Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.
To truly be inspired for great work, you need to know that you’re making a difference. That you’re putting a meaningful dent in the universe. That you’re part of something that’s making a difference and that your role in that something is significant.
This doesn’t have to be grand at all. You don’t have to be looking for the cure for cancer. It could be done by a waitress at a neighborhood cafe that’s the gathering point of local artists. The key is that your efforts would be missed, your customers would have a sense of loss, if you stopped doing what you’re doing.
If you’re void that sense of purpose, the pleasure in your work will eventually wane and ultimately feel hollow. I’ve lived that sensation more than once. Working with tools and techniques and even people that I enjoyed, but where the end did not justify the journey.
You can only hide in shadows of the circumstantial for so long before your passion begins to fade. You can only excuse your lack of impact on the world with “but it’s great money” or “at least we’re doing agile” or even “this way I get to use Rails” until the playlist of stories repeat and it just all sounds the same.
Remember that your time is limited. By the time you discover that you’ve been coasting on empty calories, the pale face staring you back in the mirror might be hard to recognize.
I remember waking up to such a face on day long ago and thinking “the world would have been no different if I had not been here the past six months”. That’s a terrible feeling of regret.
But the good story is that it’s never too late to do something about it. I’d give up a cozy working atmosphere and using tools I enjoyed if it meant having to do work that just didn’t matter. You should too.
"The cares of the world" (D&C 40:12), said the Lord, have taken many away from the real path, the real work, for the cares of the world quickly become our sole concern. Brigham's favorite word for Satan's trick was "decoy"---the work ethic decoys us away from the work we should be doing. Mammon is a jealous god and will not tolerate a competitor. But we get the idea that the only virtues are business virtues.
Make no little plans; they have no magic [there] to stir men’s blood
And probably themselves will not be realized.
We must recognize that excellence and quality are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and about life and about God. If we don’t care much about these basic things, then such not caring carries over into the work we do, and our work becomes shabby and shoddy.
Real craftsmanship, regardless of the skill involved, reflects real caring, and real caring reflects our attitude about ourselves, about our fellowmen, and about life.
Energy is always required to provide lift over opposing forces. These same laws apply in our personal lives. Whenever an undertaking is begun, both the energy and the will to endure are essential. The winner of a five-kilometer race is declared at the end of five kilometers, not at one or two. If you board a bus to Boston, you don’t get off at Burlington. If you want to gain an education, you don’t drop out along the way—just as you don’t pay to dine at an elegant restaurant only to walk away after sampling the salad.
Whatever your work may be, endure at the beginning, endure through opposing forces along the way, and endure to the end. Any job must be completed before you can enjoy the result for which you are working.
LIFE SAYS, "MAKE GOOD OR MAKE ROOM, BUT DON’T MAKE EXCUSES."
In today’s management parlance, "Lead , follow, or get out of the way." When you are actively working toward a goal, there are no failures; there are only degrees of success. Choose to be a leader. Take the initiative. When you are faced with a problem or a difficult decision, don’t waste endless hours agonizing over the solution. If you analyze the situation objectively, you will always find an answer. Don’t focus on the problem; focus on the solution. Then get into action. As W. Clement Stone has often said, "The emotions are not always subject to reason, but they are always subject to action!"
I believe that He cares more about the shoulder than about the wheel—that wheel is how we are moved to come home to Him. The wheel, the work, is a blessing to us. This is important. The work is a blessing.
BYU is not Zion. Not yet. It is Zion’s university—and it is under construction. It is a work in progress. However—and this is the core of my remarks today—here at BYU it is not an academic program or an athletic program or even a missionary or leadership program that is under construction. It is you. You and I are the whole point of it.
What man wants is not talent, it is purpose; not power to achieve, but the will to labor.