Work Ethic and Passion

I don’t write much about my paying job. It’s a good job, but when I’m away from work I don’t want to think about work – it’s part of that compartmentalization I’ve talked about before. But I’m currently involved in something that has both ethical and spiritual dimensions, so I think it’s worth writing about.

There is a person at work who (and I will be extremely vague to avoid any possiblity of identifying him/her) has always done just enough to get by. A nice person, intelligent and capable, but a person with a ton of unrealized potential. This year business has been down, cuts have been made, and those of us who still have jobs have had to become more productive. If anything, this person has become less productive – and has been rather visible about it. I’ve made some low-key suggestions that have been acknowledged and then ignored. Now the matter has reached several levels above me, and the person in question is in danger of being fired.

The libertarian in me knows it has to be this way. Society only works when everyone pulls his or her own weight – let one person slide by with substandard performance and everyone else starts wondering why s/he is bothering to try. Fairness and reciprocity are part of our “moral instincts.”

I tried to put myself in this person’s shoes and one thing became very apparent. I couldn’t live with myself if I turned in work as substandard in quantity and quality as this person has. I don’t care what it takes… I can’t stand a personal failure – those of you who’ve seen me stressing before a circle or a Sunday service know what I’m talking about. But a group failure? That’s not quite so distasteful to me.

Over 25 years in business and industry I’ve been able to observe a lot of successful people (as well as some genuinely bad people, but that’s another story for another time). There are exceptions, but for the most part, they’re smart but not geniuses, well-educated but not Ivy Leaguers, hard-working but not workaholics. What makes them stand out is that they refuse to fail. Whatever it takes, whatever they have to do, whoever they have to push, they’ll do it. Most play by the rules, but they’ll do what they think has to be done. That’s why they’re successful.

What in your life do you do just enough to get by?

What’s so important you refuse to fail?

What’s so important you not only refuse to fail, you refuse to allow someone else to contribute to your failure?

Regardless of the context, they’re questions worth answering.

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