Just Get **it Done

There are a lot of traits and skills that can make someone more valuable professionally.  All of them pale in comparison to one: finishing.  One can make up for a lot of deficiency in skill and experience with hard work, but not the other way around.

By ‘hard work’ I do not mean work that is painful or boring or time consuming.  Certainly hard work can be all of these things, but if you’re measuring work by how much it hurts or how long it takes, you’re spinning your wheels.  Hard work is work that produces something ‘hard’.  It creates a tangible result, and a good one.  What matters is output, getting things done fast and well.

It is true, there’s a trade-off between ‘fast’ and ‘well’.  While it is very important to do a job well, once it meets a certain level of quality you’ve got to complete it and move on.  A lot of people may disagree with me, but I’ve observed that probably eight times out of ten, timeliness is more important than additional degrees of perfection.  The key is to learn something each time about how you could have done it better, that way the quality improves with each project and the time to completion does not decrease.  If you simply get things done, on time, every time without a lot of drama, and learn as you go, you will develop and excellent reputation as a highly valuable individual to work with…and herein lies the danger.

Your reputation is more important to your value in the eyes of others than is your actual product.  It couldn’t be any other way, as no one you work with has time to follow every detail every day of what you do.  If you come through reliably, especially on some big tasks early on, you will begin to get a reputation as someone who gets things done.  The longer you live up to it, the stronger the reputation becomes.  At some point, you’ll see diminishing returns to hard work.  Your reputation will be strong enough to survive a missed project here or there.  When you are most secure in your professional role you are most vulnerable.  The comfort zone is the danger zone.

The danger is not that people will suddenly realize you’re no longer getting it done.  That may happen, but I’ve witnessed people who continue to get by on a legacy of past work for years.  It seems some people can spend the better part of their careers getting work because of a reputation formed decades before.  The real danger is that you’ll stop creating value.  This is a tragedy, not only for any persons or organizations who pay you to produce, but for your own well-being.  Do not underestimate the deep human need to forge and create and hone and toil and complete.

The more praise you get early on, the more you need to be alert to the temptation to slack.  You’ve never “arrived”.  You always need to work hard.  That is what separates the good from the truly great.  The good get a well-deserved reputation and then do what’s necessary to maintain it.  The great put their nose to the grind ’till the end, even if their reputation would be OK if they didn’t.  They continue to evolve what they produce so that it is more and more what they love, but they keep producing.

What can you do to better your career?  Young or old, experienced or inexperienced, just get **it done.

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