Frustration Friday: Work, Value, and Lies

In these tough economic times, I often hear debates on "productivity" and who is really "doing all the work."  The usual answer of course is whoever is discussing productivity is the person that thinks they're doing all the work.  This also includes assorted delusions about economics, career, jobs, and so forth.

So, let me set a few things straight on productivity from my rather jaded point of view.

NOT ALL WORK PRODUCES ANYTHING, BUT IT'S IMPORTANT ANYWAY:  Instead, an amazing amount of things people do are to maintain our economy, society, infrastructure, and culture.  These jobs are just as or even more important than inventing the next technology or new film or whatever.  Your doctor, the people maintaining your business network, the folks paving a road, are all involved in maintenance.  They're pretty damn important.

WHAT YOU MAKE IS NO MEASURE WHAT SO EVER OF THE VALUE YOU PRODUCE: Sorry folks, money just says you've found something that raises your bank account balance.  As we have learned the economic nitwits that caused the Great Recession, lobbied-up politicians, overpaid hack actors, lousy blockbusters making tons of money, and so on, the amount of money you make is rarely connected with producing value or doing good.  Sorry.  I'd like it to be different and hope it is in the future.

FAME MEANS NOTHING: Plenty of nameless people go about their business while big names implode – in fact they may get famous for imploding.  There are medicines saving lives made by people you never heard of, technologies you use whose inventors you never read about, and so on.  Some publicity-hungry hack may churn out a bunch of books or movie and claim to change the world, but that's no guarantee they know what they're talking about.  In fact there are plenty of people with no dignity ready to trade their souls for fame and cash.

THE GOOD YOU DO MAY NOT BE PAID FOR: Some people write a truly life-changing book then go back to their job, making little cash.  That big convention you ran that helped people hook up with some pros and start new jobs didn't make you a penny, but it did a lot of good.

THE WORK YOU DO MAY NOT MEAN ANYTHING: Yes, your job may actually be worthless or even something that makes life worse for people.  Live with it and get a better job as soon as you can.

PEOPLE PAID TO EXPRESS CERTAIN VIEWS RARELY CHANGE THEIR MINDS: Those various gurus, pundits, and advisers out there who espouse specific theories?  Yeah, they're making a lot of money having certain views.  Do you think they're going to upset the gravy train by being honest?  Didn't think so.

So here's the thing.  Lots of stuff you make money for isn't worth it, lots of things you aren't paid for matter, your paycheck doesn't measure your value, and there's an amazing amount of invisible people doing good things.

So forget the high-flying theory and the poseurs trying to talk about how great they are.  Find a career that pays well enough for doing good things even if they're not famous, do what good you can, and build the future.  Don't get caught up in who is "best" – go and be the best by doing the most good you can and finding a way to get paid for it.

– Steven Savage