Raising The Bar
Though not the majority perhaps, there is still a mighty group of people who are hardwired to achieve and lift the game. These people are motivated by the idea that their efforts, their team, and their genesis, are what makes the difference for the better.
If you’re in this camp, your reason for ‘why you do it’ is so you can improve yourself, your offering, your industry. Innovation is a natural fit here and while not everything new equals better, those driven to perfect will find ways to ensure the innovation they cause is.
The limitation is that raising the bar isn’t always possible in every situation. We’re all challenged by our personal limitations and there will be things we just can’t improve or innovate on. Raising the bar as a way of life, there are restrictions to the extent that we can live it out.
Certainly in the context of EEn, balance has to be struck between the roles we’re paid and not paid to do. If you’re employed full time for example, the scope of perfecting your entrepreneurial pursuits outside of work will be forced the fit the particular scale that your Other, Other Job affords you (more on the ‘Other, Other Job’ later).
Further food for thought – raising the bar isn’t well suited to relationship building. While striving for strong and authentic professional and personal relationships is an absolutely brilliant idea, continually working to ‘improve or perfect’ them will cause a stress that will feel like that your trying to fix things for the other people involved. As a male prone to this approach, I can attest to this not being the first tool we should reach for when trying to create meaningful relationships for ourselves.
Much like the payoff, raising the bar has a really powerful face to it but lacks the motivational-completeness necessary for the EEn to be as transformational within their employment as outside of it.
Born For This
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
- E. E. Cummings
To be absolutely clear in revealing my not so veiled hand, I think the greatest ‘why’ answer is that we’re doing what we’re doing because it’s who we are expressed in action and thought. It’s not the same as saying “I was born this way” removing our ownership from the good and the bad that come with it. Rather, it’s the idea that we’re driven to pursue the best version of the people we’re destined to become as if everything in life conspired to be a certain way.
In my own experience, I opted to pursue experience over pay for the past decade. In some ways there is an aspect of the payoff being my part of my answer to why. But as I have matured in life, success and failure has revealed that I have a deeper motivation inspired by a picture of who I believe I can become. My conclusion is that the task is not how do I use employment (self or otherwise) to fulfill the picture, but how do I use everything that I engage in to do that?
Doing what you were born for invokes a relentless drive that is generative when paired with care, empathy (I’ll expand on both of these shortly), and humility. Of these three, humility is the foundational ingredient to learning who it is we really are – strengths, passions, default moods, and areas of weakness.
Steering towards becoming more of everything great we are means enduring two ongoing processes which we humans tend to find pretty uncomfortable:
1) We have to change the notions of who we think (or are informed) we are as we discover the truth about ourselves – the truth about our limitations and sweet spots – which only inquest following experience can give us; and,
2) Committing to the options that we’ll actually will do.
Number 2 is particularly crucial because if we get it right, if we uncover insights into what makes us tick and how we can live out the best of it day-in day-out, we’ll have far more options in life then we could ever possibly see through. For the EEn driven by the desire to do what they were born for, there is no respite from being themselves. They’ll have to choose wisely what they engage in order to succeed at anything.
Ultimately whatever the reason is for why (and I’ll state it again – money or perfection will not be enough alone), what matters is we find a way to translate the why into a deep care for what we do. We need this deep degree care in order to develop a profound level of empathy.
Being genuine about our commitment and attention to getting it right (care) is what will build the trust we need to influence and lead people within our organisations. The development of profound empathy for the people we are ultimately serving with the end result of our labours, will ensure that what we’re doing is always on the mark and never in vein.
The Fall Of Kodak
No doubt you heard that the once great Kodak is now sputtering along on the brink of death. I think there’s more to the picture than the obvious gaffs to how the company handled technological innovation in its industry. Essentially Kodak employees – the one’s that influenced the business – lacked empathy with their customers. For over a decade Kodak slipped further and further behind how people out in the world saw the place of photography in their lives.
If a culture of EEn’s ruled Kodak, there is all likelihood that the EEn working for Kodak could have championed the innovations that eventually would snatch victory from Kodak instead. If the people who Kodak employed lived every aspect of their lives as creative entrepreneurial-minded people, I argue we wouldn’t be saying good-bye to the once great company.
So back to the central question of this post – why are you doing it?
To answer this question we must be consciously aware that how we use our talents and capacity to care does matter. We have to do whatever it takes to make the why the center of our lives. The belief in our why is the motivation we use to develop the care and grow the empathy we will need to innovate anything of worth.
The Final Word Of Caution.
The belief that drives your decision to commit to your employment will be the belief that will shape your life far beyond what you are employed to do. You can’t be an EEn and enjoy the spoils if your discontent with what you’re doing for a job. Frankly, it’s a myth to think that what you do for a living doesn’t shape who you are. Doing anything for 40 some hours a week, week after month after year, that doesn’t bring you deep fulfillment will compromise the quality of life you lead outside of your employment. Whatever our motivations are we must be set on the outcome of creating, improving, and making a difference otherwise where doing nothing more than making up numbers.
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This series of posts is part my project EEn: How to hijack your job, be happily employed, and become an entrepreneur (or die trying) and was inspired by Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup. This series is for people have the entrepreneurial spirit and who still want to work for others (and not negotiate the tricky seas of running a start-up).
If you have a great idea for a product or service that your employer will never do in 1000 years and you want to leave your job to do that instead – go read Chris’ book.