Reflections on Management: What Do You Want From Life?
7.12 What Do You Want From Life?
What do you want from your life? This is a big question that many people have trouble answering. A few points are worth considering as you think about the answer.
One way to get satisfaction from a job is to have status or power. People can get this by being a boss or being put in charge of an important service. Power and status can also be indirect, like making a lot of money, working for an important company, or driving a fancy car. These are all parts of "being" someone.
While there is nothing wrong with status, it is temporary. You may hold an important job for a while but, sooner or later, your next step will be down. Losing status can be a crisis. Some people are devastated when they first lose an important job. It is easy to confuse the importance of a job with personal importance.
I have known managers who were crushed by a demotion. They had built an image of themselves as important people. As long as they held a big job, everybody treated them as important. The minute they lost that job, however, they were just like everyone else. Nobody cared what they said and they stopped getting special treatment. They had lost the corner office and no longer had a secretary. This can be such a severe shock that some people have nervous breakdowns, heart attacks, or family crises. Their reward was status and it is gone.
The need is to decide what it is that you want. Think ahead. When you ultimately retire, what would a satisfying life look like? I suggest that what you have done will be far more rewarding than what you have been. If, for example, you plan to do engineering work, you probably have the instincts of a builder. Maybe you will build systems or components. You could end up building methods or processes. Or you might have a scientific bent and build theories or do research to build fundamental knowledge.
Whatever you build, however, quality will be key. You will get little satisfaction from sloppy work. Somehow, even if no one else finds out, you will know you did a sloppy job. This will destroy your pride in the work and it will limit your satisfaction with life. You cannot honestly say to yourself that you really believe in quality, but you will just get by this one time. There are always lots of excuses. You might even satisfy others with an expedient answer, but you will never satisfy yourself.
When you do quality work, you will be proud. Even if no one else knows, you know you did a first-class job and you are satisfied that you did your best. The surprising thing is that quality work gets known. It may take a long time, but sooner or later quality work is recognized. Whether you know it, you will get credit for the quality of your work.
So ask yourself this question: "Do I want to feel proud of what I do?" Most people would answer yes. But if you really mean it, you need to set personal standards and strive to meet them. When you meet these standards, raise them and strive again. Challenge yourself to do superior work and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish.