It seems that all animals work for their existence.
Sometimes retirement means death.
I suspect that hard work always pays off. Going through periods of hard work strengthens a person. Such hard work, even if it goes unrecognized while it is undertaken, probably results in future benefits. Can you imagine the myriad consequences that actions have?
In order to live a balanced life, one must have both work and leisure. Apollo and Dionysus must both be appreciated, but many people heavily skew their lives towards just one or the other.
Thoreau wrote that some men incurred so much debt and obligation that they lived like beasts of burden. This is the life of many (most?) people in America today. They reproduce mindlessly, assume huge mortgages, entangle their romantic relationships in legal contracts (marriage), and imagine that consumer oriented self-indulgence will lead to happiness.
We all know people who work like slaves, we all know people who attempt to perpetually party. Both of these lifestyles are shallow. Have you ever met a perpetually slaving worker who had high level human relationships, who stayed in shape, or who explored the meaning of life? Have you ever met a really interesting and deep person who constantly spoke of partying?
Work and sense of life mission:
It is gratifying to make money while doing what one loves, whether teaching, creating art, solving problems, or whatever.
It is gratifying to have a life mission even if it does not bring one money.
I resonate with the idea that we each come into life with a mission or purpose (to use poor words). It is ours to discover, and may change during life.
Below are some practical thoughts on jobs (one form of work):
When looking for work, you don't need to please everyone, only ONE employer need like you enough to hire you. To the extent that you honestly project yourself as you are, you're likely to connect with an employer with whom you'll be compatible. Interviews for new jobs (projects) cost only time, and the experience of these interviews makes you a better interviewee. Many interviewers are as awkward as the interviewee, so consider taking charge of the interview by asking technical questions. You can display your knowledge of the job's requirements by the questions you ask.
I suspect that the package deal that currently constitutes employment is changing. I suspect that we are moving towards a future where being self-employed is somehow more the norm. This means moving towards a future of more self-responsibility, of less employer paternalism, and less employer control over the employee.
Some employees falsely feel that they have more job security as employees than they would being independent contractors or otherwise self-employed.. Such is rarely the case. The diversity of customers for whom the self-employed usually produce makes them secure on many levels.
Think about what conscious work would be. Is it real hard work? Is it totally inspired work? Is it work where you witness yourself working? Is it where you just do what is called for every instant?
At the end of his book: Meetings with Remarkable Men, Gurdjieff tells the story of how he made the money to pay for all his teaching endeavors. This is a fascinating talk! It chronicles how a man utilized free thinking, adaptability, creativity, people management, and effort to make money numerous ways, never tied to a single type of business, or a single vocation.