One of the themes you can find on my other blog, Irrational Health, is the value of sincerity. For those who don’t know, I’m currently in the semi-active process of writing a book entitled Irrational Health which on the surface is an analysis of irrationalities in modern human psychology, particularly in regard to western cultures and as a promotional tool/exercise tool, I maintain a blog that discusses what will eventually be some of the major ideas presented in Irrational Health. In meshing sincerity and the concept of value, which I discuss here, I started thinking about one other philosophical adage, if you will. Most have likely heard it before that you shouldn’t do things as a means to an end, but always as an end in themselves. This goes back to Kantian theory, morality, and his categorical imperative. You put these three things together and then you get to the idea I want to talk about today.
I truly believe that there’s something to be said for always starting at the base, which is to say always making decisions based on your own personal definition that isn’t simply a synthesis of all of your accomplishments or past work experiences (your resume). If you’ve been a follower of my writing here for the last couple of months, then you know that I really push the importance of defining your own personal brand. I truly believe there is greater value in making decisions based on who you are, your definition, your brand over making decisions and having those decisions define you. I hope that distinction comes out well. In the study of psychology, there are these two concepts known as the internal locus of control and the external locus of control. A person with an internal locus of control feels that they are the driver of their own life in contrast to a person with an external locus of control who believes that their life is controlled by something outside of their own will. Whether you have an internal or external locus, recognizing the value of actions based on your personal definition and brand can help you to feel a greater control over what opportunities you decide to pursue. Not only this, but you’ll find that your life will be much more heavily geared towards what actually makes you happy over what’s conventional. There’s a lot of value to be found in making decisions based on who you are rather than letting your decisions define who you are.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve come to realize a couple of things about what it means to be your most productive and how that relates to the value you put into what you do. As always, this particular idea was motivated by the many ideas of Merlin Mann. On a base level, one of his primary focuses is how important it is to value your time and attention. The concept of the tragedy of the commons transcends into many different facets of your life. For Merlin, a modern day problem has arisen from the Internet and our ability to be available around the clock. There is no sort of inherent limit to how much people can occupy your attention. If you’ve been watching some of the talks I’ve posted here, you know that Merlin’s put a lot of thought into this. For me, the takeaway is that the value you put into your time and attention is the value that translates to the your colleagues, your friends, and the acquaintances in your life. If you don’t set limits, then people continue to take advantage of your time and attention; therefore, its value decreases. It’s synonymous with a company’s stock price. It does have something to do with the actual company and its processes, but really it is influenced by people’s perception of a variety of factors, including what the general outlook is for a particular company. This is a lead into the topic I want to discuss today.
I truly feel that short of making it to the top of your field, you have to the be the one to constantly value your work because inevitably whether it be in a job or some other role, your work will start to be taken for granted. It’s a terrible feeling to know that you’re almost considered a “cog in the system,” when in actuality your absence would make a large group of people’s jobs several times more difficult. Not only this, but I believe that when you’re not valuing your work and it’s not being valued by others, the quality of your work will invariably start to drop. This is concerning because anyone’s goal is generally to do the best work that they can do, regardless their career, hobbies or interests.
People especially need to be wary of this in that transition from a full-time academic student to a full-time employee. As a student, you constantly have the benefit of having your work valued by your peers, professors, and academic community at large. If you do a great job, your work is valued as such, and that, therefore, is a part of the continued motivation you need to continue to do great work. This generally doesn’t transfer over well into the workplace, in which most people aren’t directly producing a product or providing a service. Merlin Mann likes to use the term “knowledge worker” which he coined from Peter Drucker. This defines people who take knowledge and do something with it as an occupation, they had value to it. These are the works who likely fall into this situation of a lack of validation of one’s work. One of the reasons why I became such an active writer with a set of wide-ranging, self-employed projects was because the perceived value of my own work was dropping during the course of my active job search and it really became something that was gaining momentum more quickly than I was comfortable with so I decided to take initiative. I took initiative for two reasons. The first was of course to value my work so that it’s value could appreciate once again. The second was just simply to continue to utilize my background and skills towards the areas of value to me in order to produce great work. The value of your work and your personal brand are ultimately defined by yourself. It’s so very important to value the work that you do and to continue to produce great work. If you value what you do, then your work will be valued.