believing in the work you do
By tim brown in Engagement
When you work in an advertising agency, as I do, you tend to not be the best person to watch television with. I often find myself critiquing all the ads and it drives my wife crazy—especially because the vast majority of the work done in my industry is considered caca by the general public (and to be honest, it probably is). Occasionally I will see an ad that strikes me.
The other night I saw one were the director of the CIA was standing in a control room, like they do at the climax of disaster movies, and for whatever reason his fellow CIA workers needed his secret passcode to access something in order to save and/or do something for this secret operation (opaque, I know). Anyway, the director is reluctant to give it to them. After being pressed, he spells it out: ‘ihatemyjob.’ I admit it gave me light chuckle, but mostly it made me realize how lucky I am to be in an industry where I love my work and actually believe in the value of what I do.
The longer you work, the more you’ll notice it. People who see their work as a craft tend to do better work. I’m amazed by the difference in the quality of work I’ve seen from people who genuinely love their jobs and believe in what they do, as opposed to those who just work for a living.
A friend of mine once told me of an experience he had while exploring a neighborhood in far away New Zealand. He noticed a couple of guys going door-to-door selling water. They stopped him, and being a foreigner eager to learn about what the locals were like, he gave the men a few minutes of his time to hear their spiel. The men were both sharply dressed and reasonably handsome. They were eager to talk and very sociable. They talked about the water, about how much better it was than other water delivery services out there and why my friend should sign up. My friend thanked them, said no thank you and continued down the road.
At the end of the road he reached a bus stop where he met another man and a woman who were also selling water, except these two were relaxing under some shade and drinking some of their product. My friend enquired as to why they were relaxing while their counterparts were still out pounding cement.
“Oh, we’ve already reached our quota for the day,” the woman said. “We usually leave the rest of the street to those two, so that hopefully they can get a sale.”
“Aren’t they good salesmen?” my friend asked. “They seemed very nice.”
“Oh they are,” the woman replied. “But they don’t believe in the water we sell. We do. That’s why we outsell them every single day.” My friend was appalled. Here were two men who were busting their tails trying to sell a barrel of water to anyone who would buy and then there were these two, taking a break in the shade. My friend enquired further.
“The difference between us and them is that we genuinely believe that we are helping people save money,” the man continued. “Once they see that, they don’t look at us as salesmen anymore. Those two down the street. They’re just trying to sell water.”
I was once told that every good business does one of two things: solves a problem or cuts a cost. Some do both. Assuming you work for a “good company,” rest assured that you are providing someone something worthwhile. It may be as plain Jane boring as water, but even bottled water has value to someone. Look for the value in the work you do. Find the small bit of difference you make in the world and share that with those you work with and especially with those who work for you.
Everyone in this world wants to feel valued for what they do. Your passion may be saving lives in the ER or it may be putting a smile on a kid’s face with the yo-yo’s you mass-produce—it doesn’t matter. Finding value in your work doesn’t only improve it; it also makes your work worthwhile.