The Downside of WorkAway


To analyse how challenging it can be to receive orders/directions/suggestions from someone else when there is no payment involved. The psychology of working for less than the minimum requirements to sustain life; hence spending savings while working.

Everything is going pretty smoothly around here from what I see… so what do you need me for? Seriously if it’s not me that you need, then you need not tell me what to do.

Allow me to do what it is that I do, rather than asking me to be someone else (probably the someone else that you want me to be). Value what I do, rather than expecting me to do what is valuable for you.

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As a result of writing this article, I’ve updated my WorkAway profile to include the following guideline:
1) Let’s agree on some work that I do on my own.
2) We can also find some work that we do together.
3) For any work that you want to tell me what to do, or how to do it, I ask for money payment in return. This is for my own well being and so that I can stay in balance with you. If you don’t want to pay then the solution is simple: don’t tell me what to do 🙂

Work sometimes involves pain, discomfort, tediousness, and many other unpleasant things that may arise.

t’s not so much about the task itself, but about how I relate to the task. Cutting grasses to feed the cows is alright. Cutting grasses to protect the rice field and to feed the cows is better. But from my perspective, I’d prefer to leave the grasses and allow the cows to feed freely, or to plant a hedge that intercepts the spreading grasses, or simply to leave it alone and let the insects and wildlife prosper.

So when it comes down to it, I really lack a motivation to cut grasses. So if you find me cutting grasses somewhere, it is likely that this motivation has come from somewhere outside of myself, probably from another person. In these events, I have found myself to quickly become exhausted of the task. I begin to wonder ‘why am I pushing myself so hard for someone else? And where is this someone else anyway? Why aren’t they here with me doing the same work? I recognize how I’ve become employed, and that really I’m doing someone else’s job. With that realization I stop cutting the grass.

One day someone suggested that I help splitting coconuts. In truth, I had been doing this most days to fulfill the daily use and keeping a few extra aside. What I didn’t know was that the group was preparing to dry the coconuts for sale as raw material to process into coconut oil. In response to this suggestion that I get involved, I stepped back to say “if he’s motivated to split 50 coconuts, I’m not going to get between him and his motivation.” So I didn’t. However, later I observed that the splitting was done and now they were being cracked open. I thought it would be fun to do this task, so I went over to offer my time and energy. I was allowed to crack them open and then discovered a coconut flower inside, I left to share this with other people, and when I returned the task had been continued by the initial person. So I had my fun and helped out a little bit. It was good for everyone, I think. Motivation came up in me naturally, and it expressed in a completely unique and giving way. Later I learned about the intent to sell for coconut oil and thought how with such information I may have been motivated to help this cause from the beginning. At the time though I thought it was just a case of someone who had energy to expend.

I like to think that I’m not lazy. I would call myself quite selective. I know from experience that when the motivation comes from within the pain, discomfort, tediousness, or whatever else may arise can dissolve away or be met with my own internal fire. This has allowed me to perform very well in the education system, and do physically challenging things like hitchhike across Canada, or go on wild mountain excursions, or bike around an urban environment carrying 100 lbs of vegetables. I was motivated internally to do these things, and so it was easy to move past any hurdles.

The difference between “I do what I say, or I do what I want” and “Do what I say, or Do what I want”

Telling myself versus being told

The joy of giving by doing the dishes. The hardship of doing by being told to do the dishes, so as to become a chore.
The difference between working with you and working for you.
I’ve heard it said that “The only thing worse than being unemployed is being employed” [unknown source]…employment is like paid slavery.
When the motivation comes from without, as in from ‘you who’s telling me what to do’, then I can quickly become exhausted of the task.

How to find value from other people?

Sometimes I believe that I’m fine doing anything so long as other people find it valuable. The idea stems from needing to prove my worth, that it is worth keeping me around and feeding me. (side note: ‘the 3-day deal’[hyperlink to “None of this is for sale…] is a way to constantly know this, as is getting paid). When someone is getting paid there is a constant reminder that there is value in the work because someone else is willing to use money to have it done. With WorkAway it is sometimes easy to rationalize out of this, like when there are empty rooms or additional space for other people to sleep and when there is extra food. When is there extra money? See my point?

Along the journey I’ve considered some as ways to find value

  • No news is good news”
  • Trusting that if there was a problem it would be coming to my attention. If this is not happening, then there is no problem, and hence nothing to worry about.
  • Investigating any comment of appreciation to find the source or meaning and to test how genuine it is. Is the comment sincere?

Ultimately, I’m learning that the value for what I do may also need to come from within. The thinking here is if I value what I do, then what does it matter what anyone else thinks? The result may be that I am asked to leave the site, and if that’s the case then it may be for the best anyway. I want to be creative and live in a reality that is beneficial for myself and for others, so if there is no value in it for others then I’m in the wrong project. If there is not value in it for me, then I’m behaving incorrectly within potentially the right project.


Maybe you can relate?


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