Why I have the best boss in the world.

Does anyone remember the live-action movie of that children’s classic, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery? Besides being a wonderful story, it had great songs with extreme choreography such as “A Snake in the Grass” and “I’m on Your Side”. The one brought to mind today though is “Why Am I Happy? I’m Dying of Thirst,” or, in this case, ‘Why am I happy? My Job is the Most Boring On Earth.’
Granted, the job is not boring and stressful at the same time, like working in a bank or hospital where you can screw up someone’s finances or health. But still, it wears on me, the day after day slog of pointless activity – answering the phone, opening the mail, making some copies, scheduling some meetings and finally going home. It hurts my soul a little. However, every once and awhile there’s a little light that comes in. usually it’s in the form of actual research projects my boss gives me, data that I can be proud to find and quickly organize, getting to use that rotting organ, my brain.

Recently in my ceaseless mail opening there’s been quite a few holiday gifts to my boss from various companies and organizations he works with. Sometimes these will be food or tasty beverage items that he shares. Other times these will be more practical items, like office gadgets or a finance or investment related book. One of my favorites this year was Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. What does this book have to do with investing? My co-workers could not decide, and my boss playfully announced our office would now follow the Mongol model and proceed to take over the world. I was ready, just as soon as he gave us our ponies – Mongolian horde ponies, of course.

So he gave me my next research project – what is the proper weaponry of the Mongol Horde? What, exactly, would we need to advance our mission of taking over the world? Wikipedia, here I come!

In the end it’s not the fact that my boss is such a relaxed manager, or that he feels comfortable joking around with his staff that keeps me feeling good about my job. True, I work at a large institution where people might tend to be lost. But at the basic level, in the small moments like this, it’s when I really know that this institution truly values education and learning. It’s in one person saying to another ‘let’s find out’, that curiosity in our own history and the world around us that gives me a renewed sense of purpose. True, my phone answering and mail opening are very small in the scale of life, but at least I know they are menial tasks that support something meaningful, that are in some small way contributing to the larger world.