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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.