Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What they don't teach in school

Schools are good at teaching how to start projects.  How to do research.
What they don't teach is when to stop.

I've been an academic overachiever my whole life.  If the assignment called for 5 sources, I'd reference 15.  If we had to include a photo or some kind of multimedia, I'd put together a 30-slide digital photo book complete with captions.  This past autumn, there was a student uprising in my master's program when the vague nature of one 3-credit course (estimated to require 27 total hours of lectures + coursework) ended up taking more like 60 or 70 hours of our time.  I was astounded that my classmates were ready to argue based on the amount of time it took them to complete a project.  I've never expected to spend the minimum suggested hours on an assignment and come out with a good grade ... I work on a project until it's excellent, by my own standards.

Recently, however, reality struck me. It wasn't until I started my own company that I realized: People aren't going to pay me to do this much research.  I'm still learning how to stop; how to say, "It's good enough for today.  This is appropriate for the task at hand."  I'm learning that every 'above and beyond' has to be justifiable.  It's not so much where I choose to go above and beyond, but rather why  I do it which should drive my efforts. What is the ultimate consequence of this over-performance for me? for my client?  How much does this tiny factor really matter in the short run? in the long run?

Sometimes people don't realize how instrumental certain things - like a clear vision and idea of what they do and what they offer to clients - will be for the future of their business.  And in these cases, I feel a duty to convince them that these really are important, and that they need someone {e.g. me} to help them develop these areas. But overall, I have to balance my own enthusiasm to go above and beyond with the reality of the market and what my clients are willing to pay for.  Otherwise, my own business goes under.

So, moral of the story?  

Overachievers: If you're going to survive in life, you must restrain your urges to go above and beyond in every direction.  First, prioritize. Then refocus your extraordinary drive on the things that matter most.

By the way, Pointe3 Design Communications is open for business. We were born global with 5 clients in the U.S. & Europe on day one. My latest resume tells a little about what we do.  Our website is still under construction; Coming Soon!


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