The next letter in Seth Godin’s Grownup ABC book is “E”. “E” is for Effort. “Effort isn’t the point, impact is…If you solve my problem in 3 seconds (I’m good)…If you move 10,000 pounds of granite, but the result doesn’t connect with me, I’m sorry…”
I would like to explore to angles around this dialogue, that appear to be in opposition. The first is something I have shared with my kids and people I have mentored for decades now. That is – hard work always pays off. If you want something bad enough, you need to work hard for it. In light of Seth Godin’s discussion on the topic of effort, it appears that he is saying the opposite. Seth is saying, I don’t care how hard you work to make a meaningful connection with me, so long as you make one. If you work your butt off but don’t connect with me in a meaningful way, I don’t appreciate the effort.
It would be easy for the casual observer to read this, and use it as an excuse for not working hard. “You see Bob, you don’t really have to work hard man, you just need to connect. Take a hit on this joint and pass it back to me when you’re done.” I don’t resonate with the “pass the joint” work ethic at all. Call it old school but when I look at successful people, be it professional athletes, musicians, successful entrepreneurs, mega pastors, etc., I see people who worked pretty hard to get to where they are. Meaningful work is a gift from God and the opportunity to work hard and see the fruit of your labor is a great blessing.
On the flip-side you have what Seth Godin is saying. Just because you are working hard, does not mean you will receive a reward equal to your effort. I can resonate with that too in some ways. I know people who feel that, just because they have worked somewhere for 20 years that they deserve to make a lot of money. Experience is meaningless if that experience can’t be leveraged to produce impact – something valuable. If you are good at shoeing horses, who cares? There is no demand for shoeing horses these days.
I guess where I am landing on all of this is that effort is best when it is expended on something that has worth and value inherent in the outcome. That worth and value needs to be seen from the perspective of the beneficiary of that outcome, not the one investing the effort necessarily. It’s great if you value things that you are putting effort into; but, if no one else values them, they are not worth anything.
During the housing boom many years ago now, me and my brother opened a real estate brokerage so we could flip homes and earn the commissions on any real estate transactions we engaged in. I ended up getting a great deal of real life experience with one of the greatest answers I have ever heard or given. “How much is my house worth?” Answer, “Exactly what someone is willing to pay for it.” It really doesn’t matter how much you like pink, or those little angel statues that pee into a fountain; if no one else likes it, your house is not going to sell for much.
Similarly with effort. We need to expend effort into activities that generate value and meaning for others. Perhaps this is the real angle that Seth Godin had in mind when he wrote about effort. In our efforts, we should strive to connect with others and create value and meaning in that connection. That is impact. That is one of the best ways to make sure we get a high ROE, or return on effort.