meraki does not have an English counterpart so I’ll just keep using it in its original Greek form.

There’s a parable about a son who helps his father build a fence around their property. When the son is scolded by the father for not taking as much care on the backside of the fence as the front side, the son protests and asks why it matters since no one will ever see or know about the construction on the backside. The father says, “Because I’ll know. And, because you’ll know.” He wanted him to work with meraki. To love the work so much that you put your best into it, not because someone else is watching or will notice and not even for what you might gain because of the craftsmanship, but because it fills you to do it with such love and attention.

In my personal leadership workshops, I often ask my audiences, “Who believes they could work harder than they are?” Almost everyone raises their hand. “Then, why aren’t you?” is my next question and what follows is always a discussion of how much the feeling of real passion, love, and joy plays into what we are willing to put into our work. Meraki.

This week, give some thought to how much meraki you put into your work. If the work you do is not your calling and you have no feeling of meraki when you do it, consider a timeline to switch careers, employers, employees, or whatever it will take to create the kind of work you love.

If you like (or even love) the work you do, think about how you could put more meraki into the work you’re doing every day. How can you leave behind a legacy of personal creation around the work you do? How can you leave a piece of you in the masterpiece you’re creating?

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
~ Steve Jobs