I make quite a lot of assumptions. I assume a lot of things about society, about my life, about the lives of others, all sorts of things, really. I assume, assume, assume. Technically, I probably should never do it. Assumptions give me, well, “anger issues.” Assumptions cause me to become extremely aggravated. Assumptions cause me to look at world around me and want to drill into my own skull to stop the pain.
The biggest problem with assumptions is when those around you make up their own assumptions and then clashes happen because both are different yet want to reach a similar goal. I might assume that by studying a certain amount of time or reading a certain amount of chapters that I am going to pass a test, but my professor might see things incredibly differently, leading to my assumption giving me a horrible grade and feeling like I just wasted quite a lot of time (when in fact I did not ‘waste’ enough time). In a job, I might assume that a certain amount of work should reward me with, yes, a certain amount of money but also a certain amount of other incentives that are not so much measured in dollars and cents as they are in status or some other non-monetary quantities.
If my boss’s assumptions are different than my assumptions when it comes to work versus reward, then sparks are bound to fly, especially if I meet my expectations but fall short of those of my boss. Talk about aggravation, this is compounded when the assumptions of other employees are also taken into account. Clear communication and conversation is key in understanding exactly what the expectations are and what occurs if and when those expectations are met or surpassed. This does not even have to be a work or career-related issue. Your education, your personal relationships, even decisions you have not even begun to think about can be turned into a disaster if you are not very clear about what it is you want, need, expect, and what you assume about the people you are dealing with and yourself. The entire point of the phrase “If you assume you make an ass out of u and me” seems lost on people who have decided that what they think is what actually is and that their fantasy is everyone else’s reality. placing themselves above the idea that they could ever be wrong and that what they want or what they think they deserve is the only thing that matters.
Converse, ask questions, if someone relies on you for something – be it an assignment in class, a project at your job, or anything else – make sure everyone is clear on what the expectations are and what will arise from meeting those goals. The answer could be a good grade, a raise, or it could just be a wave and an insincere thank you, but whatever the case may be one should still be aware of the outcomes of their actions. And if the outcome is not as desirable as you would have liked, ask even more questions and do a little dialogue digging to find out where the wires were crossed on what you thought your job was and what it actually is, or what you thought the class was based on what it actually is (hello, Intro to Philosophy!). Don’t just assume you are in the right because, well, you are you and that’s that. Ego is to assumption what fire is to dynamite. Unless you are trying to destroy a bridge, don’t bother with it.
The question: How much effort is too much effort?
The answer: “Too much” = Bad Work. No one ever puts a limit on awesome.
Think about it, there is no such thing as an athlete saying they “played too much football” to become a pro, a writer saying they ‘wrote too many words’ to finish a novel, or an entrepreneur saying they ‘sold too many products’ to become successful. If you have ever had that feeling that you are doing too much work, then chances are whatever you are doing is not going to turn out very well. Successes will always come with a price, but very few (in any) will say that they overpaid.
If you do get that feeling, however, step back and rethink everything about what you are trying to accomplish. Look at your goals and what you are assuming is your path to get there. It is not hard to accidentally take a wrong turn and wind up somewhere you do not want to be. If you can’t seem to hit a target from twenty yards a way, being a quarterback might not be your future. If you rewrite the same chapter dozens and dozens of times, or worse, the same small part of a chapter, then it might be time to look at what kind of story you are telling and why you are choosing to tell it. If you are sick and tired of walking door to door selling encyclopedias no one wants, it might be time to accept that this ‘internet’ thing is not just a fad and move on to a new product or service.
I have stated before two seemingly contradictory things: 1) Don’t Accept Failure and 2) Failure is Always an Option. Just because failure is an option, and one decides that what they did indeed do is fail, does not mean they have to accept it as the end-all-be-all of a project or plan of action. As long as you never stop, you have never truly failed, and unnecessary surrender is the worst kind of failure. Giving yourself the choice of surrender is giving in to the idea that you have a limit, and going over that limit would be bad. No limits means no real failure, no bad work (by this definition) and never a chance to not succeed or not be totally awesome.
I want everyone to be awesome. I want people to realize that the only real limits they have are time and energy, not effort, and if they really want to get things done they will and it will be good. It might take more work than you have ever done before in your life, but once you start reaching your goals you will never look back on it all as being ‘too much.’ I can guarantee that.
NEWSFLASH: Accolades are not important. Awards are pointless. Prizes, rewards, and extra compensation simply do not matter (or should not, at least) when it comes to the quality of work that you do. It is not to say that these bonuses are not appreciated or welcome by their recipients, but that alone does not make them actually matter.
