Genesis – How it all began.
2020 will go down in history as one of those years that reminded us of how fragile life is – how we are mere mortals and how our lives are but a candle in the wind.
The turmoil that was 2020 made me re-evaluate what was important to me, what made me happy. As the new normal was unfolding, I found myself working from home (WFH) and albeit being present in form, I was unavailable mentally and emotionally, even for myself. I didn’t realise the toll this had had on me until the day I decided to get out of the comforts or confines (I’ll let you decide,) of full-time employment.
What I wanted was access to myself (sounds weird right?) but working remotely had some of us feel like proverbial security guards to our laptops and cell phones. The lines of work and home had become so irrevocably blurred, it felt like I lived at work. What I wanted was autonomy; to write my own script, to dance to my own tune.
Of Meaningful work
There’s a show I watched on Netflix called Connected, where they investigate the way we are connected to the world and the universe (think also Law of Attraction). I had listened to my heart’s desires and the universe responded – one sunny afternoon, I had strolled into a local second-hand book shop and stumbled across Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
As I paged through the pearls of wisdom in this book, what stood out for me was the topic around meaningful work. Malcolm described that meaningful work had to meet these three criteria – autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward. I felt like the universe was listening (call it Big Brother level 9 billion!) Here I was looking for autonomy, Malcolm said check. Writing my own script, Malcolm said complexity – check. Dancing to my own tune, Malcolm said reward will be connected to your effort, check!
(You might think I’m reaching, but trust me, this felt like the acknowledgment I needed to know I hadn’t lost my marbles.)
“autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people will agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying”.– Malcom Gladwell
Malcolm goes on to say that hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. The three qualities that he identifies as bringing meaning to work can be defined as:
- Autonomy – the desire to be self-directed, being the captain of your own ship.
- Complexity – working on challenging problems that can even keep you late up at night (but only sometimes, not all the time!)
- A Connection between effort and reward – mathematically, this can be depicted as R-E and should equal a positive outcome.
Following these three criteria led to the birth of PDQ Logistics. A quick disclaimer that this is what worked for me, however, it is still very possible to attain these criteria when doing the 9-to-5 (or 9-to-9 depending where you work); ultimately, it all boils down to whether your work fulfills you and if you are happy doing what you do on a daily.
More gems from Mr. Gladwell
As I mentioned, there are so many pearls of wisdom shared in this classic piece of literature and here are a few more that stood out for me.
The Matthew Effect
Malcolm quotes the biblical scripture from the gospel of Matthew 25:29, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance…” I have seen this play out from a business perspective. You go to the bank wanting to buy a house, you need to have thousands of Rands before you can get more. You want to start or grow your business, you have to show you have your own capital; the dream alone is not going to get you very far.
The 10 000-Hour Rule
According to Malcolm, 10 000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything. However, he goes on to note that 10 000 hours is an enormous amount of time and it is impossible to reach that number by yourself. This reminded me of what Mteto Nyathi wrote in his book – Betting on a Darkie. Mteto says no one is ever self-made. We all need help from someone to get to where we need to go. This speaks to mentors, sponsors, coaches and the like. People who not only encourage us and support us but give us the opportunity to show up and deliver. We may very well give praise to meritocracy, but we cannot pretend that success is exclusively a matter of individual merit.
The overall message of the book is that being a genius is over-rated. Success is not only about innate ability but a combination of factors such as seizing an opportunity, meaningful hard work, getting help along the way, and sometimes the universe just being on your side.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a note in the comment section below and if you feel like your circle should know about this too – Click the share button and let’s spread the message!