We’ll Work for Peanuts. But We Won’t Work Without Meaning.

For the first 6 years of my career, I made less than $20,000/year. For 18 months, I made more, but then I made less for another year after that, so it averaged out. It was a tough time (and I’ve written about it before so won’t rehash here), but I never stopped learning, stopped growing, or had to feeling like I was on a treadmill going nowhere. It always FELT like a notch of progress was just around the corner (and eventually, it was).

Many folks ask me “what kept you going all those years?” Undoubtedly, there were a number of factors, but I strongly believe that the sense that progress was being made, even when the rewards of that progress were so intangible and non-financial, was a heavy contributor. Dan Ariely, who wrote Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality – both of which I enjoyed, did a TEDx talk last year that was just posted this week on the topic of work and meaning:

His experiments are fascinating and his lessons should seem obvious. But sadly, these lessons aren’t obvious enough to those of us in the business world.

I know I’ve failed to recognize and praise effort. I know other Mozzers have failed on this, too. I know I’ve cancelled projects halfway through, or worse, looked at a finished product and said “I’m sorry, we can’t use this.” In fact, the first version of Fresh Web Explorer went just like that. It was supposed to launch last December. It took until March. In my opinion, we did the right thing to wait – it’s an incredible product, and worthy of being launched and already a huge hit with our early adopters, but I know there was pain and heartache when we had to push it last year. I had a 1:1 with one of the engineers behind it, who noted that the process was insanely frustrating, despite the eventual positive outcome.

This is an area I need to keep working on. I think the regret I feel over the past will help to enforce that, but I hope that those of you reading this can apply the lessons without having to experience the mistakes firsthand.

p.s. If you watch the video, you’ll also find out why you need to add eggs, water, and oil to cake mix 🙂