To be someone or to do something?
One day you will come to a fork in the road, and you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.
If you go one way, you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises, you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club, you will be promoted, and you will get good assignments.
If you go the other way, you can do something. Something for your country, and for your airfare, and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted, and you may not get good assignments. And you will certainly not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and yourself. And your work might make a difference.
To be somebody, or to do something.
In life, there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision.
To be or to do, which way will you go?
– Colonel John Boyd
The question at hand is whether are you after recognition or are you after the work itself.
Has this ever happened to you?
You work day and night on a project only for the credit to be due to someone else?
Or that you made the most significant contribution to the team only to have the leader get the spotlight due to your subordinate and less convincing standing?
It is very easy to get carried away at the start of our careers. We want every effort we make to be recognized and praised. Every correct decision we make to be remembered by our peers. After all, we deserve it right?
But it doesn’t always go that way, especially if you are novice or a beginner. Some wouldn’t even take you seriously because you are in an entry level position and you have yet to prove yourself over the long run
Sometimes, even if we stay in a position long enough, we still do not get the credit we so desire.
When we finish college and come out to the “real world”, we are starving with ambition and racing against the clock to be somebody.
We want to be that person who is married to a very desirable mate by 27.
We want to be that rising star that climbs up the corporate ladder and become the Vice President by 28.
We want to be that person who is a millionaire by 30.
Are we working for credit? Is the need to be recognized by others for our achievements the driving force of our lives? Is the need to be somebody so important? We often hear our friends say that they want to “be somebody.” The titles, the glamour, the respect and the adoration of the public.
I was reading the late Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs, From Third World to First and came across a man named Goh Keng Swee. He was the Finance Minister and Interior and Defense Minister in the early years.
The highest rank he ever gotten to was Deputy Prime Minister in his lifetime. Although he was second to Mr Lee on paper, Mr Lee praised him highly for being the man who contributed the most to the building of Singapore.
If it was utter recognition & credit Mr Goh was after, being the center of attention and be adored by international media, he would have been sour about not getting as much press for his achievements compared to Mr Lee himself.
But he wasn’t that type, doing the work is enough. Getting the glamour and adoration of the public was secondary to actually contributing to the public.
The practical view
There is another practical view as to why influence is far healthier option to go after than credit.
Influence (the work itself) is within our control. We can manage expectations in the course of our own work. We can choose to take it as a challenge or just enjoy ourselves.
Credit (recognition) requires someone else to validate your actions.
In other words, you are placing your self-worth into the hands of other people. Letting them become the authors of your life story and self esteem. Like being on a leash to the whims and fancies of others, being steered in whatever direction they want to go.
For a young person such as yourself, placing high regard into something highly volatile such as this spells disaster to your self worth in the long run.
I learnt an important idea early on in my life and it goes like this:
“Accept applause, but don’t expect it.”