It was a phrase my father used to say when I did chores around the house.
He wanted to make sure I wasn’t trying to get away with something (like phoning it in or doing a half-assed job). I never did want to do the work, so he was right to do it too.
Over time it occurred to me that fully doing the work is easier than slacking off and rushing at the end– a lot easier. It took me a long time, but I finally realized that the amount of energy I spent avoiding and lying left me in a lot of bad situations– and the stress was never worth it. So now when I have presentation to do, I work on them ahead of time instead of at the last minute. I write every day instead of trying to catch up from lazing around. All this stuff really helps me live a more balanced, happier life.
But something happens to you when you’re being checked on all the time. I think it makes you into someone that tries to get away with something. You know how you’re getting checked, and you know what they’re missing, so you start cutting corners where you can. It becomes habitual.
Obviously, this needed to change when I stopped working for other people. Social pressure still works… but what if it’s not enough? What if you’re like “meh, who cares if I lose that client, damn the consequences”?
I think we know the answer is– we get a world exactly like what we have now. A world of doing just enough, where we get away with whatever we can, as often as we can. James Kunstler talked about what effect this had on suburbia at TED 2005.
What’s amazing is that the only reason he can be so angry about it is because the suburbia he despises is visible, like me moving half the lawn. But most of this phoning it in isn’t– until much later. Like the bad roadwork Montreal is infamous for, the individuals responsible are long gone by the time we find out.
I still don’t get what the solution is. I need to be checked on. You do too, even though you don’t like it. Nature’s way is to find shortcuts, and that was fine when the damage we could do was small, but it isn’t small anymore. It’s massive, because humanity is massive, and we’re all doing our part.
I think the answer is to reconnect us to the consequences of our work ethic. But how can we do that in a world that rewards quarterly results? Can it even be done?