Sometimes I regret having shackled myself with the obligation to write a weekly blog post. It’s considerably more work than it appears, and far more work than Mr. Money Mustache suggested when he claimed he just “types some shit into the computer” for a couple hours each week and collects the advertising revenue. Personally, I find it hard to publish something I don’t consider quality work, even if I’m only publishing to a forum that very few people read. I have high standards of others and especially high standards for myself. This often leads me to apathy. Why bother doing anything if I can’t achieve a level of quality I’d be satisfied with? How can I find motivation to work on anything?
High Standards and Apathy
Having high standards is generally a good thing, but being eternally dissatisfied with your own work or the work of others is very de-motivating. Now that I’ve trained myself as an engineer and software developer, I look at the world in a different way than I used to. I can see a plethora of problems everywhere. Everything is usually on fire. In many cases the solutions are quite trivial, but I can already see how many of these problems will go unsolved. Solutions often require groups of people co-operating, learning from each other, working despite their weaknesses and the deficiencies of their peers. Getting everyone to work together is far more challenging than any technical problem facing a modern business today. It is a giant management problem to get all the monkeys to work together. Problems that were solved in the past are repeated shortly after. Why are we solving this exact same problem again?! Argh! Some days I’m inspired to train myself for a management role. Other days I’m inspired to jump headfirst from my third floor office window. Most days I just settle myself with a deep sigh and sneaking lunch 10 minutes earlier than I should. It can be depressing.
As I read in a programming textbook that I’m too lazy to find and reference properly (I’ll just quote from memory) “doing something well is often a waste of time.” Evidently I’ve taken this principle to heart! I try to apply it to my life on occasion. It has saved me a lot of grief. There is a balance one should strive for between quality and effort devoted to an activity. Refining an idea, skill, or project to superior quality is difficult, time consuming, and sometimes impractical. Sometimes a mediocre job is good enough. You might lack the time, skill, or resources to do a job properly. Or maybe you’re still learning. Skill building involves producing a lot of poor quality work that serves as a learning experience. Whether you’re writing blogs, programming machines, running marathons, or lifting weights, you always start out sucking. The only way to improve is disciplined practice. The trick is to stay motivated despite sucking at what you do.
Failing to meet your own high standards does not invalidate your work. Even work of inferior quality has value. Finishing something, even something of inferior quality, is better than finishing nothing at all. Uninspiring results can add up over time and lead to something to be proud of. Stop judging so harshly, and stop worrying. Keep working, and try to stay positive. If someone else sucks, teach them. If you suck, find someone to learn from. Motivation is the biggest hurdle to overcome before improvement begins. Start with forgiving, improving, and motivating yourself. Then forgive, teach, and motivate others. Success will start following you.