For quite some time, especially in the US, the narrative seems to be that success is all about doing your own thing. Starting your own business… Being an entrepreneur…
Now, I love this concept. It’s easier, and arguably safer, to start your own thing in today’s world than it is to have a j-o-b. If that’s your thing and you want to do it, the internet is full of advice and inspiration for starters.
But, living amidst this social narrative of pioneership, what about people who don’t really want to start their own thing? Who just want to do good work for someone else? Are they just mince meat waiting to be ground up by the new economy?
I think that’s the belief cutting through our culture right now. And it’s a dangerous one. A paralyzing inferiority complex has entered the workforce.
You’ve probably had the experience much like the one I recently had where, when you go to rent a car, the staff member at the counter could care less about you or your upcoming trip. She talks like a robot, makes no eye contact, and doesn’t tell you about the hidden fees that later show up on your credit card bill.
It’s hard to say, exactly. But I argue that a lot of it has to do with the fact that they’ve bought in to the worldview that they’re crap because they’re making somewhere in the neighborhood of minimum wage. At some level, you can tell as you stand on the opposite side of the counter from them, that they assume you’re judging them. That you think less of them as a human being because they have a ‘lower-tier’ job.
For them, this trend may have started for them in the third grade when they didn’t fit their teacher’s definition (or color, perhaps) of ‘successful’.
So what do they do? They project their insecurities right back at you by giving you… shitty service.
It’s everywhere. Not just in car rental establishments, but in stores, restaurants, government offices (no, not just the DMV, but even high office), schools, hospitals, etc.
So, if you don’t even want to set foot on starting the next best thing, this is for you…
Good ideas, worthy movements, and great structures require great workers. We need more people who just do fucking great work.
Workers who stand behind an idea, an organization, or a task and push it forward with the touch of a human being.
Good work is a chance to make art.
Not work done out of a sense of compulsion and bitterness from people who think that society owes them something for just showing up.
If that’s you, you’re dead. Time to wake up.
But if you can bring a smile to people’s faces and create miracles for other humans through your work, you can be more of an artist than the entrepreneur who hates her life, hurts people around her, and is just in it for the exit windfall.
Do you realize what a pleasant, uplifting, human interaction from a baggage handler would do to the world of a tired family getting on the redeye who’s been dealing with company bots all day — yep, to them, that’s a miracle.
You’re a worker. That’s awesome. There aren’t many good ones out there today. So right there, you’re ahead.
Have dignity. No, you don’t need to tuck your shirt in, have a short haircut, and be clean-shaven (unless your job requires you to — in which case, you must ask yourself, is this job really you). Just give a crap about your appearance. Even if it’s alternative, punk, or flashy.
We like flair. But we don’t like sloppy. Showers are nice. Blow your nose. Throw some deodorant on. Do some basic upkeep on your facial hair, neck hair, nose hair, teeth, etc.
Now, if you hate what you do — if it doesn’t bring you any sense of fulfillment — get out. Pronto. Seriously, you’re not doing yourself, your family, the people you work with, or us, your customers, any good. Find work that you at least like. That you, at least, can stand until you find something better.
I was a golf professional for over 10 years (a club pro, not a touring pro). I loved it for awhile. But I grew to hate it.
So I got out. I got a job that paid less at a company that I knew nothing about (I was a golfer, not a mountaineer), but that had a great culture and was a pleasant place to be.
I was doing interesting work alongside great people and talking with great customers. I excelled fast because I brought my humanity to the job. This meant the world to me and made mental space for what I’m doing right now, writing for you.
Now, if you hate what you do, can’t think of anything else to do, and are frightened by starting your own thing, it’s time to look within. Time to work on that self-awareness and self-worth and find out which direction you want to go. No way around it but down.
I could go on, but you’re busy, so I’ll sum it up. If you just realize this, and nothing else, you’re miles ahead of your coworkers…
You’re telling the world (and yourself) a story through how you do your work.
Doesn’t matter if you’re mopping floors, changing tires, or entering code.
What story are you telling us? What story are you telling yourself? Are you showing up as the highest version of You that you can be?
Because that’s your real job. No matter what task you’re doing.
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