What would happen if everyone did the bare minimum? Essentially, you wouldn’t have to work hard, and you’d live a pressure-free life. On the other hand, you’d have food served to you on dirty plates, salesclerks who’d gossip with coworkers rather than help you, and people who’d show up late to appointments. That is, if they showed up at all. (Ugh.)
To make matters worse, if you asked someone to do a little extra, they’d act like you’re crazy or complain that you’re asking too much of them. Even more, if someone decided to go the extra mile, they’d be ostracized by their colleagues for making them look bad. In essence, mediocrity would become the norm and people who tried their best would be viewed as an abnormality.
This chain of events could happen if there were no consequences for slacking off. In fact, this do-nothing attitude would spread like wildfire. After all, why would you bend over backward if everyone did the bare minimum?
When you tolerate mediocrity, you get more of it.
A Race to the Bottom
If this scenario ever came to pass, the term “work ethic” would be cancelled and parents would stop telling kids to try their best, because fair-to-average would be good enough for them. Stay in shape? Why bother. Eat the right foods? Who cares. Do well in school? Why even go. You’d be able to do next to nothing at work and do so with impunity. In fact, you’d fit right in. Furthermore, bankruptcy would become the hottest industry in the country, and the do-it-yourself (DIY) market would explode because you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone to do the job right.
Doing the bare minimum is not in your best interests. Here’s why:
- Who would you call in a crisis or turn to in a medical emergency?
- Would you be willing to pay for defective products or put up with lousy service?
- How long could a company remain in business if they excused lazy, incompetent, uncaring, apathetic employees?
- Would you be proud to see your kids do nothing, stand for nothing, and amount to nothing?
- What impact would be being a goof-off have on your self-esteem and self-worth?
Raise Your Standards
Could this do the bare minimum phenomenon ever come to pass? I hope not. Here are seven ingredients of a strong work ethic:
Values. The Protestant work ethic is more than a cultural norm that places a positive moral value on doing a good job. It’s a belief that work has intrinsic value for its own sake. It stipulates that work isn’t just about getting a paycheck; hard work builds character, promotes dignity, and gives you control over your life. This value system has been passed down from generation to generation. If you don’t pass your values on to your kids someone else will.
Personal standards. Never lower your personal standards. Never! We don’t gain anything by lowering the bar so that everyone can clear it.
Moral character. Autograph your work with pride. You don’t always have to be the best, but you should always do your best.
Accountability. Winners make the effort while losers make excuses. If you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, don’t blame the mirror.
Metrics. If you want excellence, you must recognize and reward it. Period. People stop trying when there’s no benefit for being exceptional and no consequence for being mediocre.
Choice. It doesn’t cost more to strive for excellence, but if you settle for mediocrity, it’ll cost you dearly. Mediocrity is a choice. I hope you choose to say “NO!”
Winners and losers. Competition is the great determinant. If you (individual or organization) want to be a winner, it is imperative to provide greater value than others or you will be left behind.
Expect More…Be More
There are folks who will always find doing the bare minimum appealing. That doesn’t mean you have to follow their lead. If you have the potential to achieve great things, why settle for less? Striving for excellence is uplifting and exhilarating. Don’t rob yourself of that experience. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” Bravo!!!
PS Trying your best does not mean sacrificing work-life balance. It means when given a task, do it right or don’t do it at all.
Check out Frank’s latest book, The Path to a Meaningful Life.
Do You Know Folks Who Do the Bare Minimum?
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