One of the hangovers from the Industrial Age is our view of work. During that period of history, you went to work, punched the clock, worked for some number of hours, punched the clock again and went home. The quality of work wasn’t so much a matter of individual care and attention as much as it was the repetition of a process. It was by design that one could be removed from a line and replaced with no noticeable difference in the desired outcome.
The Industrial Age took the view that workers were limited, disposable, replaceable, and not too much different from the machines they operated. What was required of them is that they were compliant, and a school system was built around this very idea. So were ideas about what a good life was made up of.
It’s tough to predict the future. If the predictions from my childhood were on course with the estimated timelines, I would already have a flying car, I would be wearing a space-age jumpsuit of some kind, and my diet would consist of a single nutrition pill each day.
No one expected a future in which almost no one punches a time clock, where the idea of work hours means less and less, where people work from wherever they happen to be, and one which looks very different than the Industrial Age.
Because of the nature of the world you now occupy, the quality of work you do is not likely to be determined by following some rigid process, but rather from individual care and attention. Where efficiency ruled, effectiveness is now the outcome. More still, in a past that looked at human beings as a pair of hands and a back, the present looks at a human being as a fount of creativity, resourcefulness, innovation, and initiative.
“But wait,” you say, “I am still treated like a number, as if we still live in the Industrial Age.”
You are now faced with the choice of deciding to operate as if you are something more than a pair of hands and a back, even if the work you do is in an office, at a desk, in a structure not too different from the factory floor. You now also have the choice to treat what you do as a chance to do something exceptional, something that makes a difference, something that leaves things better than you found them.
In the future, the rewards in all their forms are going to accrue to those who decide to be exceptional by putting heart and soul and mind into their work, and not just their hands and their backs—if those are necessary at all. Exceptional is the new standard of greatness, and it is born of passion.
Is what you are doing now exceptional?
Are you willing to give up the mediocrity of punching a clock and give yourself over to your work to do something that makes a difference?
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