I just watched the new animated Netflix movie Klaus with some friends the other night, and if it’s not in your holiday movie queue, it should be.
Not just because it’s cute and well done. But because there’s a hidden and profound message for those of us in a line of work we never imagined we’d be in.
Klaus is a clever reimagining of the origins of holiday gift giving, which begins with…a postman.
Actually, he’s a spoiled rich kid name Jesper who’s packed off to post office school by his well-to-do father, and then sent on assignment to create a postal service in Smeerensburg, a miserable, hateful little hamlet north of nowhere.
It’s a seemingly impossible task because its inhabitants don’t send letters; they hurl garbage at each other’s homes and generally busy themselves with petty, ignorant nonsense.
Even the town teacher has given up teaching and turned her classroom into a fish market.
Our reluctant hero does not have a passion for letters or mail delivery. He hates this job.
But then, he spies an opportunity.
He gets the reclusive woodsman who lives outside of town to donate his garage full of handmade toys sitting there collecting dust—and says he’ll deliver the toys for free to every child who requests one by letter.
The woodsman—named Klaus—complies, as long as he can come along, too. And off they go, in a sleigh heaped with toys, dragged along by reindeer. Sound familiar?
Why Christmas? Jesper chooses it because it’s convenient, a built-in occasion for boosting engagement around his campaign.
(Also sounds familiar.)
While the more religiously inclined among us may not like this one bit, fact is, Klaus is in many ways more aligned with our modern cultural take on the holiday: An opportunity to engage customers (and move merch). Which Jesper and Klaus do to great effect.
The moral of the tale is that one kind act leads to another.
But there’s another lesson here that I like a lot, too:
That even if we didn’t choose or don’t even like the job at hand, we can find in it opportunity for change and growth—and life-altering fulfillment.
It reminds me of what Seth Godin says: “You are not your resume; you are your work.”
We all know what it is to have to do a job we don’t want. And like Jesper, every last one of us is looking to improve our standing in the world. There’s nothing wrong with seeking opportunities where you find them.
But the real reward comes when we can engage deeply in the work, any work, and discover where our own unique skill set meets a need and fills it.
We are the work we do. And when we give to that work, it can give back tenfold. It can change you for the better. Maybe change your whole life.
Of course, Jesper changes his mind about his career, and even about the town, because by the end both are changed. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but you can probably guess it’s close to…happily ever after. 🙂
…P.S. If you think everyone has some kind of clear, obvious career path, think again. I was interviewed this week on the 4 Chicks Chatting podcast (great group of ladies), and I talk about just how lost I was, for a long time.