Worth doing

“Just about everything worth doing is worth doing because it’s important and because the odds are against you. If they weren’t, then anyone could do it, so don’t bother.” —Seth Godin

In our stories, we venerate the heroes who triumph in the face of great odds. But what we don’t always realize is that they’re not heroes because they won. They’re heroes because they tried.

You won’t achieve greatness if you’re the same as everyone else. It takes doing the hard work that no one else will do, because it’s difficult, and because the results are uncertain.

Good. That’s the only work worth doing.

2 thoughts on “Worth doing

  1. I would argue the opposite. They’re only heroes because they won, because we don’t venerate losers. I argue the consequentialist standpoint for judging history, because ‘history is written by the victors’ applies. Often, history is written by the victors, because the loser didn’t survive to tell their tale. “Dead men tell no tales” trope (though not quite strictly true anymore in modern times).

    While the approaches are very similar, and still requires trials and effort to overcome said trials, merely trying is not enough. There’s plenty of men that didn’t make it on Odysseus’s journey. They aren’t venerated, only Odysseus is.

    Our differing opinions may stem from a difference in cultural perspective / lens too. In a highly competitive environment (particularly social / cultural framework), many people are also willing to do hard work too, so that alone is not enough. While that is not the case for all cultures, the perspective is certainly different when approached from another viewpoint and set of assumptions.

    “Greatness” is also not important to someone in an environment where survival is not guaranteed. Survival alone is great, let alone thriving. When the stakes are compete or die, or compete and get a great return or really shitty life, the perspective changes against someone that assumes they’ll do OK no matter what.

    I also disagree with Seth’s quote, as that assumes many things–most of which are wrong.

    “Anyone can do it”– This is never true, from circumstances of birth seperating sexes, genetic (dis)advantages toward health, physical / mental ability, socioeconomic development, criminal records, citizenship, etc etc etc. I almost daresay american white priviledge to think such a thing, as people of other races / cultures would never think that.

    Non-trivial skills take committed time & effort, but odds are irrelevant, as anyone with a very particular skill will be a very small fraction of the population given how numerous and diverse our population and economies are. US military: Lots of different jobs, multiple commands and categories, millions of people, but still only a small % of the US population overall.

    Lastly work is worth doing because they’re valued. There is no direct causation between perceived value and inherent worth. How difficult it is to achieve is almost irrelevant. If I won the lottery, it’d be unlikely but purchasing a ticket is not difficult.

    I assert work is worth doing for perceived value more often than inherent value, and that self-perception is often more important when survival is guaranteed. When survival is on the line, perceived value of others is often just as or more important, for trade in promoting one’s own survival & well-being. What use are diamonds to me? Almost nothing. I can’t eat diamonds. What use are they to others? Money, trade for services.

    What use is there to me writing this long reply to a short post? My own perceived value out of writing, for a self sustaining positive reinforcement feedback loop to support thinking and writing– rather than one that leads nowhere or away from writing… and some interest in gaining feedback from you stilts.

    Still, I assert work is worth doing even if sometimes it isn’t difficult, or the results are uncertain. Maybe not equally valued by the self, or by others, but often still necessary and valued. Does that make you a ‘hero’? Does that make you ‘great’ Maybe not, but ‘heroes’ are creation of fiction and imagination, rather than action & reality. Heroes are made long after their individuals have already accomplished their feats.

    • I understand where you’re coming from. Yes, we celebrate the heroes we do because they won. Obviously. But they are only heroes because they tried, and what’s to say those who tried and failed aren’t heroes too?

      That’s a lie. But it’s a useful lie.

      Yes, greatness isn’t important if you’re struggling for survival. I wasn’t talking about that kind of situation, and anyone reading my blog is almost certainly is not fighting for their survival either.

      Yes, not everyone can do everything. Obviously. I’mm 6’7″ tall, so I could have played professional basketball, whereas you (and most people) probably could not. But the limits on our talent are fewer and farther between than cynics realize.

      Yes, work is valued by its economic value. Clearly. You can’t eat home loans or designer jewelry. What matters is if someone values what you do enough to pay you.

      That’s the truth. But is it a useful truth? Will that encourage people to not just exist, but live, and avoid wasting their lives?

      You’re right. I’m a rich American, so I get to chase after my dreams if I want to. I don’t have to scrabble to stay alive. And trust me, I’m thankful for that every single day.

      But I decided some years ago to be optimistic. Irrationally so. Because I’ve seen optimistic people warp the world in their favor, while the “realists” scraped by. Some of those realists are in my family. I aspire to something more.

      There’s plenty of work that’s worth doing, even if it’s not difficult or uncertain. But I don’t want to just survive. I want to thrive. I want to truly live, and I want others to do live as well.

      So I’ll stick to my unreasonable optimism, my useful truths, and my useful lies, and I’ll leave the cynicism to others, though I’ll keep trying to urge them on all the same.

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