No easy answers here, as usual, but it comes down the same, elusive ideas that surround the whole “soft skills” discussion found elsewhere in this week’s issue. Two components that have always worked for me and the folks I’ve encountered along the way are:

1. Work you believe in (and thus never feels like work)

2. Co-workers with whom you can get along (certainly falls into the soft skill category)

Whether I was part of a newspaper staff, a military unit, a construction crew, or in my own classroom, these two components were the prime determinants of what I could tolerate and for how long.

It’s like this: Getting coffee for a group of people with whom I believe we can make the world a better place is a noble task I could do for free for a long time. Getting coffee every day for superiors who don’t know how else to use me, and who don’t seem to have any purpose or direction is something I could only do once, and not very happily even then, no matter how much the job paid.