Being good at something, whether it is sports, acting, design, photography, cooking, writing, whatever – that is what a person should be striving for. Quality of output is a much better goal than a greater quantity of anything – even if it is money and fame. The all-consuming nature of caring about nothing but quantity does little except damage quality and puts a spotlight on just how greedy a person, team, or company is. Take a look at the project management triangle (Good, Fast, Cheap), picking one to focus one will make the other two impossible to work with, or: Making something ___ means it won’t be ___ or ___. While this does make some sense in the short term, I do not see quality as something that should be thought of as a short term answer. “Oh, but why can’t we start out crappy and work our way up to good over time?” Okay, fine. Start out with garbage and then wonder why nobody is around to congratulate you when you become something special. It takes so much more effort to change your perception from bad to good than to go from nothing to good.
Of course, this only applies to things you are going to share with others. Taking the time to get good means being crappy for a while, but it does not mean that anyone needs to see it as something worthwhile. Drafts are not worthwhile except as tools to move toward greatness. Practice, practice, practice is a mantra for a reason, but seems to be ignored for “this has to be done RIGHT NOW!” Big picture thinking and forethought is, well, an afterthought to most people once they slip into a model of ignorance of doing good work.
I know that I have said many times here that hard work is hard, and maybe getting to the good work might be the hardest thing of all, but that does not make it an impossible task. I have become tired at seeing people blow off good (or great or even spectacular) work for easy work. Trading good for easy might seem like a fantastic idea in the moment, but it is on par with kicking down bowling pins or walking up a Skeeball ramp and dropping the balls into the holes. Sure, you might have accomplished the adjective of the game, but did it in the least skillful way possible. “Easy” is only “Good” when you get good enough to make it look easy. That is, in a way, the truest definition of a professional. Pros do things that spectators marvel at, noting repeatedly just how little effort it takes, but those professionals have spent years getting it wrong on the path to getting it right exactly when they need to. And out of all the thousands of pros out there, in any and every field, only a small percentage of them will ever get rewarded the way society believes is important or necessary, but that will not stop them from continuing to do good work day in and day out.
Be a pro. Be your own pro. Make it look easy. Look at the big picture, don’t be greedy, practice, and just do good work.
Lebron, meet Randy Brown. You may know him as a three-time NBA Champion with the Chicago Bulls. During the Bulls’ 72-10 season, Mr. Brown was third on the depth chart at point guard. He had two guys known as Ron Harper and Steve Kerr above him. You probably know those two names much better, as would any fan of the NBA that is not specifically a fan of the Bulls. But yeah, he has three rings. You have zero. A big fat zero.
Look on the bright side, though. I am sure that almost nobody would put Randy Brown on a higher pedestal than Lebron James when it comes to who is a better basketball player. You just don’t have any rings. You have a scoring title, a Rookie of the Year title, two season MVP awards, oh, but no rings. Funny how much a piece of jewelry matters.
It’s not your fault, Bron Bron. It is in no way your fault for the fact that a large percentage of fans care more about how many times you held a championship over your head than how good at the sport you actually are. After all, if you are as good as everyone says you are (and statistics show you to be pretty damn good) then you should be absolutely swimming in rings! This is your ninth season! You should have at least four by now! You’re King James! You are great and awesome and ballin’ and whatever other adjective you want to describe yourself as. You are one hell of a basketball player, but alas, winning those particular important games in the right order has eluded you for almost an entire decade. It eluded you so hard in Ohio that you decided to chase it to South Beach. One year in and that plan did not exactly work out.
Should the fans of the sport have put such high expectations on you going to Miami? Eh, probably not. The problem lies in the fact that you made the jewelry just as a big a deal in your own mind as the fans did. You put rings and championships above your ability and said that if you did not have those things, you were nothing. Nevermind that there are less than sixty players in the history of the league to score more points than you across a career. Nevermind the Olympic gold medal or the fact that you were arguably the entire economy for a major city for three quarters of a decade. None of those things matter even the tiniest bit because, gasp, you have never been an NBA Champion.
More than sixty people have rings. More than that go to the Olympics every four years and only a small fraction can claim themselves as a gold medalist (or even a medalist at all). There’s only one Rookie of the Year, only one MVP, and those don’t rely on teamwork the way that a championship season does. You have done those things because you are good at the sport of basketball. Okay, so you may have moments that could be deemed as choking or surrender, the critics are not always wrong. Regardless of those issues, you never should have made your career about championships. You have shown in the past that you are better than those zero rings but are apparently not above running after them.
The way you left Cleveland was harsh, you should be very cognizant of that. The way it was painfully obvious that you did not see a championship coming to Ohio regardless of how good you played and ran out of town in a salmon colored shirt for Miami did more to define your legacy than any amount of time you have spent on the court. Had you just went to another team, no fanfare or drama, no media circus …people might not judge you the way they do. It is a tough realization to come to – that great basketball might not always get you the exact accolades that you hope for. It is the same way that Randy Brown got the same ring Jordan and Pippen did for what I can only assume was less work. He averaged around 15 minutes of play time, you get 40. Jordan averaged 38.
Are you two minutes better than Jordan, because he’s six rings better than you, if that is really the statistic you wish to go by. If that really is the statistic you wish to have forced upon you and you have accepted with open arms, because just being good doesn’t matter, not to your critics and not to you, and I am truly sorry for that.