There is a certain quality and quantity of work that is minimally acceptable. Let’s equate this to a grade of C in school. Even though you pass the class, your grade suggests that you are doing just enough to get by, nothing more, nothing less. It’s a grade that suggests a lack of commitment, dispassion, and lack of direction.
Minimally acceptable is mediocrity. There is no growth available to those who choose to just scrape by, those who sit in the parking lot waiting until precisely 8:00 AM to start working, unwilling to put in an extra few minutes of work. Minimally acceptable is a withholding of value, the kind that would make a difference in results—even if it would require more effort, more energy, and more commitment on your part.
Even though you may be doing just enough, what is minimally acceptable to other people should not be minimally acceptable to you. There is no benefit, outside of comfort, for lowering your own personal standard to something less than what you are truly capable of. There is no reward for being mediocre, for trying to stay smack in the middle of the Gaussian distribution curve (what we know as a bell curve).
There is this popular idea right now that your company is supposed to supply you with purposeful, meaningful work. This idea is no doubt something far greater than “increase shareholder value.” But it is only half correct, and it requires the other half to make a whole. The other half is that your work has purpose and meaning only when you invest those things in your work. When your personal standard is excellence when the minimally acceptable is no longer acceptable to you, then your work becomes something different than your job, your profession becomes something different than your job title.
The rewards in all their forms accrue to those who give themselves over to something, insisting that their personal standard is the bar, refusing to withhold value, and refusing to do what is minimally acceptable.
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