This is a story I hope you never find yourself in the middle of.
The other day I was driving home from a project I was working on. In my mind I anticipated my wife asking, “How was your day” as she always lovingly does.
My mind automatically said, “It was good” as I reviewed my day, thinking of the activities, meetings and tasks I had accomplished.
Then, something struck me. And it hit me hard.
All the activities, meetings and tasks were, to be sure, good. They were productive; I did or led them well. Going toward the goal at hand, one could say I had a successful day.
And in that narrow of a view – the view of a day – I had been successful. If I wanted, I could celebrate a happy, successful, non-irritating day! Good for me!
Most people might leave it at that and go on with their life and be happy that they had another good day. But my mind would not let it stay there.
I then had a realization hit me and my spirit was suddenly down, then it turned to determined, excited and then enlightened.
And this was the thought that came to my mind…
“But what is your ultimate purpose?” It was there that I confronted the reality that, in this task, my goal is empty, hollow. In the long run would it make a difference? No. Would it make lives much better? No.
It was a mediocre purpose. It was a self-sustaining purpose, not one to make that part of the world better. This is where I was suddenly down.
I was working on something that, in the end, didn’t mean much.
Immediately after this thought, however, my mind suddenly became determined. “I don’t ever want to work on the mundane, the mediocre. And you know what? There is no reason I need to!” Looking forward to the projects I have coming up, I realized that, yes, they are worth my time and effort. With that, came an emotion of excitedness!
Then, a little meta-cognition kicked in and said to me, “Self, I want you to realize how you feel now compared to 30 seconds ago. Notice the difference? Notice how you feel you have a real purpose, something to be excited and determined about? Notice how your energy level suddenly jumped and how you feel you can conquer the world? When you are working toward purposes that have real meaning, you can feel like this all the time.”
And then this still, small voice said to me,
“A good day spent on a mediocre purpose is worse than a bad day spent on a great and noble purpose.”
This is a disease that affects (dare I say) most men and women in the workforce. It is a slow moving cancer that is very destructive and is difficult to detect.
This is the worst type to have because most people live with it and have NO IDEA how debilitating it is. It easily sucks out the life of any working human being.
So ask yourself, “Have I been infected?”
Well, let’s see. I’m sure you want to improve things at work right? Do you want to improve them to the level that Larry Page does?
Larry Page lives by the gospel of 10x. Most companies would be happy to improve a product by 10 percent. Not the CEO and cofounder of Google. The way Page sees it, a 10 percent improvement means that you’re basically doing the same thing as everybody else. You probably won’t fail spectacularly, but you are guaranteed not to succeed wildly.
That’s why Page expects his employees to create products and services that are 10 times better than the competition. That means he isn’t satisfied with discovering a couple of hidden efficiencies or tweaking code to achieve modest gains. Thousand-percent improvement requires rethinking problems entirely, exploring the edges of what’s technically possible, and having a lot more fun in the process.
Anyone can work to maintain. But that is not my purpose in life. Nor should it be anyone’s purpose who reads this blog. I feel we have what it takes to make a real difference and change the world for the better. If you have the capacity (and I know you do), it is time to stop being lulled by the ease of the way.
Working in a mediocre job for mediocre purposes won’t scratch that itch. You must do something radical.
…do you want to have a year that matters — or do you want to spend another year starring-slash-wallowing in the lowest-common-denominator reality show-slash-whiny soap opera of your own inescapable mediocrity-slash-self-imposed tragedy?
…Why are you here? Do you want this to be another year that flies by, half-hearted, arid, rootless, barely remembered, dull with dim glimpses of what might have been? Or do you want this to be a year that you savor, for the rest of your surprisingly short time on Planet Earth, as the year you started, finally, irreversibly, uncompromisingly, to explosively unfurl a life that felt fully worth living?
The choice is yours. And it always has been.
So let me ask you. If you are not in a place that you absolutely love and where you can make a big difference (and grow an immense amount yourself), why are you there? Why are you doing that? Why are you in that job?
We were not put on this earth to be OK, but we were given the capacity to make the lives of others drastically better.
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If it isn’t something you absolutely LOVE, why are you there?
If the environment doesn’t instill in you the excitement you know you can have, and that you have had at moments in your life, then what environment does?
Remember those times? Good. Now go find them and make them a permanent part of your life.
Maybe the answer for you is this. (No, really. Click the link and read this letter. It is VERY worth it.)
Here is the litmus test: When was the last time you woke up in the morning very excited to do what you are about to during that day? Or when you were headed home and you couldn’t wait to get back and keep working? If that was more than a month ago, I would say you have some serious contemplating to do.
So, my challenge to you (and, honestly to me) is to do what excites you and something that matters. Anything less will bring on a profound sense of regret.
(I have to say that the anticipation of writing this post was THAT exciting for me. I hope it will help make a difference in your life for the better.)