Imagine this photo is a snapshot of the work you do for your job.
This specific place is rarely explored or seen by man. To get here you walk for days. You carry everything you need on your back. That extra weight is the camera you brought which can prove you were here.
More than short term effort, this photo can only exist because of the courage and persistence you demonstrated in the decisions leading up to this moment. Your summation of choices stretches back more than just days and months.
You never envisioned this photo. You had planned to just keep moving forward with the day's routine. But once the opportunity was clear, you reached in your bag, you were prepared, and you took this photo.
Months later during your annual review for your job you place this photo on the table and make a passionate case about why you were the only one who could have captured this specific result.
Though you did not make the heavens or earth or even the trail before you, only your actions captured this moment.
Your boss nods their head. While complimenting both your effort and result, the reality is the company just doesn't have a mechanism to value effort like this. Even if your boss thinks your case has merit, the decision is above them. The company will try to help you out if they can, but there are many other employees and factors to consider.
A month later you're disappointed to find you got a 3% raise, the same as everybody else. What's perhaps more frustrating is even with that raise you're still making far less than the pretty girl taking pictures of herself at home with an iPhone.
This is life. I promise you this is life.
As a picture taker, an engineer, a salesman, even a single guy, I've found myself reverting to thoughts in this way, comparing my actions and results to another.
Comparison is a dangerous game, for more than just emotional reasons. Trapping yourself in a distraction loop might cause you to lose sight of the desired outcome.
Take this black and white picture of Virginia Canyon for example. I could allow myself to get bogged down in a self imposed head game about the value of this photo.
But what if I asked myself a few simple questions?
Me: "Why did you take this photo?"
Myself: "The view was stunning."
Me: "Yeah but why were you there in the first place?"
Myself: "Well I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail."
Me: "Well why were you hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?"
Myself: "I wanted to walk from the U.S. border of Mexico to the U.S. border of Canada through the mountains."
Me: "Okay. So why are you worried about how this photo is valued by anyone else?"
Myself: "If my focus is the walk, then worrying about anything to do with this photo is a distraction."
Think about this line of questioning with a job focus. I think most can relate to putting in effort that stands out but isn't rewarded:
Me: "Why are you upset with a 3% raise?"
Myself: "That photo was so hard to get. No one at the office is putting in the effort to get a unique photo like that."
Me: "Was there an agreement in place that if you got this photo you would get more than a 3% raise?"
Me: "Then why should you get more than a 3% raise?"
Myself: "Well I think my effort is worth it. The company made more money off my photo than my other coworkers who also got a 3% raise. Plus there are people at other companies that make way more for way less effort."
Me: "How much money specifically do you want to make?"
Myself: "I just want to have a competitive salary in my industry."
Me: "Come up with a specific number first. Then we can strategize on how to get there. You currently are complaining about money without focusing on a specific number. I can't help you get to where you want to be until you know what you want that number to be."
All this abstraction centering around a single photo is an attempt to help the following message resonate with as many people as possible:
Most of us endure an inner turmoil that is often unnecessary, a distraction from a desired outcome.
Your challenges, efforts, and results have merit. You understand, and others may as well. But when the challenge, effort, and result are disconnected from a desired outcome, the process becomes a destructive loop.
Why is the process of overcoming challenges destructive when they're not connected to a desired outcome?
When we aren't focused on a clearly defined outcome, we begin accumulating tangential responsibilities. Ultimately we lose a greater percentage of our ability to pick and pursue our own outcome with every distraction loop we entertain. This behavior is inherently destructive.
For example, you might join a work related group or earn a master's degree to put yourself in a better position for a promotion. Or you might adopt a dog.
But why do you want the promotion? (But why, but why, but why, but why?)
And why do you want a dog? Is a dog the desired outcome? Or is a dog a comforting responsibility to make the time you're spending more tolerable while you indirectly pursue a job promotion that you can't justify if someone asked you why five times?
What's the desired outcome again?
The dog part is to play at our heart strings. I personally want a dog. And maybe one day I will get one (lowkey I have a name in mind). But I mention the dog because it's a visually relatable connection to tangential responsibilities.
This post wasn't crafted to make a case for a 100% efficient goal focused life.
I wrote this post to pass along this reminder:
The time you spend without a goal becomes your life's (unappreciated) good work.