Doing Thankless Work
I’m writing this from the confines of a CanadaAir Regional Jet. For those who are familiar with these words, you realize that I’m presently contorted and smushed into my seat using my elbows to type this. As the flight attendant came down the row I asked her if it bothers her that people never pay attention when she does her pre-flight instructions. She smiled and acknowledged that it kind of comes with the turf. (I sometimes wonder if flight attendants secretly fantasize about a minor emergency just as a form of vindication… “Oh…your magazine isn’t so interesting NOW, is it?”) That said, I (for one) am extremely glad to know that someone is there if anything goes wrong on the flight.
It got me thinking about the nature of thankless work. So much of what we do as creatives is thankless. It’s process. It’s iteration. It’s cranking away with the hopes that the finished work will vindicate us (no emergencies needed). But no one sees the internal turmoil, the questioning or the little choices we make that cost us something. We make these choices because we love our craft, not because of recognition.
When we choose a path of contribution, it often means a choice to forgo recognition for our work. Commitment to excellence means doing things right even when it may never be seen by another living soul.
So…here’s a question: what’s the most thankless (but meaningful) work you do?
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I'm Todd Henry.
I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More