The balance between boring and pushing

“Well, in his experience, soldiers spent little time doing soldier things. They instead spent ages walking places, waiting around, or—in his case—getting yelled at for walking around or waiting in the wrong places.”

-Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

I think most jobs are like this. We rarely push our skills to their limits, and we spend most of the time at work doing routine stuff. This can be boring but it can also be used to replenish our energy and improve ourselves. It is not sustainable to always be on our toes, always creating, and always stressed. The challenge comes when we spend too much time in the routine or too much fun stuff that pushes our limits. One leads to stagnation and the other leads to burnout.

You can’t compare sports to normal work but if you look at elite athletes they spend at lest 90% of their time practicing and 10% competing. I admire their commitment, willpower and grit. Their amazing achievements comes from spending so much time training for one thing.

It would be very expensive for everyone to practice the same way in most organizations. But I think most companies need to focus more on making sure everyone learns and develops more during everyday activities and continues to push themselves to become better at their jobs.

One step will not change behaviors

“She crouched in a dim room, hands touching the smooth stone floor, which had been eroded by thousands upon thousands of footfalls. If stone met a man, stone might win—but if stone met humanity, then no force could preserve it.”

–Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

One small change will rarely make a difference when trying to change behaviors in an organization. It takes focused and continuous action towards a clear goal to make a real change. That is why Big Bang changes rarely work. It is the small steps that happen daily that shows the people in an organization what behaviors you are promoting.

Achievements are all relative

“I could try composing wonderful musical works, or day-long entertainment epics, but what would that do? Give people pleasure? My wiping this table gives me pleasure. And people come to a clean table, which gives them pleasure. And anyway“ – the man laughed – ”people die; stars die; universes die. What is any achievement, however great it was, once time itself is dead? Of course, if all I did was wipe tables, then of course it would seem a mean and despicable waste of my huge intellectual potential. But because I choose to do it, it gives me pleasure. And,“ the man said with a smile, ”it’s a good way of meeting people. So where are you from, anyway?”

– Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons

My one year old son took all of my Iain M. Banks books out of the book shelf and spread them out on the floor and it reminded me of all the wonderful books he has written and all the amazing quotes he has there so the next few posts will be filled with them…

When you compare your achievements to the scale of the universe they are all negligible, and if you compare it to the scale of the world most of them are negligible. But small things can make a huge difference, to the people around you and yourself. So instead of aiming to make the most impact as possible for the earth, maybe we should aim to make the most impact to the people around us and ourselves? And then try to be content with that…

Creativity comes from taking your view of the world and looking at a completely new part of it

‘Now, see, there’s something about your species that I will never understand.’ She let out a congenial sigh. `You and the rest of the galaxy,’ she said. Honestly, what was it about that concept that was so difficult for others to grasp? She would never, ever understand the idea that a child, especially an infant, was of more value than an adult who had already gained all the skills needed to benefit the community. The death of a new hatchling was so common as to be expected. The death of a child about to feather, yes, that was sad. But a real tragedy was the loss of an adult with friends and lovers and family. The idea that a loss of potential was somehow worse than a loss of achievement and knowledge was something she had never been able to wrap her brain around.

– Becky Chambers, the long way to a small angry planet

When it comes to people in organizations, then we seem to value achievement and knowledge much much more than potential. Most organizations also seem to want to stick with their old employees for as long as possible, even if they turn detrimental to the organization and other employees.

I think an organization would gain much more from the fresh perspective they would get if people changed jobs more often. Creativity comes from taking your view of the world and looking at a completely new part of it.

It’s nothing personal?

“… it’s just business, it’s politics, it’s the way of the world, it’s a tough life and that it’s nothing personal.
Well, fuck them.
Make it personal.”

– Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon

I think many organizations are starting to realise this simple truth. That we need to make it personal for people to be inspired and motivated.

This is true for marketing. If people feel that you just do business, then they will not be inspired. If they feel that you care about your product and your customers, then you can start a movement.

This is true for organizations. If your employees feel that you just do business, then they will not be motivated. If they feel that you care about your product, about your customers, and them then you can start a movement.