“What is the value of keeping on doing good work?”
It’s a simple question that has a lot of weight behind it. What’s good work anyway? What with all the promises and get-rich-quick schemes out there, all the hype and hoopla in marketing and advertising, all you need to push your products and services is to sell the sizzle, not the steak . To answer the question you need to break it down.
“What is the value?” – Assigning worth.
How much is your product or service worth to your audience, your customers, or your market?
You may scoff at all those over-the top infomercials where people flap, flail, and screw up such simple actions like opening a jar, only to have Today’s Magical Doohicky save them for only three easy installments of 19.99 each — but did you know that the infomercial market is worth billions? Yes. Those cheesy shows and demos are part of an industry and a very healthy market worth billions of dollars. Just because you can’t see it from where you’re sitting –probably on the couch– doesn’t mean the market isn’t flourishing, or relevant.
Informative link: The Economics of Infomercials
What’s more, the home-shopping and TV shopping market measures in the billions too. From cookware to jewelry cleaning, from skincare to household appliances, the home shopping industry is just another parallel market to internet commerce. For businesses selling products in both arenas, the similarities are many, and the work required to succeed is as demanding. You may just have passed one off as a silly series of hard-sell skits, but the market is there and it is huge. You just didn’t see it.
It’s a question of awareness, information, and perspective.
You need to train yourself to recognize value in what looks or feels painful, discomforting, or boring.
You need to work at being able to see the opportunities around you to act on them. A junk-heap painting can be a work of art. A dusty pebble can actually be a diamond in the rough. The value in doing good work doesn’t always appear instantly, but doing it –and doing it well — has at least a two-fold advantage when you pay attention.
You learn to do better work, you build discipline and discernment as to what makes good work good. You refine your standards as well as strengthen your capabilities.
Now, what is good work?
What does it mean to you? The definition shifts a bit with every market and niche you ask, but wouldn’t you agree that one definition of good work basically means “resulting in a product that does what it is expected to do, and does it well?”
How would you know if a plumber did good work? An electrician? A pen, a vacuum cleaner, a can-opener , an app– how would you know if they –or it — did good work?
Check out the past tense used. You know it (or they) did good work by their results. This works with people as well as products. You judge them by the results of their actions, and not their intentions.
And then there is the question of appropriateness.
Good plumbers and electricians fix the problem and makes sure it gets the proper treatment so it won’t happen again. A good pen writes without skipping, blotting, leaking, or otherwise messing up in the act of writing. A good vacuum cleaner sucks hard, doesn’t choke or overheat(YMMV, kindly add your own criteria). A can opener opens cans, and only cans. Not your fingers or nearby fleshy bits. A good app does what it’s programmed for, doesn’t hog your phone’s processor or drains the battery, and doesn’t steal or sneakily get private data. (Again, YMMV.)
You know good work by its results, whether it’s a toilet that stops running, a vacuum that’s years old and still going strong, a planner filled with readable script, and apps that measurably makes your life easier. Good work just helps make life better.
Now the undercover question returns: “What is the value of keeping on doing good work?” The important hint: “…keeping on.”
It’s not about the client or end-customers now, it’s about you. What about what happens to you in the doing of the work? What’s the value of all that work for you?
Again, there are silent sub-contextual images waving in the background. Discouragement. Exhaustion. Late nights. All sorts of thoughts start slipping in. ” Well, you gotta fill in the time somehow, right?” It’s like the bits of motivational advice mashed up. ” A year from now you’ll wish you started today. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”
Or what about this advice to someone thinking about going back to school? “You can start now and end up at 40 with a degree, or end up at 40 without one. Either way, you’ll still turn 40.”
We like comfort. We are wired to seek it, and to do whatever we can to keep it. But comfort is different from comfort zones. And look, here’s yet another motivational sentence: “Growth happens just outside the comfort zones.”
“What is the value of keeping on doing good work — especially in the times where it’s hard and discouraging and seeming pointless, fruitless and endless?”
Another term for work is “labor.” And just like labor, good work is introducing new things into the world. What you get our of it is what you deliver to your end-users, but what you become from it is your unexpected gift to yourself.
Your self-esteem — your self-estimate of your value, of what you have –rises. You build a publishing history. You have finished projects. You created an app or program that helps makes people’s lives or businesses run easier. You have testimonials from satisfied customers. You build a fan-base, a community, a peer group, etc. You make a living.
Your self respect — your assessment of what you have done and are capable of doing, what you have tackled and are capable of taking on– increases.
Your skills, your knowledge, your insight, your diligence, your conscientiousness, your experience and your experiences : You grow from the situations you struggle through and struggle with. In the course of developing your business, your products and your services, you’re also educating yourself.
You might have overlooked that at some point, but it’s still true: In providing a service to others, we can also serve ourselves.
We develop a reputation for doing good work. People trust us. They spread the good word and more people come to trust us to help them. We can build a community from these relationships. We can make a living and a life.
So the next time you’re tempted to throw in the towel, or think about taking shortcuts, or consider cutting corners, take a break. Get away for a while, maybe go get some coffee, or rest on the issues that are bugging you. When the feelings fade, come back and keep doing good work. You’ll thank yourself later.
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