"The work is the only thing that matters."
We've all heard it. I know I've said it. But it's often uttered as an excuse by creatives to dismiss poor results, or by account directors and planners to justify a process that's brought division and tears to meet impossible deadlines. Occasionally, it's boldly proclaimed by the young writer or art director seeking to make their creative bones.
As time has gone by, however, I've seen the real outcome of sacrificing all to "the work." Broken relationships inside and outside the office; a rising sense of cynicism; a demoralizing loss of purpose. It's no fun. And it became clear to me that while "the work" was always important, there were other things that got me to spring out of bed on Monday morning excited to see what would happen next.
Learning. Accomplishment. Overcoming sometimes impossible odds as part of a team. Achieving mutually agreed on stretch goals. Friendships.
For me, all those things had something in common — a set of values that made it easier to work with others, form new bonds across organizations, discover new ways to do things, and, ultimately, do the kind of work that drove real business value in the long run.
While not everyone may know what their values are, I do believe we all have them. And I'm certain that all great organizations are built around them. Finding people and businesses that share them are important. They can help you see the way in dark times, and they can amplify success in unexpected and good ways. These are mine.
You might feel it instantly, if you're lucky. But mostly it has to be built. And it has be continually earned. It means starting by listening, acting on what you know honestly, admitting when you're wrong, and giving credit where it's due. If you get it right, you not only help yourself, you help everyone around you because you have made the space to not only tell the truth as you see it, but the room to let others deal with it as they need to.
Curiosity is more important than knowledge. In fact, knowledge is often (but not always) an obstacle and is best used as a way to get to the next question. If you don't believe me, try working for a know it all who uses the word "stupid" for ideas they don't understand and discourages questions. Curiosity fuels listening, innovation, and creativity.
Being generous isn't just being nice. Or letting people speak up in a meeting. Or thanking them when the project is a success. Or staying an extra couple of hours to support the team into the night. Or giving them a spot bonus after it's all over. It's sharing that's deeply linked to empathy for what others are going through or might be dealing with at every moment. Whether they sit next to you, above you, or below you on the org chart. It's about truly believing that whoever you are working with is the best person you could ever be working with. It is extending time and resources and patience in every direction, whether it's asked for or not.
Growth matters. Business growth. Organizational growth. Personal growth. It's important to try to support all of it in any job. And to understand that it is also uneven. While it feeds on action by informed, thoughtful, motivated parties who share a goal, it requires patience all around. So you'll need to create clear ideas of where you're going, define methods for getting there, and be unafraid to stop and take measure of where you are in comparison to where you started and where you said you wanted to end up.