The Why of What You Do 05/10/19
After working some years in the construction industry, I experienced a recurring theme.
Many people I came across had not answered their capital-w Why. In moments of genuine dialogue, I often asked my comrades why they do what they do. They lent credence to ideas of “hard work,” “reliability,” and “initiative” yet rarely identified a common thread that tied these components together. They subscribed to these qualities and attempted to exemplify them to the best of their ability without articulating why these characteristics are important.
When asked, they would say that being hard working, reliable and willing to take initiative would earn you a measure of respect among the company, a better hourly rate and better job security. Seldom did I hear people weave the concept of purpose through these ideas of esteem.
In light of this disconnect, I decided to investigate my own code of conduct. Although I continued to serve these everyday practices, I made sure to operate with a bottom-up approach.
I asked myself: what is the fundamental reason I wake up in the morning and choose this path through life? Why be with this particular company at this particular time serving these particular objectives? The answer cannot be “to pay the bills,” or to “increase job security.” These are just rational justifications.
The true answer to this question must come from one's fundamental moral, ethical and philosophical disposition.
After much deliberation, I defined my capital-w Why: To Serve Others Well.
Although it may sound vague and admittedly cliché, this mantra contains an entire model for how I conduct myself in the world. It doesn’t matter whether I'm working for a company, or running my own, serving others well is the bedrock on which all other skills, procedures and qualities are built.
It’s all too easy to develop an ego-centric, hyper competitive model aimed towards being the best among your company. This is especially true in an industry dominated by Type-A males with an appetite for dominance. But without a capital-w Why, the fire inside that once fueled a tireless work ethic will fade into a fatigue laden obscurity.
I don’t work to be successful, I strive for successful work. Not because it will maximize my bottom line, or prop up some social identity, but because trading one’s talents with others through genuine and transparent services is something I consider fundamentally worth doing.
What's your driving force? Do you think this bottom-up perspective matters for an engaging and successful career?
By: Dylan Smart