Because it’s related to the topic of my book and my work with Wake Forest University, I’ve been reading a lot about meaningful work lately. And in Bali, I met examples of it everywhere—people who have what they call “taksu.”
Taksu can be interpreted on the surface as “talent” or “passion,” but its meaning goes much deeper than that. Tasksu is not only the skill that a master carver, dancer, mask maker, weaver or musician has—it’s the inspiration behind it.
There is no direct English translation, but taksu is sometimes described as “essence of spirit,” or “divine inspiration.” It reflects the talent that comes with lifelong training coupled with the indefinable gift that can only come from a higher place.
For lack of better word, it’s the “it” factor.
While we were in Bali, we met artisans who modeled taksu. The mask maker who had been honing his craft his entire life.
The wood carvers who had trained for years; the dancers who were taught from the time they could walk.
Taksu transcends talent and devotion—it’s the universal muse that guides our hands and our minds when we work. But was taksu, or meaningful work, limited to the artists we met? Hardly. We saw it in the Balinese healer, the shopkeeper, our tour guides, and our hosts—people who were called to serve, in whatever grand or humble way.
As hard as taksu is to describe, you know it when you see it. The waiter who clearly adores guiding his patron through a memorable meal. The teacher whose words inspire; the farmer whose produce tastes better because of the love she puts into it.
While I was in Bali learning about taksu, my thoughts went straight to Tracie, the receptionist at my dentist’s office. Tracie embodies the concept of taksu—she pours out loving kindness and humor in a place that’s not usually a favorite spot for people to visit. I’m sure nearly every dentist and doctor’s office, accounting and law firm, bank and brewery in Charlotte has tried to hire Tracie away. But here she sits, behind her desk, making my day a better one to experience and an easier one to navigate.
What Tracie teaches me is this: being inspired is not always about setting off on a search for meaningful work, it’s about finding meaning in the work you have.