Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

Inspirational and insightful post by Seth Godin. A few of my favorite passages:

"It's hard work to make difficult emotional decisions, such as quitting a job and setting out on your own. It's hard work to invent a new system, service, or process that's remarkable. It's hard work to tell your boss that he's being intellectually and emotionally lazy. It's easier to stand by and watch the company fade into oblivion. It's hard work to tell senior management to abandon something that it has been doing for a long time in favor of a new and apparently risky alternative. It's hard work to make good decisions with less than all of the data.

Today, working hard is about taking apparent risk. Not a crazy risk like betting the entire company on an untested product. No, an apparent risk: something that the competition (and your coworkers) believe is unsafe but that you realize is far more conservative than sticking with the status quo."

My father was born 1930. He grew up on a farm in today's Poland and had to flee for greener pastures in the early 40's. He had no formal school education after the age of 12 and had to survive by working on farms, always heading west. After the war, he worked for 20 years in a factory, shredding nasty, rotten clothes to convert them later on into car interiors. During his tenure at the shredding machine, he saw co-workers being sucked into the machine and shredded to bloody pieces. He worked 6 days a week, 12 hours daily.
That was hard work. Getting an evening education on top of this grueling hours and feeding a family of 4 was even harder work.
But, as Seth pointed out, things have changed dramatically.

"Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you'd rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, drive through the other barrier. And, after you've done that, to do it again the next day."

My father was not about risk. Risk had to be avoided at any cost: Take the safe route and continue doing until you retire. Completely understandable, after having lived through WWII and the post-war era in Germany. Taking a risk might mean being shot by the enemy or starving to death.

Today, this attitude leads to layoffs, middle-class misery and mediocrity.
What to do? Ask Tom Peters:

Measure Weirdness!
Cherish Weirdness!
Hire Weirdness!
Stomp out "Normal"!

For now, enjoy the day, have a bbq, relax. Tomorrow, when you're back, change the world. And do it over again next day.

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