Apr 10 • 7M

Everything Is Everything

Value Isn’t Defined By What Other’s Value, It’s The Way You Value It

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Not just imagining a better way to work but building it. Together.
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Q: This week, I disengaged at work, wanting to surf Twitter and play Candy Crush. To say this is unusual is an understatement. I love adding strategic value. Just the week prior, my team and I had delivered a major strategic initiative that was months in the making and without which we’d miss 20% of the company’s topline. When I first joined the company, my boss and his boss, two of the most senior people in the company, met with me weekly, answered emails promptly, and were very vocal in supporting my work. Since then, I built out the team and aligned our work to the most valuable strategic initiatives. It means a move to leading the work vs. doing the work. Is this somehow causing me to feel less valuable? Or is it something else? After my team and I had delivered that significant initiative, no one said anything. Absolute crickets. I picked up a lower-impact, lower-value project to feel like I was adding any value. Intellectually, I know I can add high strategic value. But emotionally, I sometimes wonder if it’s enough value. Maybe I have an identity crisis? 

A: Dear Identity

Can you say you’re doing strategic value-creating work if no one notices? 

It’s a question I’ve long struggled with. So much so that I wanted to pass along a vignette a coach shared when I was grappling. 

Some monks, she told me, lived in a hermitage and wove baskets every day as they prayed. Once a year, they descend into the village to sell their hand-woven baskets, using what they earn to resupply and return to their monastic life. One monk was sick and couldn’t join to sell the baskets he had made. As a result, he couldn’t get new supplies to make more baskets. Instead, he took apart the baskets he had already made so he’d have the needed materials to weave and pray. 

When I first heard this story, my skin started to crawl. Is all the work just undone? Nothing to show for the whole year he spent creating? No one would see the fruits of his labor? I felt like I was going to break out in hives. 

Your question reminded me of the story. If no one sees, does it even matter?

And there’s a good reason why this happens. Creating outcomes is far more easily measured than how we’re fully alive.  

Shoulda' Learned To Play The Guitar
It’s why we can look at a new job opportunity to work at a more prestigious institution (measurable) and take a while to ask if our Onlyness can shine there (immeasurable).

It’s why we can get drawn to a “big job” opportunity and its total comp package (measurable) and not notice how the situation ensures we never do our best work (incalculable).

Or why, Identity, we value feedback (validation), instead of our good work (invaluable). 

Outcomes are just clearer. And “the way” is intangible, immeasurable, and mostly invisible. And oddly enough, if you’re manifesting yourself using what comes naturally, it can even look like you’re earning “money for nothing,” as the song lyrics suggest. 

But just because we can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the right measure.  

You Play The Guitar On The Mtv
I read a piece a few years ago that addressed what to do when you don’t feel valued. The author wrote: 

“We all have a human need to be appreciated for our efforts, and so when your colleagues don’t notice [your contributions], it makes you feel as though you don’t belong.” You might also start to worry—justifiably—about your potential professional advancement. “Self-doubt starts to creep in, and you think, ‘If no one notices what I’m doing, how am I going to get ahead?’”

Why does getting noticed matter? So that you can get ahead. Ahead of whom? Ahead how? None of this is explained. It’s just assumed that getting ahead is what matters. This is what we’ve been taught and conditioned to believe is most important. Get ahead at all costs. But this keeps us focused on the next job level or the pay bump, but not on whether we get to be fully alive. 

I hate how this redirects our energy. The bragging. The jockeying for position. People start to brand themselves “Strategic Value Creator.” But if you're creating a persona, it’s also a pedestal someone can knock you off. 

If you reframe adding value as a way of being, it’s something you do. You embody it. No one can take that away from you. Actions are never false. What is, is.

It’s near heresy to say it, but there is no competition. There is only contribution. It’s about you adding the value that only you can. Onlyness

That Ain't Workin', That's The Way You Do It

So, Identity, what is your identity? Is your work to “make and sell baskets,” or is creating the basket “the way” you do the thing you are called to do.

You say you love adding strategic value. That should mean that it was enough to know what you know, that you added 20% to the topline. But when you and your team didn’t get feedback for it, you started doing lower-value-add work. I suspect you wanted to see a point (any point!) on the board. 

It’s a pain we can all feel. 

It’s why my friend told me the monk story in the first place. I had become so obsessed with whether I scored the point that I wasn’t playing the game I needed to play. 

When we lose sight of the way, we also lose our way. 

Look At That, Look At That
Maybe your boss and bosses’ boss stopped doing regular check-ins after your onboarding process had gone well. They could see you got it. Perhaps it’s time for you to believe in yourself as much as they do. 

Editor’s Pick: “Everything is Everything” by Lauryn Hill 
Unabashedly herself, Hill challenged norms, combining styles of music, singing, rapping, and breaking barriers for female rappers. She added value in her unique way and is still considered one of the greatest rappers. “Everything is everything” means it is what it is. It reminds her of Onlyness, which is something that just IS.

oh, and p.s reminder that you’re always invited to join our Fully Alive@Work Column Club, where we discuss our takeaways from the most recent columns and how to embody these ideas in our daily work.  If you'd like to join us for our next one? It’s at 9 am PT/5 pm GMT on Wednesday, April 20th. Garry Turner and I will be co-hosting and would LOVE to have you.  Email back if you want to join, and one of us will make sure you get the link.