The REAL Reason to Do Great Work

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award-winning performanceIt’s that time of year again—time for my annual “Let’s try to see as many Oscar nominated movies as possible” drive. So last night I saw Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which is not exactly the front runner for Best Picture. Still, it’s nominated, as is co-star Max von Sydow for Best Supporting Actor. Conspicuously missing from the nominations, however, is 14-year-old Thomas Horn. Say what you will about the movie itself (some love it, some hate it), but this guy—in his first ever movie role—not only shows incredible range and is completely believable, but is also in virtually every scene and completely dominates the movie. If a “name” actor had done what Horn did, he would be a favorite to win Best Actor.

“And your point is…?” you ask rudely.

My point is this: What drives you to achieve award-winning performance in your own work—the award or the performance?

See, my guess is that Thomas Horn never had the following conversation with himself:

“If I think I’m going to win an Oscar, I’ll do my very best in this role; otherwise, second best is as good as it gets.”

Sounds kind of silly, right? And yet, how many of you have had similar conversations? Conversations like:

  • “The boss is watching; I’d better do an extra good job.”
  • “I’m going to work super hard now that I’m up for a promotion.”
  • “I want to really shine on this project; that way I’ll totally impress that cute new sales intern!”

Sure, we all like recognition (well…most of us), and it’s nice to get awards. Back in my TV days I picked up a few Emmy Awards myself, and it felt pretty good. But the recognition, the awards—even the paycheck—those are the end of the equation, not the beginning.

“Award-winning performance” is not about awards. It’s about a mindset. It’s about a mindset that says, “I do my work to the best of my ability because I take pride in my work.” It’s about a mindset that says, “I would rather do what I know is my best and have nobody notice than be rewarded for a second-rate effort.” It’s about a mindset that says, “My true reward is the way I feel inside, not the commendations I receive outside.”

Thomas Horn may not have been nominated for an Oscar this year. But he can look at his work and honestly say, “I gave it my all, and I’m proud of it.”

Can you say the same about your work?


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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