I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work. – Plato
What does that mean?
I have also seen this quote attributed to Thomas Edison, but I think Plato said it first.
Most of us have done something interesting, even spectacular, on accident. But few ever do something worthwhile without some planning and intent. Most things that would be categorized as “worth doing” would be moderately complex and non-trivial.
I don’t think doing the laundry would count. Same with painting the house. Nor would starring in a video submitted to a “funniest home video” TV show or to You-Tube.
Why is work (hard work) important?
As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of things you can do in a haphazard manner, but very few are worth much. Typically, the things you are proud of, the things that are worth doing, those take some planning and no small amount of effort. I have always considered the measure of the achievement to be proportional to the effort required to achieve it.
Climbing a sand dune might feel good, but climbing a mountain would result in a much greater sense of achievement, or at least it would for me. I don’t think that driving to the top of Pike’s Peak would count as much of an achievement, unless you do it at full speed on a designated race day. That would be absolutely amazing, as the consequences of going off the road are often falls in excess of one thousand feet.
Defying death gives a really big boost to the sense of the achievement. Slapping death in the face and calling it’s momma nasty names makes the achievement absolutely spectacular! Again, the amount of planning and the amount of actual work required is what really makes a difference.
How many of the guys remember how hard it used to be to get the first kiss? The memorable ones were the ones we had to work the hardest for, or at least that’s how it was for me. I’m not sure what the equivalent would be for the girls, perhaps getting the guy to ask them out? I imagine the amount of work it took to get to get the guy to notice and then ask would be the measure of the achievement?
How about a project at work? Have any of you had an impossible client, insufficient resources, too little time, too much work and were short-handed to boot? How did it feel when you completed it anyway, despite the obstacles? Compare it to another project that was a lot easier to accomplish. Which is more rewarding? Note that I did not ask which was more fun to do, but which would you consider to be a thing that was “worth doing.”
Where can I apply this in my life?
How many of you have ripped a four link trailing arm suspension out and replaced it in one weekend in your driveway, by yourself? That was a great achievement for me. It took weeks of planning, parts gathering and preliminary work (getting all the bolts loose, etc) to be prepared for the throw-down.
A few weeks later, it was time to replace the whole front end. Everything inboard of the brake rotors was changed, except for the Pitman arm. Shocks & springs. Tie rod ends, inner & outer. Idler arm & center link. Sway bar ends & bushings. Upper & lower A-arms. Even the spindles and bearings were changed out. In the driveway. In a weekend. I did have some help, but WOW that was rewarding!
In a previous post, I mentioned how hard I had to work to get back into college after flunking out. I had to get registered for useful and interesting classes in the local junior college for my “semester off,” along with finding a job (my old summer job recommended me to a different place) and breaking the news gently to my parents.
Then I had to work the job, do well in my classes and prepare all the paperwork for re-admission. Then I had to ace the test and meet with the representative of the Dean. It was quite a bit of work, and getting back in was quite an accomplishment. But it wasn’t done, not by a long shot.
I still had to re-take the classes I’d bombed in, and finish my degree requirements while maintaining a reasonable (although somewhat less than spectacular) GPA. The real reward was the euphoric feeling when I got to cross the stage and get my diploma.
What have you done that has taken some serious work and resulted in a great feeling of accomplishment? Perhaps it was working with someone to go from friends through all the steps (both forward and back) to marriage. Perhaps it was an accomplishment at work or as a volunteer, a project that seemed impossible to mere mortals, but accomplished by you through hard work and careful planning. Perhaps it’s something at home, anything from the painting of walls, to replacing an old washer & drier, upgrading your front or back yard, adding some built-in shelving or constructing a workshop in the garage.
To me, the key to making hard work pay off is two-fold. First is the planning. Failing to plan is planning to fail. You might get lucky once in a while, but no amount of effort will allow you to see a sunrise if you are facing west. Second is surviving the hard work portion of the project. For me, I try to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and the feeling of accomplishment that will be mine when I complete the project. Perhaps a little celebrating at key milestones can help keep your spirits up.
What is on your plate? What project is waiting for you to get busy and start working on it? Make a list of three or four projects. They don’t all have to be as involved as swapping the front end out from under a functioning car. Once you have the list, try to list a feeling you might have on completion of the project.
Is it pride, euphoria, happiness, satisfaction or something else? You might find you get the same feeling from multiple projects, and that’s fine. It might be that you are strongly motivated by a particular feeling, or that you identify strongly with a particular feeling.
Now, take each of the projects and start planning. Break each into sub-projects and continue breaking things down until you have chunks that can be accomplished in less than a day. Then look at your schedule and figure out which chunks you want to work on and in which order.
Perhaps you want to focus on one particular project, or you have two you want to bounce back and forth between. I find having more than one project has the advantage of avoiding burn-out, at the expense of distraction or even contention for your attention between the projects. That is a personal decision based on what works for you, and if you aren’t sure, try it a few different ways and see how it goes.
Be sure to reward yourself for all the hard work you are putting in. Perhaps you’ll get the grill you always wanted once the back yard is finally completed. Or you might buy that painting you liked and frame it, once you have finished painting the wall. The list is endless, and your imagination (and budget) are the only limits.
Do something worth doing. On purpose.
From: Twitter, @AncientProverbs
confirmed at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/p/plato162821.html
Photo by mclean1319