As the legend goes, Peter Drucker was once asked by a business owner to review his financial statements and see if he could find better, more innovative, ways to make money from studying, and tweaking, his financials. To which Drucker replied, “You don’t make money, you make shoes. Work on making shoes. The money is just a by-product.”
The lesson reminded me of an interview I had with Yvon Chounaird, founder of Patagonia, who said in the interview, “Over the past forty years I have yet to encounter a business problem that cannot be solved by focusing on product excellence and product integrity.” Despite, and because of, the magnificent growth Patagonia has enjoyed over the years, Yvon and Patagonia found sustainability by consistently refocusing their attention on quality and excellence. The journey was not without various hurtles and faltering moments while those around him were distracted by financial growth alone. For the full story see this interview.
But my point is this: Everyone I talk to is talking about building meaning in their work – building meaning into their everyday life and endeavors, As Teresa Amabile reminds us, progress in meaningful work is what motivates and engages us. We’re preparing for an upcoming event with Benjamin Zander, renowned conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, and I listened to him talk recently about the importance and value of contribution, as opposed to competition. They aren’t the same thing – competition is when you mentally compare, evaluate and attempt to trump. Contribution has no such relative marker. Contribution is when you try, when you show up and muster what you got – hopefully from a source of practice and competence – but nevertheless a real try.
Dispel your worries of competitive evaluation, and focus on your best, and give toward your best efforts with honest intention.