There is something I’ve been struggling with lately, trying to deal with some major issues of the pressure that comes naturally to a workaholic in high-stress environments. You may have been too; in fact a friend of yours may have sent you a link to this blog for one very important reason that you may have missed somewhere along the way:
You do good work.
It may not seem like it right now. In fact, we seem to live in a world where the predominant paradigm is of pain, where we only feel validated when we actually don’t live up to our own outlandish measures.
Having “The Talk”
For me, it started with a frank conversation with a good friend of mine recently. It was uncomfortable, as I don’t like hearing good things about me – something that should have raised warning signs in and of itself. After months of working my butt off for what seems like little or no recognition or appreciation, he pointed out that I had been looking in the wrong place.
He told me that what I do matters to a lot of people – people who I may not even know or even have the capability to express appreciation. He told me that my reputation is such that I have become a dependency (in a manner of speaking) for others. He said that whether or not people agree with what I say or write, they at least know that they can count on the motivation and integrity. Most importantly, what I do can make others’ lives easier.
In short, I do good work.
Nevertheless, I’m acutely aware of the perception of people who don’t pull their own weight – those from the participation ribbon generation in particular. I’m sensitive to the notion that in my career I have worked with (as we all do) people who care more about the praise than they do about the actual quality of their work. People who skate by, lazy, driven by the least possible amount of effort and don’t give a damn about whether they give bad information to people who come to them in good faith.
They do not do good work, but they demand their trophy and when they get it, they use it as additional excuse for not doing much of anything else.
I do what I do not because I want or need the accolades, but because I believe in a quality of work that I must adhere to. It’s part of my identity. It got me thinking about how many people in my area of influence (that goes two ways, I mean, that is those people who influence me) may not know that they, too, are appreciated. I realize that they take the mantle, carry the banner. They make up for the weaknesses of colleagues because it’s the right thing to do.
In short, they do good work.
They, like me, have a sense of respect for the work that they do, as well as for those who rely on them, and that in turn inspires me not to cut corners. It’s just not who I want to be, and I feed off that integrity of others. This isn’t about doing the right thing because of what others do (no, that’s inherent to who I am), but drawn from the strength that I’m not carrying the weight of doing the right thing all alone.
Accept the Good
I was stunned when he continued on. We are conditioned to refuse positive feedback, to be humble, not to have a swelled head. If we accept the kudos, don’t we run the risk of being seen like those lazy colleagues? After all, that’s what they do, and if they didn’t earn it, could it be that I didn’t either?
There comes a time, however, that you learn to shut it all out and only accept the negative criticism, the complaints, the fact that what you do is ‘not enough’ (man, how I hate the tyranny of the word enough).
You absorb that negativity into every pore of your being all the while shutting out the good stuff. You do this if you want to improve, if you want to prevent stagnation. You do this because you don’t want to become the arrogant bastard that everyone hates because he’s too ignorant in his own limitations to take stock of his own reality. You keep your head down, chip away at this ever-growing mountain of “to-do’s” on your plate until all it seems you are doing is playing “catch-up,” and failing at that too.
It’s exhausting, and it’s easy to forget just how much you do makes a difference. It may be something small or off-hand. It may be something large but you didn’t get the reaction that you thought you’d get (at first). In the hunter-gatherer world of instant gratification, you can’t see beyond the first few moments and then before you know it it has faded from view and all your effort is forgotten. Except it isn’t.
Because you do good work.
It’s not hunting, it’s farming. Your reputation is built up over time, pedantic seeds sown, weeded, and cultivated for months and years before it can be reaped. You may not even see the ultimate outcome of who gets fed by your efforts, who may appreciate what you have done. They are the invisible fan club that may not want to – or maybe they can’t – tell you how much you’ve impacted them, but that impact is real enough.
Saying it Now
It’s always amazed me how people wait until after someone dies to eulogize them and say all the things they should have said beforehand, when it would have meant something to the person no longer able to accept the gratitude. I don’t want to wait for that, but I see what happens when I try to tell people that I respect just how much good they have done, how much I appreciate their efforts.
They shy away from positive feedback, but – like me – open arms wide and accept any criticism, no matter how slight, and use that as their driving motivation. Ultimately, it is a law of diminishing returns; it may get you moving in the short term, but long-term it is adds more wear and tear on your psychic engine. It’s always important to remember:
You. Do. Good. Work.
So, if you’re reading this and you see yourself in these words, remember that. If someone sent you this blog to read, it’s for a reason. They’re not just telling you that you do good work, they’re also saying: