I always thought the Internet would look a lot better than it does. I mean, I thought we’d have jetpacks and transporters so maybe I’m not the most reliable person to be basing your vision of the future on. But I always thought the Internet would look a lot better than it does. I was recently reminded of this when my boss sent around this amazing example of what a website can look like. And then I logged in and took a look at what all the websites I regularly use look like and I realized that there is a serious disconnect between what is possible and what is actual. This disconnect exists for a number of reasons. Money. Time. There are a lot of reasons why some pretty ordinary things get built. But it doesn’t excuse it.
And this isn’t just a web problem. I’m not suggesting that web developers are a particularly lazy bunch with no work ethic. Rather, I’m suggesting that we’ve all become satisfied with doing what’s necessary, rather than what’s possible. And again, there’s every reason to do exactly that. I recently had a conversation with some writers and artists about how people value their work and their time. It was not a pleasant conversation. The fact is that people don’t value people’s time and so some really great people are left doing more than they should for less than they’re worth.
The fact is that most people are aware that they’re not doing their best work possible, especially those that work for someone else. There’s a lack of motivation when you know that as long as you don’t do a BAD job, everything will be fine. The fact is that most employees will do as little as possible when there is no incentive to do so. While that motivation doesn’t HAVE to be financial, it generally has to be external. What I mean by that is that someone else has to give them something for them to work harder than they are. Whether that’s a pat on the back or a bump in pay or more vacation, something’s gotta give.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are people out there just hammering it out of the park, all day every day. They create unique products and they provide incredible services and they inspire us to be better. What we fail to do is act on this inspiration. I’m not remotely suggesting that I’m not guilty of this. I absolutely am. I’m inspired all the time to be better and yet sometimes I’m not better. I’m just me. And that’s ok. Some of the time.
But when it really comes down to it, we need to change this model. Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, there are a lot of reasons to give more than you do. But the biggest reason that I continue to push is that doing a good job makes you feel good and feeling good feels good. Take a look at what you do. Now think to yourself, “is there any way that this could be better?” We’re not talking about crazy, innovative, life altering changes. Most of the things we can do better are small and they’re easy. Let me tell you about ninjas.
Now I have no degree in ninjaism or anything and I’m pretty sure I probably read about this on the internet somewhere so take it with a grain of salt, but the story is actually more important than the validity. When ninjas are training to jump, they start by jumping over a single blade of grass. If they clear it, they’re done for the day. The following day, another blade of grass is added and they jump over it. If they clear it they’re done for the day. And the cycle continues. It obviously stops when you come to a pile of grass that you can’t jump over. But you can always jump just a LITTLE bit higher than the last time. It’s never the best job physically possible. It’s almost impossible to master the body in such a way. You can always do a little bit better.
Instead of trying to make grandiose and sweeping changes with little chance of success, just add one more blade of grass. Find something that is possible to the point of inane and implement it. Maybe you need to study for 15 minutes a day. You can’t find 15 minutes in your day? Of course you can. Maybe instead of 10 phone calls you make 11. Maybe instead of running 5km you run 6km. Whatever it is, there is always a reason to do better. The reason to do better is that it’s better. Philosophers would frown upon this sort of self-referential reasoning. But they can sit in a room and think about things all they want. I’m interested in doing.
So, no matter what it is that you do, do it better. If you’re studying, study more. Write better. Work harder. Be a better person not because you’re going to get a 3% per annum raise for not sucking at your job, but because it would make you a better person. Start small. Most really amazing things started small. They were ideas that people plugged away on until they grew them into something remarkable.