Are You Actually Doing Work? Or, Are You Just Signaling that Work is Being Done, without Actually Doing the Work? – A Great Question from Peter Thiel


In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for Zero-to-One-book-cover-200x300career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now).
Peter Thiel, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

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Recently, someone heard me present my synopsis of Zero to One, and heard me read this aloud from the book (it was on my handout).  Here it is again:

In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now).

He immediately texted the excerpt to two of his colleagues, and has now left the company. He said it described his company perfectly.

Does it describe you and your company?

In other words, are you pretending to do work, or actually doing some work?

This is not an easy question to answer. It encompasses so many big, critical issues. Are you focused on the right things? Are you saying no to what is time-consuming but not productive, not necessary?

At the end of the day, what do you have to show for the hours you just spent?

It’s not a new insight. When people ask me “what is the best book you ever read?,” the answer is always tough. But lately I’ve been thinking back on the book The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. In it, he describes how big a problem “laziness” is. He does not refer to laziness as kind of a couch-potato do-nothing laziness. He refers to laziness as being busy but not focusing on what you should be busy doing. And he says that such laziness is actually evil, demonstrating a lack of love, for yourself, and for others. (Read this blog post: “Life is difficult; don’t be lazy” – 2 great lessons from M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, maybe the best book I have ever read).

In other words, laziness is one way you are “signaling that work is being done, but not actually doing (the needed) work.”

So, what about you? Are you signaling that work is being done, or are you actually doing work?

Really good question…

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