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In Response to Effort

Of course Yoda was right all along: “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

In another brilliant post, Seth Godin talks about the idea of effort and how our capitalist society gets this wrong. Specifically honing in on the idea that what is considered ”sufficient” is in fact anything but, and needs to be replaced with a higher standard:

Sufficient effort is the goal of the industrial capitalist. Capture the most value with the least work. Build a house that doesn’t fall down, with components that last exactly long enough to avoid a claim. Explain that due to unusually call volume…

And then, perhaps, there’s a third option.

Expending more effort than most people think is sufficient.

This is attention to detail. Care in design. Follow through in customer service. This is an embrace of elegance and wabisabi and the opposite of laziness. This is bringing care (which is rare and precious) to work even if most people would look for a shortcut instead.

This is exactly the reason why nothing lasts anymore the way it used to; because it was never designed to. Doing things properly with the care and attention Seth points out as being what we should strive for — and he’s right — has taken a back seat in a very long limousine to the needs and benefit of the corporate agenda (that unsurprisingly owns that same proverbial limousine). When everything is purposely geared to maximize profits instead of quality and longevity, it becomes a self-fulfilling feedback loop of consumerism. Not only is this bad for everyone’s wallets except the capitalists, it’s downright atrocious toward the environment and everyone, period.

There’s another way I find myself looking at this however, and that’s in the effort we expend on personal goals and projects. I truly believe the same amount of effort should be applied to them as well. If you’re devoting less attention to your own endeavours than you would — and hopefully are — giving to your work projects, you’re only doing yourself the same disservice that capitalist greed is doing to society as a whole.

This may come down to a fallacy in our thinking, that somehow those things we’re doing for ourselves don’t deserve the same level of effort as something external that has a more tangible impact on more people. The feeling what we do personally isn’t worth the same focus and attention is misplaced, and detrimental to our own growth, progress, and happiness. Recall a time perhaps when someone at work recognized something you did that went above and beyond, and how that made you feel. Apply that same mindset to your own personal projects, for even if in some cases there may be no outside recognition, the end result of feeling better about what you’ve accomplished still remains potent.

Be it as simple as going back to correct that grammatical error you stumble across while proofreading a blog post, or as crucial as doing each repetition of squats or bicep curls — not only for gains and progress, but to prevent injury — properly and with focus, we get back what we put into things and can experience the same satisfaction regardless of complexity. I also believe we shouldn’t apply any less effort to our personal goals as we would (or be expected to) for our work goals, and vice versa. When too many things have strayed toward doing just enough or the bare minimum in order to get by, and quantity over quality, it begs us to evaluate if that’s really working well for ourselves and society as a whole, or if we can and should do better.

Effort, on the other hand, is our best chance to do work that matters.

Seth Godin

Nailed it.

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