There’s an old country hit titled “Do What You Do Do Well.” There are two possible interpretations of this advice. One is that we should do only what we do well, and the other is that whatever we do, we should do it well. The former can be dismissed because doing only what we do well would mean never trying anything new, which would seriously limit our enjoyment of life. So the latter, that whatever we do we should do it well, is the one that makes more sense.
Doing the best we can, with what we have, wherever we are, and whatever we’re doing, pays off in two ways. First, a job well done is one of life’s most satisfying experiences, and secondly, it’s the only way to improve.
Here’s a way to test this theory. The next time you’re faced with something you don’t particularly want to do, instead of just going through the motions, do it to the very best of your ability with no complaining or loss of concentration. Enthusiastically dig in and do it better than you’ve ever done it before, all the time considering possible ways to do it better. The result will likely surprise you. Use this approach with everything you do and, over time, the results will be positively amazing.
Hard work without ability is a shame, but ability without hard work borders on tragic. We’ve all seen examples of it. There are the skilled athletes who never win a trophy and whose teams don’t win championships, usually because they don’t consistently do their best and don’t try to stretch their limits, with the result that their skills actually diminish instead of becoming broader and sharper.
There are the employees who never put in any extra effort, such as the technician who doesn’t keep up with changing technology and gets trapped in a dead-end job, or the lawyer who doesn’t develop communication skills and as a result won’t be made a partner. There are students whose marks are lower than they could be because not enough notes are taken; or if notes are taken they aren’t reviewed.
Doing our best is the key to making the most of our abilities; but there’s more required. In the long run it’s the quality of work, not the quantity, that determines the level of success; and the quality of work is affected as much by attitude as it is by ability, maybe even more so.
I came across a situation a few years ago that illustrates the importance of attitude in the workplace. It involved two truck drivers who spent the day picking up cans of milk in the countryside and bringing them into town for processing. One was an older driver, seemingly bored with his work, usually crabby, not very well liked, and clearly an unhappy person. The other was a younger driver who was always in a good mood, was well-liked, and clearly enjoyed his job. One evening after parking their trucks the older driver asked the younger guy why he always seemed to be happy at work. The younger driver said, “You went to work this morning, but I went for a drive in the country.”
Making the most of our abilities is usually the link between wanting something and getting it. The best way to prepare for the future is to do our best today.
People who consistently do their best tend to succeed; but, back to attitude. When people think their job isn’t important, quality suffers. But if a job wasn’t important it wouldn’t exist. All jobs aren’t equal, but every job is important in some way in the overall scheme of things. Treat your job as if it’s important and others will begin to think that it is as well. Your attitude and performance will be noticed and appreciated by those who matter.
Reputations aren’t built on what we’re going to do, they’re built on what we’ve done. We tend to judge ourselves by what we think we can do, but others judge us by what we actually do. People will forget how many tasks we started, but they’ll remember how many we finished, especially those we did well.
Easy Street is a dead end.